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Customer feedback is so important for any business, regardless of industry. Today’s consumers are turning to online review sites like Yelp and Google+, and checking recommendations on platforms like Amazon to help them make purchasing decisions. Many years ago, a bad review wasn’t the biggest deal in the world. Today, it can be crippling. Check out these recent customer service statistics to help put things into perspective:

  • On average, one happy customer brings in 9 new referrals
  • Roughly 86% of consumers are willing to pay more for a better customer service experience
  • Loyal customers are worth up to 10x as much as the cost of their first purchase
  • It costs 6 to 7x more to acquire a new customer than to keep a current one
  • About 59% of Americans are willing to try a new brand in order to have a better customer experience

Furthermore, for every customer who complains, there are 26 customers who say nothing.This means that avoiding one complaint can help you avoid yielding 26 unhappy–albeit silent–customers. What’s more is that unhappy customers are even more likely to talk about their negative experiences than happy customers are. Here’s how you can avoid negative customer feedback:

Be Easy To Get In Touch With

Typically, the first thing people want to do when they’re unhappy is complain. This is good for you. It means that before they go out of their way to hit you with a bad review, they’ll attempt to get in touch with you first. Making your business easy to get in touch with is one of the most simple ways to avoid negative feedback. Your contact information should be easy to find on your website. The more intuitive your web design is, the easier this will be.

Furthermore, customers like to have multiple ways of reaching a business. For example, sometimes businesses have required fields for contact forms that aren’t applicable to the customer. This can create a very frustrating experience, and make the customer further angry. Additionally, according to a report by Conversocial, 32% of respondents said that the phone was the most frustrating way to get good customer service. If you want to appease your customers, there should be several communication channels in place.

Engage In Social Dialogue

Customers are less likely to leave bad reviews if you respond to them on social networks like Twitter and Facebook. In today’s social business world, many customers will voice their opinions in micro conversations before they make moves to officially leave a bad review. And more people are turning to social media than ever. Over the past two years, customer service interactions over Twitter have increased by 250%. Furthermore, according to Convince and Convert, answering a social media complaint will increase customer advocacy by as much as 25%. Responding to those comments and mentions early on can nip a bad review before it matures on a real review platform.

Collect Feedback

One of the best ways to ensure long-term success is to collect customer feedback. Though analytics and various metrics give you plenty of insight into what your customers are doing, direct feedback lets you get the most valuable information, straight from the source. And some feedback cannot by gathered through automated numbers.

This is about much more than ensuring you don’t get bad reviews. In short, customer feedback helps you grow as a business, which should always be your main goal. It would be very difficult to improve your products and services without a little advice from the people that use it. Collecting feedback also shows that you value your customers’ opinions, which can go a long way towards attracting loyal followings.

There are several ways to go about gathering feedback from your customers. One of the best ways is to set up surveys via email marketing. With so many survey creators on the market, you can quickly set up beautiful surveys at varying lengths, and ask both multiple choice and open-ended questions. Studies have shown that customers like to be involved in the growing and creation process, so it’s important to make them feel involved. Collaboration is especially key for millenials. Other ways you can collect feedback involve reaching out directly, setting up usability tests, and adding feedback boxes to your site.

Respond To Negative Reviews

Sometimes, even the best efforts to avoid negative reviews can’t stop them all from happening. No matter how great your product or service is, chances are there will be someone who isn’t satisfied. Perhaps it wasn’t what they were expecting, they received a faulty product, or one of your employees wasn’t very nice to them. As much as you try to implement preventative strategies to thwart negative feedback, the fact of the matter is, sometimes they slip through the cracks.

What’s most important is how you respond to negative reviews. About 37% of customers are happy when the company offers something of monetary value, such a refund, store credit, or free items. But that numbers doubles when the monetary supplement is coupled with an apology. This means that even on occasions where you feel the customer was wrong or the harshness of the bad review was unwarranted, you should still apologize for the bad experience.