Customer feedback is so powerful in today’s digital age that one social media post attracts a million views in less than a week. Reviews are everywhere as well (both for B2B and B2C organizations).
Customer reviews are also very public for a very long time, so it’s normal to want to minimize negative reviews. But negative reviews could actually be your golden ticket to deeper customer insights (and, by extension, better customer experiences)!
Organizations have a lot to gain from positive reviews, because customer feedback becomes a public testament to the quality of your brand’s products and services. In fact, products with at least five reviews have a purchase likelihood of 270% higher than those with only four reviews or less.
What’s more, positive feedback can increase your brand’s perceived value:
68% of customers are willing to pay more for an excellent customer experience.
So, for example, if customers are raving about your support team online, you can more easily charge a premium for your products or services.
On the flip side, negative reviews are scary, considering the damage they can potentially do to an organization.
One harrowing statistic says that as many as 22% of potential customers turn to other brands after reading just one negative article about you on Google.
Another shows that it only takes one negative review to counteract the effects of 40 positive ones, and 96% of consumers say they’ll leave a brand after a single bad customer experience.
Clearly it makes sense to not want to swim against that tide, right?
Because of this, companies become so wary of the reviews they receive that they either hide or censor negative reviews to uphold a positive brand image. Other companies would instead ignore the negative reviews completely, assuming they will simply disappear.
However sweeping problems under the rug can actually do more harm than good for your company. Let’s be real here - if customers hate their experience with your organization, ignoring those issues is not going to improve it.
You should see those negative reviews for what they are: perhaps your most powerful customer insights tool.
Why negative feedback is more advantageous than you think
When customers give feedback, they’re opening a conversation with you. They’re giving you a chance to respond and defend yourself, instead of dismissing you as bad without offering any explanation. Yet a recent study revealed that only one in 26 customers complain when they have a negative experience, while the remaining 25 say nothing and transfer to a rival brand.
That means you’re not hearing most of the negative feedback customers actually have about your brand. And just think of all the ideas for improvements you could gather if everyone explained to you why they went with your competitor, or what it was about your product they found confusing. So it makes sense that you’d want to encourage customers to leave honest feedback as much as possible.
When you ignore negative feedback or delete it, you’re doing the exact opposite, by telling your customers that their opinions don’t matter. You’re also showing them that your company’s image is more important to you than your customer’s experience. Even worse, you’re missing out on the opportunity to turn them from disgruntled bad reviewers into satisfied customers.
In a weird way, negative feedback can actually increase brand credibility and authenticity.
Amazon recently faced criticism because its sellers were paying people off to rate them as five stars. This practice makes customers understandably cautious when they see products that only have five-star ratings. Plus, people even actively look for negative reviews—85% of customers use them to make an informed purchase decision.
The bottom line is that customer feedback (even negative reviews) serves as an avenue to get to understand customer experiences.
4 ways negative feedback benefits customer insights
1. Product usability
The hard truth about developing new products is that you can’t fully predict how it will be received by the market. Software companies in particular need to constantly improve user experience (UX) and reduce cognitive load. Your product could have the best technology in the market but if the time to value is higher than alternatives they have to make a conscious decision to keep persisting with your product or switch to one of those alternatives. That’s definitely a situation your organization will want to avoid. Negative feedback along the lines of “this app keeps crashing everytime I try to open it..” or “I can’t easily get to the billing section from the main screen” are UX goldmines worth exploiting.
Even tech giants like Apple experience issues from time to time after each product release or update. In 2019, their latest iOS update caused complaints about application crashes, visual glitches, and other feature malfunctions. They could’ve ignored these complaints but instead they embraced negative feedback as their golden ticket to better UX.
2. Identify areas for CX improvement
Customers today expect a seamless omnichannel experience, but with so many touchpoints and moving parts, it can be easy to overlook some areas of your overall experience.
Departmental silos can prevent you from integrating data and gaining a holistic view of the customer journey. Mismatched communication and operating systems can further discourage teams from working together. But negative feedback can bring these problematic areas into view and show you how and where to improve customer journeys. Dutch airline KLM faced a similar problem.
One of their customer support employees noticed that a lot of customers were asking if they could pay via social media. So he reached out to their IT department to see if it was possible. It was. So KLM found a way to turn this customer qualm into a great new payment feature, making it easier and faster for consumers to make a purchase using the platform of their choice.
That social media payment channel now earns the company four million euros in sales every year.
3. Identify “bad fit” customers
As much as you might want to turn every lead into a paying and loyal customer, not all customers are a great fit for your company. These customers might be looking for something else entirely from what you’re offering and will never be truly satisfied with you or your product. It’s best to identify and address these customers early on or risk wasting valuable time and resources on a customer you can never fully win over.
When Kyle Racki, CEO of Proposify, noticed that a customer sent multiple complaints about services they couldn’t fulfil, he sent them a personal letter. In this letter, he listed the customer’s pain points to show that Proposify had been listening and cared about the customer’s feedback.
He then explained that, even though the company wants to give every customer the best, they won’t be a great fit for everyone. He even took the customer experience further by giving them a refund and recommending competitors. The result? Racki not only won the customer over, but also turned them into a brand evangelist.
Although ‘firing’ customers like this may seem counter-intuitive, keeping customers who aren’t the right fit could be more detrimental to your business in the long run. Bad fit customers will cost your team time and energy that could have been used on customers who will love what you have to offer. And who knows? You might just earn their respect by being upfront with them, like Kyle Racki did.
4. Humanize the Brand and Customer
With companies receiving thousands of open-ended customer feedback data points each day (from multiple channels), it can be easy to think of customers as another support ticket.
One of the great aspects of CX is a business knowing how to humanize the voice of the customer.
Negative feedback requires you to be more empathetic with your customer and treat them like humans. This is something insights teams should learn from by extracting individual voices of customers when presenting insights to executives.
How negative reviews help your business grow
According to Harvard Business Review, it’s five to twenty times more expensive to acquire a customer than retain them! But how can you build and retain customer relationships when you don’t know what causes them to stay or churn in the first place?
That’s why negative feedback is so important and so valuable when it comes to generating deep customer insights. CX teams know they can turn negative experiences into positive ones but only if they have insight into what’s driving that experience. This is where customer insights teams can provide true value to their organization.
Adopt a proactive approach and find ways to identify emerging themes from your customer data (before it becomes a wider problem for the organization). Executives appreciate action.
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