Blog Customer FeedbackHow to Respond to Negative Customer Feedback (for Positive Outcomes)

How to Respond to Negative Customer Feedback (for Positive Outcomes)

Struggling with negative customer feedback? Learn to transform criticism into opportunities for growth and stronger customer relationships with effective strategies & examples. Let's get into it!

Customer Feedback
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Dealing with negative customer feedback.

Do you find it difficult to handle negative customer feedback? Does it demoralize your teams or have an emotional impact on you? 😕

It’s perfectly normal to have these feelings when you encounter such feedback. But it’s important to understand its significance for your business.

Negative feedback will only get worse if it’s not handled properly. On the other hand, 70% of unhappy customers are willing to stay if you resolve their problems.

This guide will show you how to turn negative feedback into a powerful tool for business improvement. You will learn how to manage it to improve your product and customer relationships.


The importance of negative feedback

No business out there likes receiving negative customer feedback. But since it’s inevitable, you need to understand why it’s important and how you can use it to your advantage.

This type of feedback offers an opportunity to determine key areas for improvement. If you process it the right way, you can also strengthen your customer relationships. Let’s explore why negative customer feedback is so valuable.

Identifying product weaknesses

Negative customer feedback is a clear indicator of where your product may fall short. 🤏

Customers are quick to highlight flaws because these issues affect their experience. Listening to their concerns can help you realize where your product might be going wrong.

For example, if many users complain about a difficult UI, you know exactly what to focus on in your next update. Addressing these issues solves a pain point, making your user base happy and attracting more customers.

Example of a public feedback forum.
It all starts with collecting feedback - a public feedback forum is a great way to do so.

So, it's important to get past the emotional impact of negative feedback and focus on the real issue. By tracking the feedback and resolving the specific complaint, you can significantly improve your product.

Improving customer relations

When you handle negative feedback well, you show your customers that you value their input. You show your commitment as a business to helping them achieve their goals. This can turn a dissatisfied customer into a loyal one.

Respond swiftly and thoughtfully to their concerns. Let them know you are taking steps to resolve the issue. You can use a public roadmap to communicate your plans with their requests.

It's also important to close the feedback loop once you have resolved your customer's issue. Tools like Featurebase let you effortlessly publish release notes to all of your users. You can save a ton of time while communicating one-to-many and work on things that matter.

Example of an in-app product update.
Example of an in-app product update (using Featurebase).

Best practices for dealing with negative feedback

Negative customer feedback is inevitable, but it doesn’t have to damage your brand. By following these best practices, you can use this feedback to your advantage. 👇

1. Take your time processing the feedback

If your first instinct is to ignore negative customer feedback, your business will suffer. Try to analyze it with your team and identify the underlying pain point.

Is it a feature request or a bug? Is the customer unhappy with an existing feature or requesting a new one? Is it solvable or worth the effort? Are other users facing similar issues?

These are just a few of the questions that will come up in your brainstorming sessions.

Example of a value/effort prioritization matrix.
Not sure if the feedback is worth considering? Prioritization frameworks can help.

It’s important to view this processing time as an investment in your product. The insights you glean here could significantly boost product-led growth.

2. Set your emotions aside

This might be easier said than done, but it’s important to distance your emotional self.

For one, remind yourself that negative customer feedback isn’t a personal attack. 😅 It’s an observation from your customers on an unsatisfactory part of your product. Instead of getting defensive, try to put yourself in your customer’s shoes.

If user-centric development is your goal, you need to listen to feedback without judgment.

Thank your customers for their input and follow-up with thoughtful questions.

3. Don’t try to prove your customers wrong

One big lesson in every product management book is customer discovery. This concept refers to keeping an open line of communication that helps you understand your customers’ needs. A huge part of understanding is ignoring the urge to prove someone wrong.

Let’s say your customer is factually wrong about something.

You get a complaint about your app not having a dark mode 🌖 even though it’s present. Instead of arguing with them, try to understand where they are coming from.

Example of a good response to feedback.
Respond to feedback with a question or alternative suggestion

It’s possible, for instance, that your dark mode toggle button is not visible to some customers. It might be a good idea to increase its size and place it in an accessible corner of your interface.

Again, you wouldn’t know the underlying issue if you don’t spend time thinking about it. With a feature request tool like Featurebase, you can easily analyze this kind of feedback.

4. Ask questions

A great way to get more insights and boost customer satisfaction is by asking good, thoughtful questions.

Even if you’re not sure about the feedback, responding with a question can make a customer feel heard. Chances are that they are likely to respond with a clearer explanation of their requirements.

For instance, in our dark mode example, asking questions can reveal more information. A good question would revolve around the customer’s unique experience. Ask them where they were expecting to find this setting or if there was anything specific that caused them not to find it.

By asking the right questions, you will often arrive at the optimal solution.

5. Empathize with the customer

The harsh reality is that not all requests can and should be implemented. It's your job to communicate this in the least painful way possible. A big part of responding to customer feedback is the art of saying 'no'.

Try to put yourself in the shoes of the customer. In fact, this practice can be a huge part of your brainstorming session with the team.

By viewing the problem as a customer, you will gain the right perspective to resolve the issue. 

Think about an instance in your life when a similar software bug caused you frustration. What changes did you wish you could make back then? It’s very likely that your customer is looking forward to the same kind of changes!

The best way to communicate this empathy is to use affirming phrases. Re-assure the customer that you understand their frustration and that you would feel the same way.

6. Be sure to include an apology

A sincere apology in your response is sure to make your customer feel better.

The key here is to do it once, but in a way that conveys a genuine desire to solve their problem.

Over-apologizing will come across as unprofessional in some cases, making it harder for the customer to trust your business.

7. Act fast (once you have the right information)

After processing the feedback, asking the right questions, and analyzing it with your team, you should take quick action.

Make the issue a priority for your development team. Focus on the underlying problem and how you can prevent it from occurring in the future. Be sure to communicate your approach to solving the problem with a clear roadmap.

Example of a public product roadmap made with Featurebase (check out more examples)

8. Close the feedback loop

A customer feedback loop inforgraphic
The customer feedback loop

It’s not enough to fix the customer’s issue and just push it live. You should always close the feedback loop by following up with your customer.

With a tool like Featurebase, you can automatically notify all upvoted users when you've started working on or have completed their feature request.

Automatically send out a status update to all idea subscribers
Automatically send out a status update to all idea subscribers

This practice shows customers that you’re treating the issue with the seriousness it deserves. You want to make sure you’ve resolved the concern in a comprehensive way.


Common challenges in handling negative feedback

If you're a product manager or owner, you're no stranger to dealing with negative feedback. It can be a tiresome process that strains your team and affects operations. Understanding two common challenges can help you respond effectively to negative customer feedback.

Emotional impact on teams

Negative feedback can hit hard. When your team hears criticism, it can affect morale and motivation.

It's crucial to manage these emotions in a constructive manner. Encourage your team to view negative feedback as an opportunity to learn and improve, not as a personal failure. Support them in turning criticism into a positive drive for improvement.

Accepting the negative feedback and committing to resolve it can be a game-changer.

This shift in perspective can transform challenges into valuable learning moments. Moreover, it helps prevent morale from slipping. These aspects ensure your product management journey is not compromised.

Difficulties in response and resolution

Effectively responding to negative feedback can be tricky. Your response should be quick without sacrificing thoughtfulness.

It's important to let the customers know that you understand their concerns and are working on a solution. But finding the right solution can be a challenge, too, especially with complex issues.

The harsh reality is that not all feedback CAN or SHOULD be implemented. A big part of responding to customer feedback is the art of saying 'no'.


How Featurebase helps manage negative feedback

With the right tool, managing negative customer feedback becomes simpler. In this section, we will explore two key ways in which Featurebase streamlines feedback management.

Organizing and prioritizing feedback

Managing negative customer feedback starts with effective collection and organization.

With Featurebase, you have multiple ways to gather feedback:

  1. Public feedback forum: A public-facing portal that lets you and your customers suggest and vote on feedback. This easily helps you spot the most relevant feedback right away.
  2. Feedback widgets: In-app widgets allow customers to provide feedback frictionlessly inside your app. This is perfect for tracking bugs, as users can submit reports about them right where they happen and take screenshots.
  3. Surveys: You can run loads of different surveys, ranging from NPS and CSAT to open-ended questions. You can also target specific customer groups and sync your users data to always see who's behind the answers.
  4. Customer support chats: A lot of the feedback comes from live chats. Featurebase integrates with customer support tools like Intercom and lets you push feedback into voting boards for better prioritization.
Featurebase's Intercom integration for pushing feature requests into voting boards.
Featurebase's Intercom integration for pushing feature requests into voting boards.

Once you have the feedback in one place, you can analyze it in several ways. For instance, you can segment it by customer revenue.

The higher the revenue potential behind a feature request, the more it makes sense to accept it.

Illustration of sorting feedback by uvpoter revenue contribution in Featurebase.
Sorting feature requests & bug reports by upvoters' revenue contribution.

Integrating feedback into development cycles

Once you find a valuable piece of feedback, the next step is to integrate it into your product.

Featurebase has many integrations with popular issue management tools, so you can easily transform feedback into actionable steps for your developers.

For instance, you can create a Linear issue and send it to your development team. Once your team completes the task, the system sends an automatic update to the user.

An example of pushing feedback from Featurebase to Linear.

Syncing your development in a tool like Linear with the corresponding feedback in Featurebase will help you automatically keep upvoted users updated about the progress of their requests.

You can also automatically create a public product roadmap to communicate your product vision to all of your customers.

This will keep your users in the loop and help reduce the likelihood of negative feedback in the future.


Conclusion

Negative customer feedback is never easy to receive. But, for your business to continue improving, it’s essential to collect and analyze it.

This feedback helps you spot opportunities for continuous improvement and shows your customers that you are willing to help them achieve their goals.

To manage negative feedback well, you need the right tools. This is where Featurebase comes in. It's designed to streamline the collection, analysis, and communication of feedback.

You can also efficiently sort, rank, and act on feedback. It comes with a Free plan that allows for unlimited feedback, so there's no downside to trying it. 👇

Start collecting and managing feedback for free today →