8 Tips How To Handle Negative Customer Feedback

Zbignev Gecis
6 min readDec 1, 2015


Every business owner wants to see only positive reviews and comments about their organization. The truth is that we don’t live in a perfect world, and you will get negative customer feedback, however hard you try to please your customer. There’s no way around it: bad reviews happen.

Negative reviews of your business can be painful, both emotionally and financially. Here are 8 powerful ways you can turn negative feedback into positive engagement.

1. Listen carefully

The best way to receive negative feedback is to listen and actually hear what’s being said.

There’s no question that not interrupting and listening carefully is the right thing to do when you’re getting negative feedback.

Distinguish the accuracy of the feedback from the quality of its presentation. Few people are skilled at presenting criticism in a way that makes the recipient feel comfortable accepting what’s being said as worthwhile information and learning from it.

2. Distancing your emotional self

Don’t take negative feedback as a personal attack. Don’t get defensive.

It’s human nature to react when we get negative feedback. The key is distancing your emotional self and taking the remarks as you would listen to a doctor’s advice that you eat less salt. Next, accept the negative feedback with openness and gratitude.

3. Don’t try to prove someone is wrong

Try to prove someone wrong and we become close-minded to the useful information that may be hidden in the poorly presented feedback.

When your criticizer is factually wrong, the response “You’re wrong!” won’t ever be helpful. Not even if you can prove it. The key is to listen to the other person without planning your reply. Simply nodding until the other person has completely finished will make sure that your counterpart has said everything intended.

4. Ask questions

Question can help the other individual communicate clearly whatever his or her core message may be

Asking questions helps eliminate the appearance of defensiveness and keeps us from immediately jumping in to justify our actions. If you don’t ask the right questions, you don’t get the right answers. A question asked in the right way often points to its own answer. Asking questions is the ABC of diagnosis.

5. Putting yourself in the shoes of a customer

You can’t always deliver solutions, but you can always deliver empathy.

By putting yourself in the shoes of a customer, you also get the context that helps you do your job. Try to understand what your customer is going through and the impact the problem is having on their day. Convey that you deeply understand how the customer feels. Use phrases like “I’d be frustrated, too.”

6. Ask for time

Take time to collect your thoughts. Think carefully about what you plan to say and what impact it will have.

While it is essential to respond quickly, it is equally important not to react defensively and to allow just a little time to respond appropriately. Don’t wait days, but do wait until you have absorbed what has been said and determined how fair the criticism is. If you are answering negative feedback telephonically or via email, your comments will be relatively private. If you are responding via social media be aware that other people will see your comments and this may lead to further negative comment.

7. Apologize

Even if you didn’t do whatever made them upset, you can still genuinely be apologetic for the way your customer feels.

Don’t over-apologize. Apologize once if necessary, sincerely and maturely. Remember that criticism and negative feedback are a fact of life. Learn from your mistakes, and move on.

8. Resolve the issue quickly & fix the process

Get to the bottom of why the mistake occurred, without blaming anyone; focus on fixing the process so that it doesn’t happen again.

Try using 5 Whys technique to determine the root cause, e.g.:

Problem: Your client is refusing to pay for the leaflets you printed for them.

  1. Why? The delivery was late, so the leaflets couldn’t be used.
  2. Why? The job took longer than we anticipated.
  3. Why? We ran out of printer ink.
  4. Why? The ink was all used up on a big, last-minute order.
  5. Why? We didn’t have enough in stock, and we couldn’t order it in quickly enough.

Counter-measure: We need to find a supplier who can deliver ink at very short notice.

Impact of negative customer feedback

Research source https://www.zendesk.com/resources/customer-service-and-lifetime-customer-value/

Customer service — both good and bad — impacts revenue

1. Participants ranked customer service as the #1 factor impacting vendor trust

2. 62% of B2B and 42% of B2C customers purchased more after a good customer service experience

3. 66% of B2B and 52% of B2C customers stopped buying after a bad customer service interaction

4. 88% have been influenced by an online customer service review when making a buying decision

Fast customer service matters

5. 69% attributed their good customer service experience to quick resolution of their problem

6. 72% blamed their bad customer service interaction on having to explain their problem to multiple people

Customer service experiences have a long lasting impact

7. 24% continue to seek out vendors two or more years after a good experience

8. 39% continue to avoid vendors two or more years after a bad experience

9. Women (45%), B2B (51%), Gen X (54%) and high income households (79%) are most likely to avoid vendors two or more years after a bad customer service experience

Customer service stories are spread widely — especially bad ones

10. 95% share bad experiences and 87% share good experiences with others

11. 54% shared bad experiences with more than five people and 33% shared good experiences with more than five people

12. 58% are more likely to tell others about their customer services experiences today than they were five years ago

13. B2B, Gen X, and high income households most likely to share their customer service stories

Social media drives increased sharing of customer service experiences

14. 45% share bad customer service experiences and 30% share good customer service experiences via social media

15. More have read positive reviews (69%) of customer service online than negative reviews (63%)

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