How to respond to positive and negative feedback

Best practices for collecting and responding to both positive and negative customer feedback.

Article

Sara Staffaroni

April 23, 2021

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You’ve probably heard the saying: “Feedback is a gift.” But many businesses don’t treat customer feedback as the gift it truly is. They don’t take the time to put thoughtful, strategic positive and negative feedback loops into place, and they don’t make the most of the feedback they receive. 

This is a common mistake, and a lot of times it happens because positive and negative feedback can both be difficult to truly listen to. It’s one thing to gather feedback—it’s another thing entirely to take that feedback in, absorb it, and make changes based on it that improve your customer experience. Positive feedback can be easier to handle because it’s more pleasant to read and hear, but negative feedback is just as critical for the growth and success of your business. 

That’s why we’ve created this complete guide to positive and negative feedback—to help your business benefit from all kinds of customer feedback so you can increase customer satisfaction and sales too. Let’s get started!

What is positive feedback? 

Positive feedback is, quite simply, feedback that you receive from your customers that praises or names something they like about your products, services, or company. This is the feedback that makes you feel great because people enjoy something you’ve worked hard to create. 

Positive feedback can also come from sources other than customers—like your employees. You can gather feedback about what’s working well at your company for those who work there, gauge morale, and check in on how things are going. 

Examples of positive feedback include a customer survey that sings the praises of your latest product, a website user experience survey where a customer rates your site as helpful and easy to navigate, or a response to your latest NPS® (Net Promoter Score®) survey where a customer rates themself as a Promoter. 

Positive feedback isn’t just nice to receive, it’s also vital to the success of your business. Happy customers are loyal to your company and your products, and they also provide great word-of-mouth referrals to their network about your company. They’re a powerful engine for business growth. 

And positive feedback is also an opportunity to see where your business is providing excellent customer satisfaction. You can use the strengths you discover from your positive feedback to provide additional focus for upcoming products or service launches and incorporate these strengths into your sales and marketing efforts as well. 

How to respond to positive feedback 

It’s not enough to simply bask in the glow of positive feedback when you receive it, though a few moments of celebration are certainly warranted. You also need to respond to it promptly and properly in order to take maximum advantage of your customer praise. Here are three ways you can respond to positive feedback.

Express gratitude: If a customer is providing you with positive feedback about your business, they’ve taken time out of their busy day to give you a gift. You should always thank them for doing this. After all, people are much more likely to leave feedback when something negative happens than after a positive interaction, so positive feedback is especially valuable. 

Expressing gratitude can also strengthen your relationship with these happy customers, and build an even stronger bond over time. This will keep them returning again and again to your business to make purchases and refer you to the people they know. You can’t buy that kind of loyalty—but a timely thank you can do the trick. 

Offer additional products or services: If a customer is taking the time to send your business praise, they’re quite happy with the product or service they received. That means they could be good targets for upselling and/or cross-selling since they’re in a positive frame of mind about your business. 

You can set up an automated email to go out to people who give you positive feedback with offers for additional products or services to increase the likelihood that they purchase from you again soon. Sending these offers promptly ensures the goodwill from their feedback is still fresh, and you could make even more sales from these happy customers. 

Ask for a testimonial or referral: Social proof in the form of reviews or testimonials is marketing gold. But it can be challenging to get happy customers to leave this kind of public feedback—so get them while they’re still feeling all warm and fuzzy from their latest experience with your company.

Asking customers who you know think highly of your products or services to leave a review on Google, Yelp, TripAdvisor, or another review website can also increase your online reputation as the positive reviews start to roll in. You know they’ll say something great, so make it easy for them by sending a quick note asking if they’d take a minute to leave a review with a link to the review site. 

You could alternatively ask for a testimonial to feature on your website or your next marketing campaign. Testimonials provide proof to potential customers that people like them have used and enjoyed your product, so they’re valuable marketing material. 

What is negative feedback? 

Negative feedback is when customers provide feedback on what they don’t like about your company, your customer service, or your offerings. This can be a response to a feedback survey noting an issue with a product they just bought, a web survey where they express frustration with your billing process, or a response to an NPS survey where they rate themselves as a Detractor. 

Negative feedback can feel a little (or a lot) harder to swallow than the positive kind. Your business and your products and services mean a lot to you and possibly to your employees as well, and hearing that something isn’t up to customer expectations is disappointing. But negative feedback is also a valuable gift that customers give to you.

How to respond to negative feedback 

When you’re responding to negative feedback, it’s important to not let your emotions take over or cloud your judgement. This can be difficult, especially if the negative feedback response was delivered harshly or in a personal attack. But responding in a negative or emotional tone will only make the situation worse, no matter how satisfying it might feel in the moment. 

Instead, take a breath and possibly a few minutes or hours away from the response to get in the right frame of mind to respond. Then use these best practices for responding to negative feedback to get your response just right, and possibly even save the customer relationship

Express concern: When a customer gives you negative feedback, they’re doing so because they’re dealing with a frustrating or disappointing issue. Acknowledging this and expressing concern can go a long way towards helping them feel like your company is on their side, even though they’re having an issue right now. 

You can express concern in a number of ways—by acknowledging that the issue must be frustrating for them, by telling them you appreciate their feedback, by telling them you’re concerned about the issue or problem they’re facing. This helps them feel like their problem is being taken seriously by your company. 

Restate the problem: An upset customer will often feel better if they know they’re really being heard. To make that happen, it can be helpful to restate the problem in your own words so they know you understand what’s going on and why it’s an issue. It’s also important to restate the problem early on in the conversation before you begin proposing solutions. Your solutions won’t be effective if you don’t understand the real problem, after all. 

We’ve all had experiences with customer service reps who can’t seem to understand what the problem is, and we get frustrated because we know they’re not going to be able to help us fix it if they can’t grasp the issue. Don’t be that rep! 

Offer solutions: Now that you’ve expressed empathy and understanding of the problem, it’s time to get right to problem-solving. Unhappy customers aren’t usually giving you negative feedback simply to vent—they want their issue fixed as quickly as possible. 

If you can, you should offer a solution in your first conversation so customers can get satisfaction quickly. If that’s not possible, you should explain why it’s not possible so customers know you’re not just giving them the runaround. Then, follow up with instructions for what to do next or workarounds in the meantime. 

Take it offline: Sometimes when an issue is complex or a feedback discussion is getting heated, it’s best to take things offline to resolve problems. You should start by acknowledging the feedback, and then figure out why exactly the customer is so upset. You can then offer to have a private conversation over the phone, email, or chat to get to the root of the problem. 

Feedback vs. reviews

Customer feedback and customer reviews are terms that are often used interchangeably, but that’s not quite accurate. They have key differences that are important to understand when you’re setting up your own customer feedback program. 

Customer feedback is what you receive directly from customers to your business—there’s no public element involved. You ask your customers for feedback directly and they send it back, or you provide avenues where they can send you feedback directly. Everything goes between you and the customer alone, whether it’s through a live chat or contact form, a survey, or a customer interview. 

Reviews, on the other hand, are public-facing forms of customer feedback. These can appear on review websites like Yelp, Google, or an industry-specific site. They can also appear right on your website if you have a review function on your product pages. 

Reviews are also an important form of feedback, to be sure, but dealing with them requires a different approach due to the public nature of this feedback. That’s why in this guide, we’ve focused exclusively on customer feedback to keep things consistent and clear. 

How to ask for feedback from customers 

These positive and negative feedback examples are important—but how do you go about actually getting that feedback from your customers in the first place? There are a few different ways you can gather customer feedback throughout the feedback cycle. 

You can use just one method or several to create your own Voice of the Customer (VoC) program. Pick the methods that are right for how your business interacts with customers, and you’ll be gathering plenty of great feedback in no time.

Feedback surveys 

You can send your customers feedback surveys in many different forms—website surveys, product surveys, NPS surveys, CSAT (customer satisfaction score) surveys, CES (customer effort score) surveys, and so on. This wide variety of surveys means you can find the choice that’s right for the kind of feedback you want to collect. In fact, there’s a survey for every touchpoint in the customer journey. 

All you need to do is select the survey type that works for your survey goals, find the right CX solution, (like GetFeedback), build your survey, and send it out to customers. And then watch the positive and negative feedback roll in. Surveys can be as short as one multiple-choice question, or they can include open-ended questions or several questions to gather additional feedback. 

Contact forms 

Having an easy-to-use contact form on your website means that customers can reach out quickly with any issues or problems they’re having. It puts the power in their hands so they can access your customer service team as soon as a problem arises. Relying only on feedback mechanisms where you reach out to customers, and not the other way around can lead to frustration when an issue comes up and a customer can’t get in contact with you. 

Customer interviews 

Conducting customer interviews is a very effective form of customer research. You have the opportunity to connect with a variety of customers and ask them their opinions on your products or services, your customer service team, and your company as a whole. 

These interviews can be a great way to get feedback from customers who like your company but aren’t ardent enough fans to go through the effort of leaving reviews or filling out web surveys. Interviews can also help you dig deeper into issues or strengths you’ve identified via other feedback mechanisms, and find out in more detail what customers really think. 

Live chat 

Convenience is key for consumers these days, which explains the growing popularity of live chat options on business websites. These chatbots allow customers to get help with smaller issues on their own time. They can also be programmed to ask for quick hits of feedback after a customer performs an action, like making a purchase or paying a bill. 

Since live chat is such a low-touch option, many customers who are too busy to fill out a whole survey or come in for an interview may be willing to click one button to give you a quick rating. The downside is that you’ll miss out on that thoughtful open-ended feedback that can help you get to the root cause of problems. 

How to track customer feedback

Gathering your positive and negative feedback is just the first step. Next, you need to track your feedback. Tracking your feedback is vital because it will allow you to pinpoint current issues and see if those issues resolve over time or get worse. This is the best way to significantly improve your customer experience over the coming years and months. 

But tracking your feedback can be a complicated affair. How do you measure and manage all the different kinds of feedback coming in, from NPS and CSAT scores to open-ended surveys and contact form and live chat inquiries? So much of customer feedback is open-ended and thus much harder to measure and track progress on. It presents a significant challenge for many businesses, whether your customer feedback program is brand-new or well-established. 

GetFeedback allows you to quickly launch a customer feedback program in just days, not months. It helps you send the right surveys to the right person at the right stage in the customer journey. And it simplifies the process of gathering and tracking feedback to help your business take action on both positive and negative feedback. 

Key takeaways

Listening to what your customers have to say about your business isn’t always easy or fun. But it’s also powerful—there is always an opportunity to turn unhappy customers into happy ones, and to create brand ambassadors out of happy customers.

The key to a successful customer feedback program is tracking your feedback successfully over time. And that’s easy to do with GetFeedback. We help you gather feedback, use it wisely, and track your progress over time so you can watch your business grow and satisfy more and more customers. 

Learn how GetFeedback can help you exceed customers’ expectations—start your free trial today.

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