Dealing with negative customers is one of the hardest parts of customer service.
You deal with all kinds. There are customers who never seem happy no matter what you do. And those that change their minds out of the blue or find problems with the smallest things.
While there’s a shared unhappiness throughout the business world with regard to dealing with negative customers, such an attitude is unhelpful. In fact, not dealing well with your most difficult customers may be costing your business.
It’s far more helpful to change your own perspective to view challenging customers and negative feedback as opportunities for growth.
In this post, I’ll present ideas on how negative customers are often just misunderstood. And by using these tips as lenses to see through, you might just improve your own customer relationships for the better. Let’s dive in!
You’re not meeting the customer’s real need
One of the reasons for my own business’s growth is our focus on ‘Success Gaps’ rather than ‘customer needs’.
It’s common marketing knowledge that you can build a successful product when you know who your audience is and what they need. But I find that this concept falls short of giving business owners a true picture of what they should build.
Your audience’s immediate needs are not the same as their overarching goals. When you focus on going beyond a customer’s immediate needs to help them reach their real goals, that’s when you bridge the ‘success gap’.
For example, there are several contact form tools for WordPress sites out there. But we went ahead and built another one with premium features because we realized that the existing tools were not meeting people’s needs.
While many people start out with looking for a ‘contact form tool’ to add a contact form to their site – this desire is only a small step towards their real goal – to sell online and connect with customers. Since we understood this, we built a contact form tool that goes above and beyond every other tool in the same space. As a result, it’s placed us at the top of the game.
So consider this – if you have a lot of negative customers, chances are that they’re not getting their real needs met. There’s a success gap that you can fill. And if you understand what overarching goals customers are trying to achieve, you’ll be better able to help them.
You’re speaking in different languages
It’s important for businesses to shift how they communicate when interacting with customers. Very often, new businesses and entrepreneurs use technical language in their online content. And they even build products that are more suited to developers than the final users.
So, when you’re dealing with an unhappy customer. One of the things you should ask yourself if is you’re both using the same ‘language’. This can mean checking if your customer knows how to use your product and whether your interface is user-friendly.
If you frequently get complaints from customers that your product doesn’t do something but you know it does – then you need to pay attention. Something needs to improve – your user interface, your onboarding, or your features.
You may also have to create online courses and tutorials for your audience to better use your offerings.
You’re not actively listening
Even though I’ve co-founded several businesses and built many products, I still feel the same frustration as any customer when I feel like a company doesn’t actually listen to me.
We’ve all experienced a situation where we raise a complaint with a service only for them to dismiss our issues or offer a solution that we already know doesn’t work.
Ask yourself if your customers are experiencing the same thing in your business. When you get a negative review or if someone criticizes your company online, do you actually ‘hear’ what they’re saying? Or do you immediately jump to defending yourself?
Feeling defensive is often a sign that you’re not ready to listen. So, you need to willingly develop the ability to use active listening. In fact, consider doing some in-house training or buying an online course on active listening for your team. The benefits of such training are immense. You’ll respond better to your audience and even learn from them. For now, here are some quick active listening tips:
- When you receive feedback or criticism, listen fully without interrupting
- Make sure that your phone is off and that you’re giving your full attention
- Hold off from making any judgments and responses until after you’ve received the complete feedback
- Acknowledge the other party’s feelings and experiences and make an effort to see their point of view
Active listening can help you gain a new perspective and understand what’s really bothering your difficult customers. It takes effort and practice to listen well but the result is well worth it.
You aren’t a good fit
It does happen that no matter how much to try to help a customer, they’ll never be happy. And it’s possible that you might just not be a good fit.
If you’ve spent a long amount of time catering to a client and customizing your work for them and they still aren’t happy, the right thing might be to fire them.
And this isn’t always a negative thing for your or the customer. They will likely find another partner to work with and you can put your energies into your existing customers who need your attention.
At times, negative customers are unhappy for a good reason – that you aren’t a good fit for them. It’s important to recognize this early on so that you can move on and work in a more productive way.
There are many reasons why a customer might be negative. And some of them are just human errors and issues out of your control. It happens very often that a customer is just frustrated due to personal issues and then brings that frustration to your customer support.
And at other times, minor mistakes happen within your team that can cause annoyance.
In all these cases, it’s important to remember that such events and feelings pass. But any response you make to customers online will be on record for good.
So, develop patience, active listening, and problem-solving skills to manage such encounters.
It’s very likely that you can build a rapport with your unhappy customer and grow from the entire experience.