Transform Negative Customer Feedback Into Positive Results

Customer feedback provides you with the data you need to win back customers, increase lifetime value and improve your product or service.

Yelp. Zomato. ZocDoc. Glassdoor. Zillow. And of course, the App Store.

There’s no escaping online reviews in today’s consumer-driven world. Whether we’re picking a doctor or our next meal, we’ve come to, not only, trust but relish reviews. For better or worse, they’ve utterly usurped our decision-making process.

These anonymous, crowdsourced reviews mean big business (or lack thereof) for brands. Positive reviews taken to a public arena do your marketing for you. They’re a testament to your quality and increase trial and conversion rates. Negative reviews do just the opposite. They scare off potential and existing customers and may even point them to a competitor.

It’s no surprise, then, that brands want to encourage positive reviews and ward off negative reviews. Many go as far as engaging in black-hat tactics (e.g. fake reviews) to fight negative feedback — from crowding out negative reviews with fake ones, to blackmailing critical reviews, and engaging in expensive lawsuits over purported libel and defamation.

What so many sellers are missing out on as a result is the inherent value of a customer complaint. Companies large and small can leverage negative feedback for positive results. Feedback, negative or positive, is a gift. A gift that too few brands acknowledge.


Feedback, good or bad, is a gift

Positive feedback means free marketing and a nice pat on the back. Negative feedback is a little less obvious of a gift. It provides a map to the holy grail of greater retention, revenue and recognition. But it’s a map that first needs to be decrypted. We have to embrace a new mentality around how we interpret, respond, act on and manage negative feedback.


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New perspective on negative reviews

As business owners, we try to discourage negative reviews and neglect to realize how rare customer feedback actually is. The reality is, we only ever hear from one out of every 27 unhappy customers. That 27th customer leaves you with a present — an indication of why they are leaving and likely why others have left as well.

In a world where one-to-one customer communication is only a text, email, push or tweet away, the vast majority of complaints still go unanswered. Out of those that make their way to Twitter, for example, 70 percent go unanswered.


  • Why we ignore customer complaints

    There are many reasons we rationalize ignoring complaints: It’s a lost cause. It will go away if we just don’t pay any attention. Or it’s just easier. Eighty-three percent of complainers say they like or love when brands follow up with a response or apology.

    Even more astonishing, 70 percent of unhappy customers will do business with you again if their complaint is resolved. That’s why we monitor our Twitter account to ensure complaints aren’t left unanswered. Our team offers a personalized response. We then access the customer’s account information to find a quick solution.

    Customers appreciate when companies take the time to address their issues. They will often let the public know it’s been resolved if they left their complaint on a public forum.


  • The value of being open and honest

    Be open and honest with customers who have negative feedback about your company, even if it’s in the public domain. Is a solution to their complaint on your roadmap? Tell them! Is their complaint something that won’t be addressed for a while? Let them know, and explain why.

    Communication is key to every healthy relationship. It plays an important role in customer service and managing negative feedback.


What to do with a negative review

Sometimes you’re able to respond directly to complaints and win back customers. This is the case with social networks and select review platforms like Google Play and Yelp. Other times, as with the App Store, communication is a one-way street.

Fortunately, actions speak louder than words.


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Feedback, especially critiques, provide invaluable insights into the wants and needs of your customers. Use this feedback to shape your offering and meet customer demand. If a customer complains about a lack in your offering, consider if it makes sense for a majority of your customers.

When you think about a critique with the entirety of your customer base in mind you can determine if a requested change will serve the greater good of the company, or only a small fraction of customers. Avoid changing your product roadmap for something that would benefit too few customers.

In the world of apps, we call this people-first app development. It’s the idea that the customer is the nexus of the entire development process. Everything publishers do, from rolling out new features to pricing premium payment models, should come as a natural response to pre-validated customer needs.

When you encourage and act on feedback in this manner, you’re almost guaranteed success in the cutthroat business of app monetization.


Own your customer communication

Last but not least, own your customer communication.

A one-star review provides insights into your customer’s needs. What’s even better is that same feedback in a private, controlled environment. Online ratings and reviews are often the only channel customers have to communicate with a brand. They give a voice to your customers, but it’s a voice that is broadcast far and wide for all of your prospects, customers and competitors to see.


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Establish a proactive customer engagement model. Solicit feedback before it makes its way to a public forum. Set up an email dedicated to customer support for starters. Include team members who are able to address most customer issues.

You’ll ensure customers receive the help they need in a timely manner or will simply have access to an outlet for complaints. Consider creating  an online portal and listing a phone number on your website for comments and concerns to drive more controlled communication. In-app portals for feedback and support, like what we offer at our company, can be a useful solution for app-based companies.

And there you have it: actionable steps to transform negative feedback into positive results. Customer feedback provides you with the data you need to win back customers, increase lifetime value and improve your product or service. So next time you see that inevitable one-star review, just say thank you.


This article has been edited.

Robi Ganguly is the CEO of Apptentive, the easiest way for companies with a mobile app to listen to, engage, and retain their customers. Connect with @rganguly on Twitter.


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