How to Handle Negative Feedback

feedback, review, opinion


Tips on handling online and offline customer feedback.


Online and offline reviews matter.

According to Google, positive reviews and customer-business interactions improve organic visibility. These customer reviews play an important role in real business outcomes and help make potential customers decide whether to patronize or not patronize your business.

All brands must be open to accepting and engage with customer reviews–be it good or bad. Reviews not only give people an idea of the effectiveness and quality of a specific product, service, or business, they also address what all consumers seek: reinforce a better-than-average customer experience.

Responding to the positive ones is not difficult but the negative feedback is tricky. It’s hard to take harsh criticism and even harder to deal with an angry customer that can become stubborn and overwhelming at times.

Customer complaints are opportunities to be better. There are different ways and acronyms to handle a customer complaint but the tried and tested is the H.E.A.T. which stands for Hear, Empathize, Apologize and Take action. The H.E.A.T does not only apply to offline reviews but online as well.

H is for “hear”

We don’t just hear the complaint, but we should listen. Don’t just listen with your ears but listen with your eyes as well. Don’t be defensive or mentally rehearsing your reply. Don’t interrupt the customer but just listen attentively to what they are saying.

Listening to people at the beginning diffuses some of their frustrations and anger. If you don’t listen you will quickly inflame the situation.

E for “empathize”

Creating empathy is about your body language. Don’t stand above them. Be humble enough to sit down next to them and talk to them face to face. Creating empathy is asking yourself how you would feel if you were in their shoes.

Empathizing is using these words “I understand you are unhappy…Thank you for bringing this to my attention…”

A for “apologize”

Just say sorry. It doesn’t matter whether it is or isn’t your fault. Resist the temptation to make excuses or blame someone. Just apologize. “My apology that you are not happy… My apology that it is not what you wanted… I’m sorry that you didn’t get what you expected…”

No buts, just offer an apology.

T “take action”

We all love options as solutions to our problems. Be armed with possible solutions to every customer complaint. It can be an offer to repair the problem, or an offer of a refund. Sometimes, it might just be saying “thank you for bringing it to my attention. I will ensure that it doesn’t happen again”. Bottom line is, own the problem, take responsibility, and offer solutions.

These steps can help you handle negative feedback both online and offline. But when it comes to online, it is best to answer quickly within 24 hours from the time it was posted, come up with a thoughtful and honest answer, don’t take it personally, and formulate your response according to each customer’s current situation.