Be hungry for negative feedback


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The topic of the Voice of the Customer (VoC) has many branches and sub-categories.  Just on the topic of surveys alone (which is only a part of VoC), there are tons of thoughts: We discuss things like the formatting of surveys, the proper response rates, how and what sorts of questions to ask, which channel we should use to survey, even whom to survey.  Beyond that there are numerous other methods of collecting the Voice of the Customer:  market analyses, social media (SoMe) monitoring and analysis, competitive comparisons, and of course we can’t forget Walking in the Customers’ Shoes.  Each of these other methods likewise comes with their own set of approaches and execution methods.

But what about what comes out of those efforts?  Sometimes we concern ourselves so much with the day-to-day transactional concerns about collecting the VoC, we forget why we’re doing it in the first place.  In the worst case, we substitute raw winning vs. losing motivations for insights, and devolve the entire process to: “What’s the score today?”  Let’s back up a bit, though, and recognize what I’ve said so many times I should just make a bumper-sticker out of it:  VoC insights are of no use if you don’t use them to improve your Customers’ experiences.  That leads to a remarkable—and to some, shocking—conclusion:

You should be hungry for negative feedback.

Sure, everybody likes a good pat-on-the-back from time to time.  But if you don’t get a kick-in-the-pants, you’ll never improve your work.  Think about your experiences with your own VoC results and you’ll probably agree that, while it’s certainly nice to get 9s and 10s (Promoters) on your NPS survey, dig into the verbatims or attribute data from those responses and ask yourself if there’s much insight to be gained there.  Likely a ten on the top-line likelihood-to-recommend question is accompanied by a string of similarly gratifying tens down the line from resolution to ease of effort to time spent on solution.  That’s good for a tip of the hat, but not so actionable.  Similarly with the verbatims (open-ended text responses) on those particular survey responses:  “You all were great!”  “The agent was incredibly efficient and polite.”  “You rock!”  Again, heartwarming, but now try to turn that into something you can do.  (And yes, I do recognize the rest of the leadership team will be happy to see those tens, but it’s your job as a CX leader to actually drive more of them, not just rah-rah when they arrive.)

On the other hand, when you dig into the Detractors (those scoring you 0 through 6 on your NPS likelihood to recommend question), you will often get chapter and verse about what went wrong with specific incidents.  While they’re not nearly as much fun to read, these comments can—and often do—point to specific work your organization can accomplish to directly and positively impact your Customers’ experiences.  After you pick through the sometimes-ungracious way your Customers may have of phrasing their displeasure, more often than not you can identify not only what went wrong and where, but also—with aggregation—identify trends and pockets of concern.  Through these trends (and using tools such as a Pareto analysis), you can identify the most impactful improvements you can make in order to improve your CX.  This goes for the verbatims as well as the quantitative attribute data…you can find correlation between how they score you on your top-line (i.e., NPS) score and how they respond to the other “On a scale from zero-to-ten” questions.  And it’s those insights that are at the heart of the purpose of your VoC program in the first place.  Frankly, it’s the oxygen for the entire system, without which there’s no reason to have a CX effort in the first place.

Simply by the nature of surveying (or any other way of collecting the VoC), you’re likely never to have a shortage of negative feedback anyway, but you still should be constantly looking for it.

If you could get 100 positive survey responses that simply say, “You’re great!” or 100 negative responses that can be categorized and further studied, yielding insights into what areas of your business need the most CX attention, which would you prefer?  Your ego may say one thing, but you’ve got to listen to the business (through the Voice of the Customer!) and always be looking for those opportunities to improve the work you do in service to your Customers.

So be greedy.  Be hungry.  Stay curious about what your Customers want you to do better (or stop doing).  Then use that negative feedback to improve what you do.  Act on that insight, and then you’ll see a lot more tens!  (But don’t stop looking after that…)


(Originally Published 20200924)

– LtCol Nicholas Zeisler, CCXP, LSSBB, CSM

– Principal, Zeisler Consulting

Nicholas Zeisler, CCXP, LSSBB
I’m a Customer Experience executive, certified Process Improvement professional, Agile Scrum Master, dynamic educator, change management strategist, and in-demand business and leadership coach. I've worked from the inside and from the outside; in organizations large and small; public sector and private; from oil and gas to technology to non-profit (with lots in between too). I've seen a lot, but I haven't seen it all.


  1. From a customer point of view, feedbacks are always something that adds to the improvisation of the product or its service. Appreciation is always good for the business from a motivation and marketing point of view. However feedback whether negative or positive are the basics of survival for any business.

    Product appreciation is always temporary. The liking of a product may change based on the market competition and consumer saturation .Any product once liked by the customer would soon become outdated as the customer choices and needs keep on changing based on his/her comfort and requirements.

    Hence any negative feedback on any service or product is the foremost and most prioritised and concerned agenda for any business to survive and blossom


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