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How to manage negative complaints and feedback?

Study guide

Do you see negative feedback and complaints as an opportunity to learn? This is often difficult! Many of us instinctively react negatively to complaints; Whether these complaints are internal (from co-workers, employees or managers) or external (from customers). If the complaint is about what we have done or created, or about the person for whom we are responsible, we are often defensive or we find the complaint unfair and we do not see it as a mistake. But what exactly is a complaint? And should we react negatively to complaints?

Janelle Barlow and Claus Moller, in their book Customer Service, “Complaint is a Gift,” define a complaint as “a statement of unfulfilled expectations.” So feedback and complaints are really important. If we act on the feedback we receive, we will have the opportunity to improve ourselves, our products, our services and our processes.

This article describes the effective management of complaints and feedback. Also, various examples of complaints are given and then we explain how you can use the closed loop feedback process to make sure you have learned from the feedback and complaints received.

Types of complaints

Many of us face complaints and feedback as part of our job.

For example, you might lead a customer service team whose main role is to deal with customer complaints. Maybe you work in a human resources department that processes internal feedback from employees and management, or you may need to get feedback from your boss on your latest performance appraisal to improve how you provide your team’s monthly reports to the board.

Whatever your role, effective complaint processing and feedback is essential to improving the way you do things.

Benefits of benefiting from feedback

Some advantages of benefiting from feedback:

  • It provides a way for customers, users of your service, and team to solve problems with your product, service, or organization.
  • Properly covered, it will withstand a great deal of adverse conditions. Many organizations only receive feedback from their team or customers once a year. Gathering feedback should be a sustainable process; Not an event that happens from time to time.
  • Effective feedback provides you with the data you need to make a real and lasting improvement. The team spirit, product quality and reputation of an organization may improve as a result of such a process.
  • A good process helps organizations act on the feedback they receive. This ultimately creates a strong bond between the organization, its employees and its customers.

Closed-loop feedback process

Many people spend time collecting feedback from people such as customers and employees. They may use the suggestion box or polls, or even hire consultants to gauge customer and employee satisfaction in a more scientific way.

The problem is that people often do not act on such feedback. Therefore, the performance of the individual or company never improves. This process is called the open-loop feedback process and results in nothing but failure.

A more effective solution for handling feedback is the closed-loop feedback process (Figure 1). You can apply this process to any situation where you receive feedback or complaints.

Figure 1: Closed-loop feedback cycle

In the following, each step is explained in more detail:

Step 1: Collect the data

To successfully complete the closed loop process, you must first define how to gather feedback. For example, will someone be responsible for collecting feedback, or will team members add their feedback to a central database, which you will review regularly later? In addition to collecting feedback and complaints, you can send surveys to find out how satisfied people are, or ask people for feedback during regular phone calls.

It will also help you identify criteria that need to be measured. “Do you measure customer satisfaction with your company’s latest products or your employees’ satisfaction with new incentive packages?” With such questions, you can find out the areas you need to focus on and seek to improve.

Ask specific questions when collecting feedback or responding to complaints. Vague questions like “Are you satisfied with the service?” It seldom provides enough data to make real changes. More specific questions such as “How well did your customer service team respond?” Gives you more practical information.

Step 2: Take action

Take action when you have the data. This is a step that people often miss. Remember, data collection is of no value until action is taken or a change is made.

Step 3: Convey feedback

Let others know when you act on the feedback you receive! This shows people that you have really listened and reassures them that they will provide feedback in the future. This is another important step in the feedback process that is often overlooked.

Even if you do not take action, still pass it (sometimes). Explain the reasons why this does not happen or emphasize your alternatives.

Step 4: Modify the changes

This step completes the feedback loop. Here, use any additional feedback you receive as part of the transition to improve what you do. Use the ideas of Kaizen (art of continuous improvement) to always seek to improve the way you do your work.

Ensure satisfaction

An important part of managing complaints and feedback is ensuring that people are satisfied with the results of their feedback.

Here it is important to follow up with anyone who has given feedback on something. Even if the feedback is a complaint, thank them for passing it on. People are seldom appreciated for their feedback; So this will have an immediate effect.

Then, ask them directly if they are satisfied with the way their complaint or feedback has been handled. If not, ask them about their expected outcome. If you do not meet their expectations, do the necessary work. Any further information here can help with the feedback process.

A different mentality

Whether you work in human resources or customer service, it is likely that you and your team will have ideas for complaints.

For example, imagine that a customer writes a complaint about the poor quality of your services. In the next meeting, you show the letter to your team and ask for their opinion. More than half of your team members feel that the customer’s letter is not justified. They believe that this customer is made of mountain straw or complains about it.

This is a common reaction to complaints. Many people whose job it is to manage and respond to complaints consider the plaintiffs to be creditors, rude or expectant.

But, as Barlow and Müller emphasize in Complaints is a Gift, studies have shown that people only complain about things that really matter to them or when they feel they can make a difference.

To build a real partnership and solve problems, you and your team must take responsibility for the problem and let the person know that you are aware of it. Training your team to connect with people, both professionally and individually, is essential to becoming a champion for your organization or team.

More tips for effective feedback management

1. Facilitate the feedback process

Feedback should be easy for your customers and team. For example:

  • For internal feedback, encourage people to use suggestion boxes and make sure everyone knows where those boxes are.
  • Set up a dedicated phone line or email address for feedback so people can get feedback quickly.
  • Empower your managers and teams to solve problems.
  • Provide incentives for people who give feedback.

2. Be careful how you express yourself

When speaking or writing to a client or employee, be careful what words you use. Certain phrases evoke empathy and may ease difficult situations a little. For example, “Let’s do this together” or “It’s better to find a solution to this problem” or “This is how we can proceed.” Also, be sure to listen actively when others are talking.

3. Empathize

Sometimes people are angry about a problem. Using phrases like “I know you’re angry. “If I were you, I would be angry.” Empathize with them and try to see the situation through their eyes. Conflict management content may be useful to you.

4. Be prepared for difficult situations

When you talk to an angry person, you can easily get nervous and restless. Most of us have a laid back attitude when it comes to painting a picture about ourselves. The role play article teaches you how to prepare for difficult conversations.


How to manage negative complaints and feedback?

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