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Feedback Friday…Do You Listen to Your Unhappy Customers?

A regular feature of the CommercialInsurance.net social media is “Feedback Friday”, where we share comments from our customers.

For the most part, we like to focus on what we’re doing right, and it’s easy to do; our approval rating with customers on review site feefo is 4.7 out of 5 stars (over 300 reviews as of this writing). We also offer the option to review us on our Facebook page and on Google+.

When the topic of customer reviews comes up in the office, however, we give equal time–and possibly even more–to the subject of negative feedback.

Bill Gates (who knows a thing or two about business) has famously said, “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” Lots of companies quote this, or stick it on a graphic for their Motivational Monday posts. (We do it too–follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to see for yourself!)

Actually putting it into practice can be a different story.

It’s not fun to handle a complaint, or dig down through a customer journey to see what fell through the cracks, but it can’t be slam dunks and high-fives all the time. Just like everyone has bad days, every company–every company–disgruntles someone, at some time.

Does your company talk about negative feedback? As a consumer, how do you process seeing a negative review on a website?

We thought we would share some practices–for both businesses and customers–that we believe make the best use of the feedback from the least satisfied customers.

If You’re a Company

  • Listen. Consider utilizing a service like feefo for allowing a medium for feedback from your customers, if you don’t already. Even if you don’t…pay attention to the complaints your customer service department gets, don’t brush them off and focus only on the compliments.
  • Learn. Examine each complaint. Do “autopsies” when one of your customers leaves, to figure out if something in your business practices needs to be changed, and then do it. One of our standards is that every call is recorded. While the paper trail tells part of the story, if there’s a disconnect between how your employee remembers a conversation, and how the customer is relating it, this can be an invaluable way to figure out what really happened. Every part of the customer journey needs to be traceable, as much as possible. Sometimes, it’s the only way you can really know there was nothing else you could do…or that there are weaknesses in an employee’s performance.
  • Leverage. As crazy as it sounds, your willingness to be transparent about unhappy customers can give you an advantage; honesty is something everyone is looking for when they’re shopping. Research used by review management media company Reevoo states that 95% of shoppers suspect censorship or faked reviews when the comments available to see are only positive. You don’t have to publicize your reviews right away, if you begin using a service and the feedback is bad…but you should use it to fine tune your process, and then begin sharing once you hit the mark reliably.

If You’re a Customer

  • Really Read. If you’re going to utilize reviews as part of your decision making process about things that affect your business, don’t just skim them. Think critically about what you’re seeing, and learn to read between the lines. If a customer complains about a specific issue, look at the company’s response, and try to figure out what might have happened. Does the company’s answer to the complaint make sense? (The best businesses will provide responses about complaints that attempt to shed light on the problem.)
  • Research. Everyone wants their experience to be easy. Top shelf customer service will make it as smooth as possible, and a good company will help you understand processes that might be new to you. However, you shouldn’t abdicate responsibility for decisions, even when you make another entity a trusted partner in your business. A little research goes a long way, and understanding simple terms and concepts about what you’re engaging in will help to forestall some common misunderstandings.
  • Re-evaluate. If you’ve traditionally just glanced at a company’s reviews and went ahead full force when you saw five stars, consider adjusting your decision-making process. Take time to look closely at the reviews. How many are there? How long does the review history go back? How old is the company? Two five star reviews for a year-old company do not tell the same story as 400 reviews for a business in its fifth year with an average of 4.8. Complaints from two years ago may abruptly change at a point in time and show a consistent uptick in ratings to the present day. Evaluate your process for reading reviews and change it if necessary.

Negative reviews aren’t all bad, in other words.

If you’re willing, they can help you search out the business that can best serve you, as a customer. For business-owners, they can be a chance to sharpen your service, and strengthen weaknesses.

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