Ouch! How to deal with online negative feedback

Don't be frightened of Online FeedbackSo you’ve ventured online to ask for feedback from your clients and customers and instead of 100% positive comments every mistake you make is blasted into the sphere of your loyal and potential customers. Ouch.

I don’t know about you, but as a (past) serial pleaser of people this situation made my heart constrict and my mind want to dash off and hit the unsubscribe or delete button.

Before you panic though give me a moment to explain the silver in the lining of negative feedback. Allow me the grace to tease the gold out of the coal.

Imagine that you are a customer that has a complaint about something. Who are you thinking of when you are in the middle of your troubled state? Of course, you are thinking about yourself. Or your family or friend who has been inconvenienced or upset by the mistake. And naturally, as humans are wont to do you will want to share that pain with other people who are busy looking for the safest way to avoid their own pain.

Thus the popularity of online feedback sites.

So what happens when it’s YOUR customer or client complaining about you or your company? What can you do?

Firstly it’s important to remember that the customer is firmly entrenched in their own point of view, just as you are when you are the consumer. It’s important to acknowledge and honour that. In doing so you also give yourself permssion to have your own point of view when you want to.

Secondly remember that you cannot possibly please everyone all the time. Phew that would be exhausting (*read life shortening and depressing*). When you acknowledge that you cannot please everyone all of the time you might come to the realisation that you will have to disappoint some people some of the time. There is freedom in knowing that.

Thirdly remember that NO-ONE is PERFECT all of the time. Not me, not you, not anyone. Everyone scews up sometimes.

So if everyone’s entitled to their opinions and feelings and you will undoubtably upset some people with your sometimes screw-ups, what now?

I find that most people see two options:

1. You could hide from public forums so that no one finds out that you and your company are not perfect

or, at the opposite end of the spectrum,

2.You could adopt a blaming, “It’s not my fault you are picky”, more agressive attitude.

Neither have a good outcome in my opinion. I believe that there is a third option one that takes us off the victim/agressor spectrum.

If I respected {loved} {liked} {approved of} {believed in} myself
and therefore saw the heart of the situation, what would I do?

If I respected myself enough I would take the time to truly understand my fear of the situation first. If I respected my customers enough I would make the courage to really listen to what the customer is saying without trying to blame anything else. (As a side note, I would make sure that my phone number is online so that customers can call me to complain so that I can truly understand the situation.) If I respected my company’s potential enough I would take the time to FIX THE PROBLEM wherever possible and publicly and quickly announce that.

And then, here is the most important part that most companies miss. I would Say Sorry Properly by sending a gift in addition to fixing the problem.

Most people want the opportunity to be delighted after a painful situation. Most people want to their situation to be fixed. All you have to do is find out what “fixing it” means to them.

Say Sorry Properly
Say Sorry Properly

We have a sorry system in place in our company. Everyone understands it and everyone has the responsibility of making sure it goes into place when necessary. There is a budget for sorry gifts and a timeline for the sending of those gifts. Many (not all) of our sorry situations are out of our control with third party couriers but that does not change our system. Some of our customers have told us that we can screw up any time we want just so that they can get our sorry presents.

Some of the best shared posts online have been people congratulating companies on their proactive responses to negative feedback. Wouldn’t it be great if that was you?

In life and in business if we hide from negative feedback we cannot possibly grow or develop ourselves. A side benefit of having a sorry system in place is that when the system gets used too often we can become aware of a glaring hole in our processes that needs to be repaired or redesigned – another opportunity to become better at what we do.

Don’t hide from or be frightened of negative feedback (on or offline). Design and put a healthy system in place that gives you a template to follow that will surely delight your customers. If you don’t have a system that works right now consider canvassing a few current customers and ask them what would delight them?

Honest feedback is gold. It is the silver lining in every dark cloud. The people and businesses that embrace that with compassion, wisdom and great sytems are the ones that shine.

May you shine too.


This post came about whislt answering a question in a social media group online about negative feedback from customers and how to deal with it. The company concerned had a lot of positive feedback and only a little bit of negative feedback, and achievement to be proud of in my opinion. DS

Danielle Storey is a sales & marketing and business owner of a successful international family business. She is a speaker sharing Customer Delight and Engagement systems and attitudes that make companies great. She mentors others to build lasting relationships that make everyone get up each day feeling like a Million Dollars.




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