Don’t Be Afraid of Negative Feedback

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Don’t Be Afraid of Negative Feedback

Dissatisfied circled in red circle on textured paper

by David Ham December 15, 2021

As the pandemic continues, so do instances of rude behavior. Anne Marie Chaker summarized this phenomena rather well in her Wall Street Journal article “Adults Are Throwing Tantrums – in Restaurants, Planes and at Home. Blame the Pandemic.”

CFI Group’s founder, Dr. Claes Fornell, shares his perspective in the article. He cites the supply-chain disruptions, staffing shortages, pent-up consumer demand, and generalized stress as contributing factors to increasingly disappointed customers. Unfortunately, this has all too frequently led to poor behavior, which has also negatively impacted employees.

Even before the pandemic, one of the most common client and prospect concerns has consistently been the worry that customer satisfaction or employee engagement surveys would be full of less than constructive criticism. Given the current tensions, these concerns have become even more pronounced.

There are a few things I like to point out when it comes to negative feedback:

  1. Most of your customers are satisfied. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have customers

    It’s true that some organizations tend to get low scores. These are often private sector companies with little to no competition, or government organizations that citizens would rather avoid (think death and taxes). This won’t be the case for most organizations. Your customer base is mostly comprised of people just quietly having good (or good enough) experiences with what you offer. Even though US customer satisfaction is near an all-time low, the ACSI reported the overall score at 73.7 out of 100 for the third quarter.

  2. People often have something to say, but they don’t always want to tell everybody

    Happy customers don’t rush to grab a soapbox and start singing your praises unless something truly exceptional happens. Think about experiences that are usually stressful – like car repairs, which tend to be expensive and time-consuming. People are going to be on edge just upon entering the shop. Should anything go wrong, it’ll be enough to nudge some of these customers right off that edge to the point where they are airing their grievances publicly. Most of the time, however, things go well. People don’t generally take to Twitter just to say that their service advisor was an honest and polite professional who explained everything really well. You’re much more likely to see that feedback in a survey.

  3. There is no such thing as “100% Satisfaction”

    Admittedly, points 1 and 2 don’t specifically address the concern about negative feedback being over-represented in survey results. Frankly, this will happen – to a degree. This is why I stress that a perfect score is never the goal with customer satisfaction or employee engagement. These simply don’t exist in the real world. It’s actually not uncommon for satisfaction scores to increase when data is collected from a representative survey sample, rather than just from a “feedback” button, for example.

  4. What you really need is a consistent measurement program rooted in data science

    For feedback that translates into action and aligns with customer behavior, customer feedback must be captured systematically so it can be tracked. Having a consistent approach helps compensate for the fact that, yes, negative experiences may be overrepresented in the data.

  5. There are constructive ways of delivering negative feedback

    Even when collected from large samples, survey feedback is not like an internet forum where anonymous comments can feed off one another. In fact, most people approach surveys in good faith because they stand to benefit if the service they’re evaluating improves. People aren’t generally going to commit 5 minutes to answering questions just to be meanspirited. CFI Group supplements its advanced analytics with representative respondent comments, which help illustrate the most effective avenues for improvement.

To wrap things up, negative feedback is not a bad thing. It is a valuable and necessary aspect to improving performance. The CFI Group methodology links to financial results – thanks to the rigorous empirically backed research. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at [email protected].




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