Your Customer Shared Negative Feedback in a Survey. Now What?

No company sends out a customer satisfaction survey with the hope of getting poor ratings or less-than-stellar reviews. That would just be silly.

Still, it’s often the negative survey feedback your company needs the most.

After all, you can’t fix what you don’t know is broken. And it’s far better to hear from dissatisfied customers while there’s still time to make amends than it is to lose them to competitors or, even worse, learn about an issue as it’s shared with the world on social media.

Sure, it’s fun to gather up raving testimonials and high net promoter scores that help promote the brand. But it’s how you handle the negative customer feedback that matters most. Your response can be the difference between lasting loyalty and damaging reviews.

The key is to be prepared.

To help, we’ve outlined four common negative customer feedback scenarios and suggestions on how to handle them. This list is based on QuickTapSurvey’s experiences with more than 181,000 users and the nearly 23 million surveys they’ve completed.

If your business hasn’t faced these challenges yet, there’s a good chance it will. But don’t worry: There’s no need to stop conducting the survey research that’s so critical to growth. Just keep this list handy for those times you need a little help crafting a constructive response.

1. Your customer had a poor in-person experience

This type of feedback is familiar to those who work in industries such as restaurants and retail, where customers are in close contact with frontline employees.

Often, the comments you get will be positive. Sometimes they’re not. In fact, many consumers won’t even bother with your feedback survey until they have a bad experience. Whether the wait was too long or the food got cold, these are important issues to address.

Don’t: Respond in anger

It’s natural to feel defensive when a customer leaves poor or negative feedback. Still, the most important thing you can do is to avoid responding when you’re angry or stressed. Your response is more likely to be thoughtful and beneficial once you’ve reached a state of calmness and objectivity. Give yourself a few hours, if needed, to get past those initial reactions before contacting the customer.

Do: Respond objectively

It can be tempting to brush a negative response under the rug, especially when you feel it’s an unfair one. But if your customer is taking time to provide feedback, you need to take time to respond. If your company made a mistake, apologize. Then provide an explanation of the steps you’re taking to resolve the issue. If the customer is objectively in the wrong, be gracious. A polite and empathetic explanation of what happened can help increase trust and minimize further damage.

Learn More: 5 Creative Ways to Use Customer Feedback

2. Online orders are getting lost or jumbled

Try as you might, online ordering systems may fail you. When they do, your customers aren’t going to be happy. From software subscription overcharges to faulty e-commerce order fulfillment, there are any number of ways this scenario could play out. When it does, you will hear about it in your feedback survey. What you do next can determine whether or not the customer will buy from you again.

Don’t: Delay

There’s a reason retail giants like Amazon rate sellers based on metrics such as order defect rate and low star ratings. When customers leave consistently negative feedback on how orders are handled, it’s a strong indication of a poor customer experience. So if someone gives you a less-than-glowing assessment of this part of the business, it’s critical to respond right away. And if the customer took time to contact you first, before posting a negative review online for others to see, you don’t have even a day to delay.

Do: Respond within 24 hours

If you respond right away, your customers will have less reason to take their complaints public. The feedback you’re getting on your survey is the customers’ attempt to have the issue resolved. They want you to fix it, and are waiting to see how you handle the situation before taking further action. In these instances, posting a negative review of your business is a last-ditch attempt when someone feels their complaints and concerns aren’t being heard or taken seriously. Find out exactly what went wrong, take immediate action and let the customer know what you’re doing to ensure it won’t happen again.

3. Your customer support team failed to meet expectations

We’ve all been there: You try to contact customer service with a simple question, but end up getting routed from one support rep to another. Each one asks you to repeat the same explanation, and in the end you still don’t get the information you need. If your customers are experiencing these kinds of frustrations, you need to know about it. And you need to make it right.

Don’t: Make excuses

This is one area where you really can’t afford to miss the mark. Research has shown that seven in 10 customers will end a business relationship due to poor customer service. Provide a positive experience, and the opposite is true: 63% of consumers are willing to pay as much as 15% more for a product or service if it means getting a better experience. So if survey feedback indicates customer support is falling short, you need to own the problem. Now.

Do: Rectify the wrong

If customer service is causing frustration for customers, internal improvements will need to be made. But first, you need to reach out to the survey respondents who took time to alert you to the issue. Find out what they were trying to solve by contacting customer service, and what you can do to make them happy with your company again.

In some instances, it may be a simple acknowledgement of their concerns. In others, you may need to go above and beyond to appease a particularly angry customer. For example, if someone was simply looking for a refund, you might throw in a discount for a future purchase. The sad truth is that many customers aren’t expecting to hear anything at all after completing a survey. When you not only respond but also take time to right a wrong, the reputation of your company can be seen in a whole new light.

4. Your products and services are falling short of expectations

Your marketing team is telling the world one thing about your products and services; your customers are experiencing something entirely different. When you get this type of feedback, give yourself a pat on the back for sending a survey. Without it, you might never know what needs to be fixed.

Don’t: Ignore the problem

If you do, your customer churn rate is bound to skyrocket. If negative survey feedback helps you identify much-needed enhancements, this is your chance to get ahead. But fail to acknowledge an important update, and your customers may decide to take their business to a competitor capable of fulfilling their needs. The more often you can communicate a “you asked, we listened” type of message, the better.

Do: Take suggestions to heart

Did your survey surface an idea to make a component of your product or service even better? Implement it! Then communicate those changes with your customers. In fact, this is one of the top reasons we often advise our users to get into the habit of sending regular feedback surveys for market research. The more intel you have to work with, the better positioned you’ll be to expand your offerings along with your customer’s needs.

Read Next: 4 Common Pitfalls in Survey Questions

Whether you sell a tangible product or provide a critical service, feedback allows you to make changes based on what your actual customers think. This is your opportunity to provide the best possible experience. If you want to take this approach one step further, you can use followup surveys to check in and gauge reactions to enhancements or updates.

Remember: Feedback surveys are your chance to learn exactly what customers are thinking, and to make a great product or service even better. Don’t shy away from negatives! With the above dos and don’ts, you can easily turn an unfavorable response into an advantage. So the next time you send out your feedback survey, you’ll be ready to respond—no matter what you hear.

Lindsay McGuire

Lindsay McGuire

Lindsay is a digital content SEO specialist, splitting her time between developing SEO strategies and creating content. She is a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism and enjoys all facets of marketing.