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Responding to Negative Consumer Feedback

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upsetcustomerCompanies dread hearing negative consumer feedback. In stores, it leads to sales representatives becoming defensive and can end up creating a negative retail environment. However, negative consumer feedback can be one of the most powerful drivers for success a retailer can experience. Negative feedback is actually quite positive.

Without negative feedback, a company may not understand why its business model does not meet consumer expectations. Retailers that address negative feedback promptly can rebuild their brands in the eyes of consumers. Here are some tips everyone can use to improve handling negative feedback.

  1. Maintain a positive attitude. In stores and especially online, anyone who represents a company brand needs to reflect a can-do attitude. While it may be tempting to become defensive or to react emotionally to certain remarks, maintaining a level head can diffuse negative situations without damaging a brand reputation. It only takes one comment or indiscretion that goes viral to destroy a brand, and even a new associate has the power to impact the overall brand image. Incentivize employees to maintain a professional demeanor and encourage positive interactions at all company levels.
  2. Remain open to change. Negative feedback can signal a flaw in company policy, product design, or retail strategy. Review each feedback instance carefully and with an open mind. If the nature of the comment makes sense, it may be time to adjust business practices or re-evaluate a value proposition.
  3. Always acknowledge the feedback. A consumer who cares enough to leave feedback rather than merely ignoring the brand opens a window of opportunity for a brand to redeem itself in both the reviewer’s mind and in the general public. Responses should be timely, professional, and personalized when possible. The level of authority a company representative has also impacts the way a response is received.
  4. Never make excuses. A company that is unwilling to acknowledge and respond to negative feedback is better off leaving the comment unanswered than making excuses for a product flaw or experience. Take ownership of the situation and address the comments in a positive light.
  5. Don’t delete negative comments in an online forum. After a negative comment has been posted online, many people may have the opportunity to see the posting before a company can remove it. Leave negative comments on a website or reviewing site and address the situation rather than sweeping it under the rug. Encourage further commentary to get to the source of the complaint.
  6. Offer solutions to individual complaints. Refunding purchase costs and offering coupons or other value-adds can go a long way toward making amends with an individual consumer complaint. Whatever a company can do to show a consumer that it is willing to go above and beyond to provide customer service will improve the brand image for that individual and the target market as a whole.
  7. Develop a strategy. Every retailer should have a game plan for handling the most common forms of negative feedback. Whether one individual has been appointed to act as the face of the company or several associates act as a team, having a structure in place to deal with negativity helps prevent surprises and empowers team members to handle situations with grace.

When it comes to negative consumer feedback, taking some form of action usually outweighs letting a situation fade into the background. Being responsive and accentuating the positive side of the company can go a long way toward rebuilding and improving a brand’s reputation after negative feedback.