How to handle customer feedback and avoid adverse reviews.
Are you listening to customer feedback? Last week someone posted on LinkedIn a cringe-worthy letter she’s been sent by the CEO of an airline following her complaint at having to wait 11 months for a refund, with no apology, no empathy and no acknowledgement. Although not quite in the same league as the “United Airlines breaks guitars” video (19 million views on YouTube!) it was still pretty damning feedback which simply got compounded by the crass response from the CEO.
It’s easy to get defensive or take things personally when hearing negative feedback from customers. But without it how do you identify what’s working and what’s not in your customer eyes? Customer feedback can give you actionable insights that help you make educated business decisions, rather than taking a shot in the dark. Value this honest feedback from customers.
The bad news is most customers won’t give you a second chance if their first experience is bad. That’s why it is paramount to gather customer feedback at the first available opportunity, so you have a chance to put things right before it’s too late.
Too many businesses rely on customers completing feedback forms or questionnaires. The trouble with these is that firstly, people have better things to do than fill out a survey, and if they’re going to say anything they’re far more likely to post a comment on social media, telling the whole world rather than just you.
Secondly, if someone has taken the trouble to give feedback it’s usually too late to rectify things if there was anything they didn’t like. And there are bound to be occasions when you don’t understand what they’re referring to, and by now it’s difficult to ask questions to unravel the issue.
Getting feedback directly from your customers gives you an opportunity to capitalise on positive feedback and minimise the impact of any negatives. It gives you the chance to ask questions to really understand the specifics.
When a customer has had a good experience, sharing this with you at the time helps reinforce those positives, whilst if it’s negative you have an opportunity to put things right.
Give your team the confidence to ask well-structured questions to get feedback on specifics; there’s a big difference between bland statements such as “I hope everything was OK” rather than asking about specifics such as “What did you think of the…..?”
Talk to your customers
Being visible in your business, and making contact with your customers builds rapport and trust. Once you’ve gained this you’re in a far better position to gain valuable feedback first hand.
The same goes for your team too, so encourage them to talk to your customers. Give them the appropriate training to ask for feedback in the knowledge that they are confidence to deal with feedback – good or bad – in a positive way. Bear in mind, your customers will tell you things that they wouldn’t feedback to your team, and vice versa.
When there is something wrong, if you get to hear about this early on, it puts you in a position to empathise, apologise and do something about it whilst there’s still time to remedy the situation.
If you don’t agree with the feedback, rather than getting defensive, find out (tactfully) what has led to their perception, as this may lead to the root of the problem. If you don’t know what disappoints customers or has led to a negative a perception, you can’t improve on it, so make sure you are prepared to listen to, and take on board any thoughts on what lets you down, so you can learn from this and address it.
It’s easy for team members to shy away from listening to complaints. Instead, train them to be observant and look for clues that things are not as they should be – a customer’s body language, facial expressions, the tone of their voice or hesitation, or their behaviours, such as leaving half their meal untouched, cancelling their order, asking for the bill earlier than expected.
Empower your team and give them the confidence to do whatever is in the customer’s best interest, without having to get approval from a manager, so any issues can be resolved swiftly and professionally with minimum fuss.
Whether it’s TripAdvisor, Google, Booking.com or Facebook, there’s no getting away from the fact that online reviews – and the responses to them – are shared publicly and may be seen by hundreds or even thousands of prospective customers.
Encourage positive reviews: The most effective way to generate positive reviews is organically, by offering such a positive experience that customers feel compelled to tell others. People are more likely to write reviews when expectations are surpassed, and this is often found in the small details and the special care of customers.
When you know the customer has had a positive experience, don’t be pushy, but sometimes just giving them a little nudge to post a review can make all the difference “I’m happy to hear you enjoyed your stay. It would mean a lot to us if you helped spread the word by posting a review on TripAdvisor.” Or for your team members to have cards they can write their name on and hand to customers, making the review process a little more personal.
Accept that you will get (hopefully only occasional) negative reviews. Whatever you do, don’t get drawn into defensive mode; research indicates that when customers see a business respond positively and professionally to a negative review, they are more than twice as likely to buy from that business than if they had not responded. It shows your customers that you care, and are willing to learn and adapt if relevant to meet their needs.
If the review is asking for a response or needs more discussion before it can be resolved, take the discussion off line by asking reviewers to phone/email you directly.
If you get drawn into a debate or argument, just think how many of your potential (or existing) customers could see that response. By the same token, if you feel justified or compelled to make a refund, you’re in danger of setting a precedent if you make this public online.
Make it easy
Have systems in placed to make it easy to gather and review feedback. Take note of the language your customers use to describe what they like. Capitalise on this information and use it in your marketing.
Capture the good and the bad.
Every bit of feedback you get from your guests is valuable to you, whether it’s positive or negative and whether you agree with it or not. So treat it as such.
If you only do one thing:
Have a process, system or forum for your team to share and review customer feedback so it can be acted upon quickly to learn from it and build on it to make continuous improvements.
p.s. if you need more ideas to get your team on board and give them the skills in asking for feedback see 38 Training Exercise & Activities to Engage, Energise and Excite your Team in Customer Service for ways to hone these skills