Negative Customer Feedback? Here’s What to Do

Your business is your baby and just like it's a no-no to call a parent's baby ugly, it should be forbidden to give negative feedback online...

At least that’s how any business owner feels when some stranger calls their business ugly with a bad review.

Today it’s easier than ever to vent about a negative experience online and sooner or later, as a business owner, you’ll be confronted with this.

The way you react to that feedback can make the difference between a business with a solid reputation or no business at all.

In this article you’ll discover the 3 errors to avoid at all costs and a framework for reacting to negative feedback. As you'll see, a negative comment can be a terrific way to improve your business if you know how to deal with it...


Unhappy Customer VS. Troll

Don't feed the troll...

Haters gonna hate. Trolls gonna troll. There's absolutely no reason to accept someone using your Facebook page, YouTube channel or website for trolling.

The difference between a troll message and a message from an unhappy customer is that the troll message has no substance. It’s simply there to upset you and discredit your business. It exists for the sole purpose to get under your skin and elicit a response.

Would you accept someone entering your house and insulting you without any reason?


Same holds for internet trolling and insults. There is no reason to try to understand or interact with these people. Never feed the trolls. Delete the comment and move on.

One fair warning: don't delete comments unless you're 100% certain it comes from a troll. As you’ll soon discover, deleting “real” feedback can cause a lot of trouble...

Negative Feedback? Do a Happy Dance!

It’s 11 PM and for the 6th night in a row, my upstairs neighbor decides to put on opera music. And when I’m in my bedroom trying to sleep, Pavarotti might as well be using my bed as his conductor stand.

I didn’t want to be an annoying neighbor, but I really had to get some sleep because I had an early meeting the next morning...

So I got out of bed, put on clothes, and dragged myself up the stairs to beg my neighbor to turn down the volume.

As soon as he opened the door and recognized me, he apologizes and promises to turn down the music.

He simply didn’t realize I could hear it…

As soon as he became aware of the problem he fixed it and I never had music interrupt my sleep again.

All it took was me getting out of bed that one night and letting him know about it...

Studies have shown that a business typically only hears from 4% of unsatisfied customers.

That means that the vast majority of your unhappy customers will never tell you about it but simply move on and never buy from you again.

That’s why you should be thankful for negative feedback. It gives you an opportunity to improve.

Just like my neighbor not realizing his music was keeping me from sleeping, you might not realize that some parts of your business are not optimal for your customers.

Valuable negative feedback: the client would love mp3 format and listen on USB

A customer who leaves you negative feedback is someone who is so disappointed that they take the time out of their busy schedule to let you know about it.

These aren't people who don’t really care about you or your business. These are people who had high expectations that weren’t met.

Often, negative feedback comes from a very emotional state and you’ll soon discover how you can turn a negative experience into a positive one.

But first, let’s take a look at the worst reactions to negative feedback…

Avoid These 3 Errors at All Costs When Dealing With Unhappy Clients

Don’t get me wrong, the fact that negative feedback is an opportunity to improve doesn’t make it fun to receive.

When we read something negative about ourselves or our business, our first reaction is anger. Quickly followed by a defense mechanism that wants to explain all the reasons why the customer is dead wrong.

And it doesn’t help either that our brain is wired to retain negative critisism much longer than compliments which can make you feel really crappy and blur good judgement.

All of the above can lead to one of the following 3 disastrous reactions…

Reaction 1: Delete the Negative Feedback

Deleting negative feedback will only make things worse...

Makers of the game Fur-Fun were so unpleased with negative Youtube video reviews that they used the copyright infringement claims to get the videos taken down…This spurred a whole new discussion on social media and even more negative exposure for the company (further proof: I’m writing about them in this article).

When a customer is unsatisfied and leaves a negative review, what they are really looking for is recognition of their problem… Deleting the feedback is just about the worst reaction to the situation.

Reaction 2: Insult Your Customer

Ignoring your customer is the worst thing you can do. The second worst is to…tell your customer to go f*** themselves.

Restaurant owner losing his calm, good manners and many many more customers.

No matter how bad or unfair the review is, it’s never a reason to insult your customers. Period!

Reaction 3: Use Canned Responses

Are you using automatic answers on social media? Watch out...Your bot might cause your business more harm than good.

AmericanAir's automatic response to the word "congrats"...

The AmericanAir example is quite extreme, but even without going that far into automation make sure to take time to write a proper, personalized response.

If your customer has the feeling you simply copy pasted a canned response he will feel ignored (and rightfully so) which can add gasoline to the fire of the whole situation.

Now that we’ve seen the worst, let’s look at the right way to react to negative feedback and turn the situation around.

Give Your Customer a LATTE

LATTE is the acronym Starbucks uses to teach their baristas how to handle an unhappy customer.

It stands for:

Listen to your customer’s complaint

Acknowledge the problem

Thank the customer for communicating and letting you know about it

Treat the problem

Explain how you’ll treat the problem

Applying LATTE for customer support

Hayneedle is applying LATTE in the above comment. They listen to the customer and react promptly. They acknowledge this is a real problem and thank the customer for letting them know about it. Then they tell the customer how they will treat the problem (by looking up the information) and they treat the problem in private.

Honda dealership applying LATTE to answer an unhappy customer

This Honda dealership is also doing it right. They respond to the comment with a sincere apology, trying to understand the situation and getting it sorted out.

Compassion goes a long way when dealing with complaints.

This example of Sainsbury’s shows that compassion and some humour goes a long way. Lily, a 3 and a half year old thought that tiger bread looked more like giraffe bread.

Chris, the 27 and ⅓ year old customer manager, applied the exact LATTE strategy to answer to Lily’s letter.

He thanks her for writing the letter, acknowledged that the bread did look more like a giraffe than a tiger, he explained why it was called this way and gave her a £3 voucher for a bread and some candy.

Lily’s mom posted the letter on her blog and it went viral.

Sainsbury’s saw an opportunity to do something fun for their customers and officially changed the name of the tiger bread into giraffe bread.

This one customer complaint turned out to be a huge win for Sainsbury’s.

From unhappy Thrive Themes customer to fan and brand advocate

The right reaction to a negative feedback or a problem can not only turn the situation around, but handled correctly an unhappy customer can become a repeat customer, a fan and a brand advocate who tells all his friends about how amazing your customer service is.

What’s Your Experience?

Have you had negative feedback that you managed to learn from? Or maybe you got a funny troll comment? Let us know in the comments below!

Reacting properly to negative feedback is important, but you should also pro-actively ask for testimonials from happy customers!

Sign up for our free ecourse: How to Harvest the power of Testimonials to Boost Conversions

You'll discover:

  • The exact questions to ask to get good testimonials.
  • 10 Places where you should display them to boost conversions 
  • How to set up a system to get testimonials on auto-pilot.

Author: Hanne Vervaeck

Hanne knows exactly what companies have ever retargeted her (she keeps an updated file). And when she’s not busy discussing high-level funnel design over cocktails with the equally geeky, you’ll find her discovering a place for the first time

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