Learn To Love Your Negative Reviews, The Closed Feedback Loop

Review-SitesYeah I said it. And you should! Negative reviews are those little pieces of gold that lets you know when you are doing something wrong. If you're like most businesses you loath bad reviews, but without them, how do you ever plan on growing past the mistakes you've made?

Good reviews are great! I'm not saying that you should strive for negative reviews, I'm just asking you to see them differently than you see them now. In a moment I'm going to give you some stats that will blow your mind, keep reading.

Think about it, would you rather have a customer that had a bad experience, who never told you why, and stopped frequenting your business, or one that had a bad experience and told you why? I know your first inclination would be to say "I wish they just told me and not the whole world on my Google Places page David!"

Trust me I get it, but a bad review can be a good thing for a number of different reasons but most importantly it shows you're human. Being human means that you make mistakes and by making mistakes you have the ability to showoff your customer service skills. Studies have shown that people mistrust a business when a 100% of their reviews are positive, they instantly think there is some "gaming of the system" happening.

In a moment I'm going to share with you a process for turning your negative reviews into something positive, I call it the Closed Feedback Loop. The Closed Feedback Loop is a way for turning a negative review into something positive, and by fixing the problems in a public manner, you will go a long way to convincing your ticked off customer that it was a one time thing and that you will do everything in your power to fix it. A negative review that is followed up with publicly and to the satisfaction of the unsatisfied party is even more powerful than a positive review. Don't take my word for it, here are a few stats for you to take a look at.

  • 85% of consumers said they would be willing to pay anywhere between 5-25% over the standard price to ensure a superior customer experience.Think about that a moment, In 2010 Americans spent $157 Billion on buying automobiles. That means they would have paid almost $40 Billion more for superior customer service. Ask yourself this, are the experiences my customers having at my business superior? I'm not talking about run of the mill, what's expected customer service, but exception customer service.
  • 92% of consumers said they would be willing to go back to a company after a
    negative experience if they:·· Received a follow up apology/correction from a supervisor/head office (63%)
    ·· Were offered a discount (52%)
    ·· Or were offered proof of enhanced customer service (49%)Wow! And you were just thinking about ignoring that negative review weren't you? Time and time again I see where a customer has left a bad review and nowhere do I see an attempt to contact that person. Don't say that you just called them, it's important that you try to contact them on the actual service they used to leave the bad review as well, even if you called the, afterwards.
  • Oh and your customers expect a response when they leave a bad review, at least 58% of them said that they would like a response back.·· 42% expect a response within a day
    ·· 39% within a week
    ·· 7% within an hour
    ·· 2% within a minute

If you are curious as to where I got these percentages check out this report conducted by RightNow.

Open your eyes, the bottom line is that customer service is important, very important, but as consumers we understand that businesses make mistakes, we just want them to correct it.

What Should You DO When You See A Bad Review?

Run for the hills! Of course I'm kidding, but that's the way most businesses are handling it, are you? Before I get into the 6 steps that make up the Social Feedback Loop I feel that it's important to bring up the hierarchy of social engagement:

  • Consumption
  • Curation
  • Creation
  • Collaboration

I refer to them as a hierarchy because each one is more important than the previous with social collaboration being the granddaddy of social engagement. By using the Social Feedback Loop you will be able to move somebody from being unhappy with your service to collaborating with on how you can make your business even better. After all, that's the whole idea isn't it?

Lets get right into it, the six steps are:

  1. Word-Of-Mouth: This is the actual event and includes both positive and negative feedback.
  2. Social Monitoring: This includes the listening station and should be assigned to one person whose job it is root out where things are being said and any reactions that occurred as a result.
  3. The Cause Finder: This person (usually a department head) receives the information gathered in step two and is in charge of finding the cause of the negative or positive feedback.
  4. Direct Contact: The same person from step 3 has direct contact with both the employee and customer involved to resolve the issue or to congratulate the employee on a job well done.
  5. Process Implementation: During the bi-weekly SRT (Strategic Response Team) meeting each instance of word-of-mouth is brought up, discussed and implemented into the daily processes, if it makes sense. The ideas here is to ensure that the negatives don't happen again and that the positives are repeated.
  6. The Closed Loop: While this isn't a phase in The Social Feedback loop per say I am including it here to show you that what happens during the feedback loop always goes back to creating word-of-mouth, it's up to you whether it's positive or negative.

Now that you know the 6 steps, I'm going to lay out a hypothetical situation using a local print shop.

ABC Printers is a local print shop, they go out of their way to make people happy and enjoy a long list of repeat and referral customers. They use a program called UberVu to scour the web for mentions of their name and other keywords. One morning their social mentions dashboard shows that somebody left a scathing review in a blog post. They noticed that a customer was unhappy about the fact that the cut on their business cards went right through their logo.

The person in charge of reputation management left a comment on the blog post stating that they were sorry for the bad cut job but want to make it right. Then, they passed the information on to the person in charge of business cards, somebody who could make decision.

From there it was found out that the person who was supposed to call the customer and let them know of any issues with the graphic called in sick so it didn't happen and was sent directly to the printer. The customer was called, and it was explained to him what happened and that they would print more cards, that very same day, and have somebody deliver them. On the call the person in charge of business cards asked, "Customer service is very important to us and we want to make sure that this never happens again, do you have any suggestions for us to ensure that it doesn't?"

The customer, who was already happy about the issue being resolved said that it would be a good idea to have two people look at the graphic before it was sent over to be printed. So, the cards were reprinted and delivered. The person who first found the review went back to the blog and thanked the customer for their input and for giving them a great idea on how they could make their customer service even better. Next the question, "How are you enjoying your new business cards," was asked.


  1. aaron kominsky on February 11, 2013 at 6:03 pm

    Dave, A well thought out article I honestly think you covered every possiblle base possible here Anytime you get a negative review , its like a setback is a setup for a comeback. Like the Birds song back in the day TURN TURN TURN, or like the monthly customer sastisfaction reports , you get negative feeback , you go to the customer and not only correct it but you offer more and go the extra mile to retain them , then before you know it you may have a raving fan who presents you with you referral business. Great job!

    • David Johnson on February 13, 2013 at 10:34 am

      Thank you for stopping by and checking it out Aaron! I know a lot of dealers, as I’m sure you do as well, that like to turn a blind eye to negative reviews, or at least say that it’s the customers fault, instead of asking what they can do to ensure it never happens again. To me exceptional service means to be proactive. Thank you again Aaron!