Is there a positive spin on receiving a negative comment? Think about this question for a minute. If you are one of those glass half full type of personalities, you probably thought, “of course there is” right away. But for those of you who are more of a glass half empty type, it may take a bit more convincing.
Think of it this way. When a customer gives you a negative comment it is opening up an opportunity for improvement. It’s the beginning of a unique conversation where you can ask your customer for ideas. Oftentimes simply being acknowledged and asked what can be done to resolve the situation is all that is needed to turn a negative into a positive.
Overcoming the Fear of Negative Customer Feedback
Allow me to begin with a few real life examples. I met a woman recently who wanted to implement a Net Promoter Score (NSP) program for the county government. Her challenge was that people in her organization were fearful of receiving comments from customers once they start collecting data. As a result, they didn’t buy in to the program.
This is quite normal, yet my experience is that most business professionals embrace customer feedback even if it’s painful to read some of the comments. I remember the General Manager of a country club commenting, “It was painful to see what the members are thinking, but it is good to know what to improve upon.” Four months later, their NPS increased from -29 to 68, and the customers were raving about the country club experience! And the solutions that drove the turn around, all of them were all process related, not people’s attitude.
Getting Stakeholders to Buy In
Customer complaints are rarely the result of the people, but rather how the process is designed. Is it time for a process redesign within your company? If so, how will you get stakeholders in your company to buy in? Here are a few ways gain stakeholder buy in:
- Know your stakeholders and determine what segments of the project they are best suited to contribute to.
- Include stakeholders early in the process of collecting data.
- Communicate both the positives and the negatives, giving them a realistic project outlook.
- Work with them to improve processes.
- Reward positive participation.
- Listen to their ideas and comments. Be genuine!
- Give credit where it is due. Make them feel like the heroes they are because their contributions made a difference.
My personal experience is that everybody buys into an unbiased, well developed, and quantified problem statement.
Turning Unhappy Customers Into Your Strongest Promoters
Every CEO gets letters, phone calls, and emails from detractors, some with horrific stories about what has made them so upset with the company. Every CEO cares about their customers and, after reading the comments, feels obliged to do something about it.
No CEO can afford not knowing how many detractors with similar complaints are out there. Detractors bad mouth your company and go out of their way to tell everybody not to do business with you.
It’s important to approach customer complaints strategically. Start by using the Net Promoter Score concept to identify the significant process problems and begin building a process improvement strategy.
Using the Net Promoter Score Concept
The Net Promoter Score consists of two simple questions. The first question is, “On a scale from 0-10, where 0 means very unlikely and 10 means very likely, how likely is it that you would recommend our company to a friend or colleague?” Respondents are categorized as “Detractors” (scale 0-6); “Passives” (scale 7-8) and “Promoters” (scale 9-10).
The Net Promoter Score is calculated as follows: NPS = [% Promoters] – [% Detractors]. The single most important reason why NPS is so powerful in transforming unhappy customers into promoters is because detractors are deducted in the score.
The second Net Promoter Score question, “What is the primary reason for your score?” goes beyond merely improving your NPS score. It identifies why customers are detractors. Embracing customer verbatim will help you realize that you’re making process improvements for the greater benefit of your customers and your bottom line.
Building Customer Loyalty
There is a positive side to negative comments. Customers appreciate being listened to and valued. They will take notice and feel validated when improvements are made. This builds customer loyalty. Customers are forgiving when it comes to product defects and process failures, as long as you show you care, are apologetic, and actively trying to recover the situation.
Instead of being afraid of negative comments, embrace them! Use them as an opportunity to communicate with your customers, and more importantly, show them that you care.
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