Earlier this year, a pregnant woman was forced to sleep at a bus shelter when Tiger Airways refused to let her onto a flight.
Her husband complained about Tiger’s customer service on the airline’s Facebook page and before the post was deleted, it was shared more than 4600 times and accrued more than 12,000 likes.
The negative feedback made headlines at major news publications and demonstrated what a company shouldn’t do in response to complaints: get defensive, do very little and expect the issue to blow over. The same month, Tiger was ranked Australia’s worst airline in terms of complaints received. Then it was slammed by national media in August this year, after defending its policy and refusing to apologise to a distressed passenger who was denied entry to her flight during a family emergency, because she arrived three minutes after check-in had closed.
This kind of negative feedback can be damaging, but rather than do nothing, you should view it as an opportunity for fresh eyes to notice flaws in your business that you may have overlooked. From delivery times to product quality and customer service, feedback gives your company the chance to grow and remain competitive.
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Here are three ways to minimise and ultimately benefit from negative consumer feedback.
1. Lessen the likelihood of negative feedback
I’m going to assume you’ve done your best to provide quality service and products, so let’s cut to the chase: there will always be dissatisfied customers.
The easiest way to minimise the likelihood of negative feedback is by leveraging technology to stop customers leaving a bad review in the first place. Send customers who’ve checked into, or registered with, your business an automated email asking if they enjoyed their experience. By doing this, you give customers an outlet to vent their frustrations in a channel you control.
If customers respond negatively, ask them for feedback on how you can improve your product or service. If they respond positively, ask them to leave a public review of your business.
When an automated email isn’t an option, be aware that social media will be the first point of call for dissatisfied customers. Actively monitor your accounts and respond quickly to the issue. Ask the customer to direct message you with some detail – this will pull a potentially public spat into a private conversation.
When you provide an immediate and personalised response, it opens a line of communication and shows you care, which reduces the chance of customers lashing out in angry feedback again because they know they have a direct and friendly means to contact the company.
2. Use feedback to make improvements
When customers leave a bad review, it tends to be for good reason. Something about your service or product just hasn’t worked for them.
But instead of protesting your customers’ legitimate concerns or defending your policies, do something about it.
Whether good or bad, honest feedback can really help you realise your mistakes so that you can actually take action and correct them.
Avoid taking the criticism as a personal attack on your brand and just make the necessary changes to do better next time.
Take advantage of negative feedback by turning it into a solution.
3. Always focus on your existing customers
An angry customer is still a customer.
The White House Office of Consumer Affairs found that it’s six to seven times more expensive to gain a new customer than it is to keep an existing one. So it makes sense to appease an angry customer rather than spend money to gain another.
Consumers want to trust their favourite brands and negative reviews often break that bond. It’s important to harvest the relationships that you have already fostered and to continue to provide excellent customer service.
The dedication shown to your existing customers will ultimately lead to more business.
Meanwhile, these customers will continue to stay loyal if you offer exceptional customer service and take it to the next level, by creating a customer loyalty or rewards program for example.
Remember, companies that cater to repeat business receive a better return on investment.
Michael Jankie is chief executive and co-founder of PoweredLocal, an end-to-end provider of WiFi to small businesses.