How To Spot Useful Negative Customer Feedback

You just woke up, you check your inbox, and there it is…

“Please STOP sending me all this UNSOLICITED JUNK EMAIL”

(this was an actual reply to our welcome on-boarding email we received few days ago)

 

If you’ve been in business long enough, you know that there is no way around negative customer feedback. Some people will love your product, some will hate it, some will just not give a damn.

That’s just the way it is.
You’ve heard it hundreds of times before but I’ll go ahead and say it again: You can’t please everyone!

You know it, now you just need to stop trying to sell electronic dance music to your 80-year old grandpa. I tried many times and he still thinks it’s noise.
Eventually, I gave up (and gave up on electro myself but this really doesn’t matter).

Good we got that out of the way. It’s time to get serious about negative feedback.

I know you hate hearing that your product (or yourself) sucks.

I feel your pain.

 

    Here’s how I used to deal with negative customer feedback:

  • Step one: Spot a negative feedback email, panic a little, ignore it
  • Step two: Come back to my inbox, cover my eyes, click open (with covers eyes it gets complicated but I somehow managed)
  • Step three: Quickly read the email, have this weird feeling of sadness and shame, stare a the screen for few seconds, close the email.
  • Step four: Get a little angry at the person sending the feedback and a little at myself.
  • Step five: Finally replying to the email with a heartfelt apology and an explanation as to why the problem happened.

 

You get it, I had no idea how to take criticism no matter how constructive it was.
Without mentioning that nobody ain’t got time to deal with feedback like that!

 

 

You know what my main problem was, though?
I looked at all negative feedback the same.

It had to stop!
Negative comments aren’t all born equal.
Some will turn out to be so useful they will eventually make your life better.
Some will just completely suck.

To make things simple, I divided negative feedback into 5 categories.
And used examples of Youtube comments I found on the Slack video below.

 

Ready?
Go!

 

1. “Haters Gonna Hate” Feedback

 

This is the most useless type of feedback but unfortunately very common on the Internet.
Example:

“Hard to take this video seriously when everyone’s using a Mac.”

 

Seriously?
What are you supposed to do with that?

Luckily for us, haters feedback is a lot less common in business settings than it is on social media but you might still see it once in awhile.

If you do, just ignore it!
There’s really not much to be said here and it’s pretty clear these people will never be your ideal customers.

 

    How to spot a “haters gonna hate” comment:

  • – it’s short
  • – it usually features an abusive use of punctuation, multiple letters, CAPS…
  • – it’s purely based on one’s personal opinion
  • and most importantly, it is useless

 

2. “Not Your Target Audience” Feedback

 

This type of feedback can easily be confused with haters feedback but it differs in the fact that you can learn from it… and can be tempted to listen… but shouldn’t.

Why?
Because it comes from people who aren’t your target audience.
In other words, people you don’t need to please.

 

Example:

“crazy concept, but when you work in an “in office” environment, you get up and talk with people, keep meeting notes, have a central server for files, etc…
You seriously need an aggregator (yet another one I might add) to do that? Remote setups? Maybe.”

 

While this comment makes sense, it comes from someone who clearly isn’t a target customer for Slack.

If people give you negative feedback that most of your best customers disagree with, don’t waste your time.

It’s important to know your audience.

In Slack’s case they have a huge audience of businesses using Slack to communicate in an office environment.
We recently started using Slack and are using it to communicate even when in the same office. In an open office environment, if makes a lot more sense to me to type something rather than ask out loud and disturb everyone.

 

    How to spot a “not your target audience” comment:

  • – if you put them into action, you’d likely make current happy customers unhappy
  • – they would require you to drastically change your product (not just improve it)
  • – it goes against what you stand for (your company has core values you should never change)

 

3. “Case-By-Case” Feedback

 

This can be really useful feedback but it usually concerns one client or a very restricted group.

It means that there’s no formula or unique solution and you’ll need to determine is this particular piece of feedback is worth putting into practice.

 

Example:

“There is nothing new. In our work team we usually use WhatsApp (and yes, it haven’t good file transfer). Also, for communications with my colleagues i use Telegram, which have excellent file transfer even on worst and gov’t filtrated internet connections. So, what additional capabilities provides your Slack?”

 

Few comments on the Slack video mentioned other products and functionalities.
There’s clearly no way to answer these precise questions inside the video.
But (yes there’s a but)…
…you could answer directly into the comment section.

Case-by-case feedback is, by far, the most common in the B2B tech industry.
Once you start getting traction, you will receive requests for all kinds of specific features, integrations, tweaks…

You need to keep in mind that the decision you make needs to eventually benefit your company. Either because the request comes from a good loyal customer or because there’e a good chance the feature will benefit other customers in the future.

 

 

What if you can’t or won’t implement feedback?
Always explain why and offer an alternative solution (even if this solution is to go to one of your competitors).

The person took the time to write to you, they’ll appreciate that you take the time to read and reply to their message.

 

    How to spot a “case-by-case” comment:

  • – it’s the first time you hear about the issue
  • – it’s usually very detailed feedback
  • – it will only benefit one of few people if you implement it

 

4. “All Good But” Feedback

 

This one doesn’t hurt as much because it usually comes with a positive comment.
Although, it looks like the ideal negative feedback, it is the one companies often forget to pay attention to.

 

Example:

“I just wish the Android app was more snappy. Takes looong to load incoming messages. But yeah; Slack is awesome :)

 

The danger with this kind of negative feedback is that, because it’s put nicely, you won’t treat it as an urgent request.
The customer is already happy, right. Making him/her even happier can wait…

Well you my friend would be wrong to react this way!

The “all good but” kind of feedback should always be your priority because it comes from customers who know your product and respect you.
If they end up feeling ignored, you will loose a lot more than just another customer. You’ll loose an advocate.

In Slack’s case, it isn’t the first negative comment I read about their Android app. While users still love the product, it would be a mistake to not listen to the feedback of active Android users.

 

    How to spot an “all good but” comment:

  • – it comes from people who are actually engaged with your product and like it
  • – it is not a request but comes more as a suggestion
  • – it suggests improvements, not a complete change
  •  

    5. “Rough Diamond” Feedback

     

    This is the type of comment you are tempted to either ignore or take too literally.
    A rough diamond type of feedback needs analysis to be valuable.

     

    Example:

    “Ok but, what about an app demo? The utilities and practical use? The video show nothing…”

     

    In Slack’s case, this comment could easily be filed away as a “not our target audience” comment and be forgotten.
    I think the video actually presents the main features quite well. Yet, I understand some might want a more in-depth look at all the possibilities the app offers.

    The comment can’t be taken literally.

    You need to look at the customer’s problem. In that case, he didn’t get a good enough look at how the app works.
    A link to a more detailed product page at the end of the video would do wonders here.
    I’m actually surprised it wasn’t included.

    We often describe what we think we need.
    What sets great companies apart is that they learn to read between the lines.

    There’s rarely only one way to solve a problem.
    When gathering feedback you need to look at what problems people are experiencing, not what they think the solution is.

     

      How to spot a “rough diamond” comment:

    • – it points out a real problem / pain point
    • – it can’t be applied as if
    • – it makes you wonder “do we need this? why does this customer think that?”

     

    Wrapping it up: What Kind Of Negative Feedback Should You Listen To?

     

    I hope that negative feedback is a little less scary to you now.
    I know this list is far from perfect since nothing (and no one) can ever be put into boxes but it helps us focus.

     

    How should you sort through feedback you just collected?

      1. Ignore this:

    • – Feedback from haters
    • – Feedback from people outside of your target audience
      2. Analyze the hell out of this:

    • – Rough diamond feedback
    • – Case-by-Case feedback
      3. Look at this as a priority:

    • – All good but… feedback

     

    Now that you’ve determined which comments are junk and which ones are worth looking into, the fun begins.
    It’s time to decide what you can and can’t implement.
    (But that’s the topic of another article)

     

    Whoops, wait, what? I forgot one kind of negative feedback!

     

    BONUS: Golden Unicorn Feedback

     

    This one is as rare as it’s name suggests.
    It’s the holy grail of all feedback.

    It comes from engaged customers or authority figures in your niche, it’s detailed, it clearly states a problem and suggests few solutions for it.
    It’s the feedback gold mine every feedback gold diggers are looking for.

    It’s actually a lot easier to find than a gold mine, if you are ready to work hard and spend time gathering it.

      Here’s how you get this kind of feedback:

    • – customer interviews
    • – influencers interviews
    • – other interviews of people from your industry

    The key is that you won’t get this kind of insight right away, you need to dig and ask questions. You need to have an actual conversation with people.

    If you are interested in gathering more golden unicorn observations, check out this awesome list of resources to help you collect quality feedback.

     

    That’s it, I’m done talking.

    Your turn!

    What kind of feedback do you encounter the most? How do you deal with it?
    Do you also hide your eyes before reading bad feedback (or that’s just me)?

     

     

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    Aurelie Chazal

    Inbound Marketing Manager at Customericare
    New technologies and content marketing enthusiast, Aurelie takes care of Customericare's online identity. She loves meeting people from all over the world and trying all kinds of strange foods. Nothing makes her happier than a day at an amusement park.
  • http://www.carolamato.com/ Carol Amato

    Hi, Aurelie,

    Boy, you hit the nail on the head. You described me when I first started – actually for the first year or two of my business…. LOL

    I actually celebrate now when I get negative feedback. Yeah, there is still a tiny twinge for a split second, then I talk to myself with positive chat, and if it’s an unsubscribe, I start celebrating to being that much closer to someone who wants to be on my list and stay connected with me.

    Loved your point about feedback put nicely won’t be treated as urgent. This really encourages me to keep my feelers out to decipher where I can implement a good change based on mixed feedback and not to discount anything given as feedback.

    Thanks for sharing, you really got me thinking! :-)

    Take Care,
    – Carol :-)

    • http://customericare.com Aurelie Chazal

      Hi Carol,

      I am also learning to celebrate negative feedback. I think there’s always something to learn (except some rare cases of “hate” comments but as I said that’s rare in business).

      I’m still having a hard time with unsubscribed but I know it just keeps my list healthy. I know some people sign up and then realize the content is not for them, I prefer having them unsubscribe than deleting all my emails :). I was even thinking about sending an email to people who didn’t engage with the email telling them they could unsubscribe if they wanted. I still didn’t do it but it’s in my future plans.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, it’s always a pleasure to hear from you :)

      Aurelie

      • http://www.carolamato.com/ Carol Amato

        Thanks, Aurelie,

        I have a link at the bottom of every email that say click here if you only hear from me once per week. It’s a pma page on my blog. So if you go to my blog and a forward slash /pma you can see the video I made for folks to sign up to a once per week email.

        Now, I usually only send one per week anyway, and sometimes two, but once in a while I’ll be promoting something which is a few per week.

        Hope to help. Have a great weekend.

        ˜Carol

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