How to Leverage Negative Feedback

It takes courage to try new things, and even more courage to admit you were wrong. Learn how the best organisations leverage negative feedback to shape future plans, become more responsive and are more empathetic to customer’s needs.

Negative feedback is, I believe, one of the most valuable currencies in business today. It’s an irreplicable insight into the shifting sensibilities and expectations of your customers and the general public, and, to this day, it shocks me that organisations don’t properly leverage this as they move into the future.

For whatever reason - be it a sensitive ego, an invincibility complex or simple ignorance - I’ve had countless conversations with leaders of organisations that simply don’t believe in listening to negative feedback on their website or social media channels. What we’re actually talking about here is an opportunity to get authentic, grass-roots feedback about your products and services, as well as the customer experience interacting with your organisation. In every possible way, this is absolutely essential, and it boggles my mind that leaders and organisations don’t take this as seriously as they should.

Some organisations - particularly brands preparing to launch a new, innovative product - spend millions and millions of dollars taking this to the enth-degree with surveys and focus groups which encompasses exactly what we’re talking about today. Rather than focus on what the respondents like about a product, those brands and organisations are more interested in the negative feedback. Why? Because negative feedback and referrals are some of the most powerful forms of marketing, and if you’re to undergo a product launch that goes sour in terms of its reception, there’s a heap of work to be done to recover the organisation’s stature in the market. This, however, mainly applies to large enterprises with tens, if not hundreds of millions stashed away for rigorous product research.

When it comes to organisations of more modest proportions, we don’t have the same luxury. More often than not, we in business need to experiment in order to stay ahead of the competition, avoid disruption or to keep up with competitors that are racing ahead with a new, innovative way of operating. In any number of cases, this experimentation and innovation can backfire; you can’t expect to get it right first time, every time- that’s not attainable. I might have a glass-half-full approach, here, but I do believe that customers - while they have deservedly high expectations - will accommodate growing pains and unexpected surprises from your organisation innovating, so long as they don’t have to pay the price. Check out my article here on not making your customers pay for your mistakes, which is essential reading at this point in the article.

There’s a buzzword here on the topic of empathy, which no doubt, you’d be able to tell by this stage just how important it is in the context of responding to shifting consumer sensibilities and expectations. Like I mentioned before, this is your chance to analyse the customer’s journey with your organisation, and should help you to identify ways in which you can make their next journey even better. No matter how small or insignificant the problem raised seems, remember to put yourself in the shoes of the customer and ask yourself how you’d feel if the same thing happened to your interaction with an organisation. More importantly, consider your competitors, and remember that if the customer experience with your organisation isn’t hassle-free and easy on them, they’re likely to opt for a competitor next time around.

In previous pieces, I’ve talked about the importance of consolidating upon what your organisation is already doing well; it’s a concept known as the affirmative inquiry approach, and it’s a great way to improve upon your strong points… you can check out my piece here What we’re talking about today is similar in the way that you’re looking for improvements, but strays from affirmative inquiry in the way that you’re looking to strengthen some of the weak points that the feedback you’ve received has highlighted.

From here, you should be looking to new ways of operating, innovating on new policies and procedures, and of course, rely on the plan-do-check-act cycle to monitor the effectiveness of the things you’ve implemented. A good tip I’ve gathered over the years is to get one of your staff members to be constantly on the lookout for feedback, both good and bad. You can take the good and use affirmative inquiry to strengthen what you’re good at, and the negative for guidance of where you need to invest more time and resources as you move into the future.

As always, thanks for your time. If you’ve got any feedback- let me know and I’ll be sure to listen to your complaints!

Kobi Simmat.

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