How Organizations can handle their Detractors in 2020


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I recently had a bad delivery experience with a food aggregator and like any irate customer, I let the live agent know about the same.

They ensured to give me a call within 3 min of receiving my unpleasant message, initiated a refund and also offered an additional 20% discount for my next order.

Now, will this bad experience deter me from ordering again on this platform?

Well, obviously No, not just because they gave me that 20% discount coupon but because they were human enough to admit their mistake and ensured to tackle my unpleasant experience immediately without I have to send multiple follow up messages.

As a marketing technologist, I often wonder how many companies have formalized such a process of handling an unhappy customer.

Firstly, are businesses capturing customer feedback? Secondly, if the company is aware of such unhappy customers, are they reaching out quickly to such customers before the customer decides to wash the dirty linen in public?

After doing a bit of research, it turns out that such a proactive process of handling unhappy customers is not as common as it may seem. According to a recent survey by Salesforce, only 51% of customers state that companies understand their needs and expectations.

Many customers believe companies haven’t caught up with their expectations. And even fewer (47%) believe companies record their feedback.

The least that businesses should be doing is to become aware of their customer feedback and keep track of the ratio of their happy to unhappy customers.

An NPS tool can prove to be useful in this case. It can help businesses capture customer feedback and categorize them into three basic categories.

  • What is Promoter: If a customer gave a score of 9 or 10 then the customer is clearly a promoter of the brand.
  • What is a Detractor: If a customer gave a score of 6 or below, then the customer is a detractor.
  • What is Passive: If a customer gave a score of 7 or 8 then the customer is passive

Read More: The Ultimate Guide to Net Promoter Score

The ratio of promoters to detractors is a critical metric to understand the overall sentiment of your customers.

Successful businesses often keep track of the same and have an exponentially higher percentage of promoters v/s their detractors. But there remains a grey area of receiving no feedback.

Many businesses make the common mistake of perceiving the absence of negative feedback as a sign of customer satisfaction. Well, the bad news is that your customers may not be happy, or worse, they may be sharing their bad experiences with others before it reaches you.

In this article, we focus on this important customer category called “the detractors” and what are the critical measures to handle them.

Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning. Don’t burn bridges. It’s not worth it.-Bill Gates

The good news is that not all is lost with a detractor with just one bad experience. Its a series of bad experiences that could eventually prove to be fatal.

Studies prove that up to 95% of detractors will give businesses a second chance and 11 % would avoid churning out if their complaints are resolved in a timely manner.

So, what are a few critical measures to handle detractors and convert them to promoters?
As mentioned above, the first step towards identifying your detractors would be to record customer feedback across multiple channels(email, social media, SMS, calls, etc) and deploy an NPS tool to assess your customer split between promoters, detractors, and passives.

Post that, start by assessing a customer’s journey and map it to the relevant internal operations necessary. This is one of the core steps in setting up what I have termed as a detractor handling process.

Setting up a detractor defense process can become an important differentiator – an opportunity where your business practices can be remembered for good.

So, how can your organization set up a detractor handling process that can be institutionalized for years to come? It’s not just about introducing tools and measuring metrics; the process should consider holistically about

  • Setting up or updating the internal processes as per the various customer journeys
  • Setting up or updating a comprehensive feedback ecosystem that measures critical customer sentiments
  • Humanizing detractor interactions

Let’s start with setting up or updating the internal processes as per the customer(rather detractor) journeys :

Most businesses deal with detractors in a very reactionary manner and make decisions on a case-to-case basis rather than setting a process around it. Let’s take the same example of a food aggregator business dealing with a detractor.

In a traditional setting, most businesses would expect their call center team to deal with irate customers, handle their complaints and document them for future training purposes. But the resolution may not end there.

What if the irate customer spreads negative news about the brand on social media, leaving reviews across Twitter, Facebook, Reddit and may further negatively influence his/her network against your brand.

If a business keeps taking reactionary measures, they may not have enough time to make relevant changes in the complaint handling process.

Instead, with a small assessment of its customer journey, an organization can identify the likelihood of

  • receiving complaints across multiple channels,
  • provide sufficient self-service resolution options,
  • set up an instant reward incentive to avoid churn,
  • arrange a follow-up call to understand the concern or
  • automate a comprehensive email journey to keep the unhappy customer posted about their issue resolution.


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