If you’re reading this, you are already showing that you have a commitment to providing world-class service. We all love when a customer experience is amazing, and when the client has only positives to say about us and the work we do. It is validating and often makes our day.
On the other hand, negative feedback can ruin our week, month or even year if we allow it. The fact is, no matter how diligent or caring you are, negative feedback happens – the services you offer are not for everyone and the process/flow you follow doesn’t always work out.
The hardest part of receiving negative feedback is the spiral you can often get lost in: ‘everything is out of control’, ‘am I a bad agent?’, ‘my reputation will be ruined’.
These fears are valid, as according to Linkedin research, 94% of consumers say that a negative review makes them less likely to buy from a business, and 86% of people hesitate to purchase from a business that has negative online reviews.
Sounds terrifying, I know, but not all is lost!
Forbes determined that if the company's customer service is excellent, 78% of consumers will do business with them again after a mistake.
While confrontation like this can make you uncomfortable, it’s imperative you know how to manage the feedback so your customers and potential clients feel confident in your abilities. Your response will make all the difference.
Here are 10 steps on how to effectively manage negative customer feedback in and out of the public eye.
1. Embrace It, Don't Avoid It:
First things first, when you receive negative feedback, don't hit the panic button or sweep it under the rug. Embrace it!
Recent customer service studies show that only one out of every 26 customers is likely to bring up their grievances. The other 25 customers will simply take their business elsewhere without a word. This means that it is important that you let a customer know they have a voice and that you will listen - ignoring it means 26 customers lost.
As for the impact on your business, negative feedback, though uncomfortable, can be a goldmine of information. It shines a light on areas that need improvement and can help you grow as an estate agent.
2. Stay Calm and Professional:
When you see a negative review or receive criticism, resist the urge to react emotionally. Take a deep breath, count to ten, and then respond.
According to Forbes, 90% of the world’s top business performers show an adeptness to managing their emotions in a time of crisis. Not the easiest thing to accomplish but, as much as it feels like it, most complaints are not personal, and it is vital to remain calm while talking through a negative customer response.
3. Listen and Acknowledge:
Harvard Business Review’s research on empathy shows that the top 10 most empathetic companies increased their monetary value more than twice as much as the bottom 10 and made 50% more profit. Empathy obviously goes a long way, but how to implement it effectively can be a mystery when you first start out.
First, acknowledge the client's concerns and show them you're listening. Sometimes, all someone wants is to feel heard. A simple, "I understand your feelings, and I'm here to help," can work wonders. Check out this article about showing concern for more tips.
4. Discover and Understand:
Before you respond, do a bit of detective work. Understand what went wrong from both your perspective and the client's. Were there communication breakdowns? Misunderstandings? Identify the root cause of the problem so that you can provide correct information when you speak to the customer again.
Be aware – a recent study by Tesser shows that over 72% of the world’s data has errors or missing information. Keep an open mind when speaking to the customer about their experience compared to the perceived experience the data has given you.
5. Respond Promptly:
Timeliness is key. A Forrester study shows 71% of customers say that valuing their time is the most important thing a brand can do to provide good customer service.
Aim to respond to negative feedback as soon as possible. This is all a balance - a delayed response can escalate the situation but an immediate response without rationality and research could also cause harm. Even if you don't have an immediate solution, let the client know you're looking into it.
6. Accountability and responsibility
When your child breaks something and doesn’t tell you or lies about it, it can make you angrier than if they had just come forward. The same goes for businesses and customer service mistakes.
If you or your agency made a mistake, own up to it. It's human to make errors, but it's professional to admit them. A sincere apology can go a long way in diffusing tension.
7. Offer Solutions:
After understanding the issue, offer practical solutions. Whether it's a refund, a follow-up meeting, or a revised plan, show the client you're committed to making things right. Set expectations of what you will do for them and follow through.
8. Learn and Improve:
Negative feedback is an opportunity to learn and improve. Use it to assess your processes and identify areas that need strengthening. Share feedback with your team to ensure the same issues don't recur.
9. Train Your Team:
Ensure your team is equipped to handle negative feedback professionally. Conduct training sessions on effective communication, conflict resolution, and customer service. There are multiple resources and training courses available online – take some time to research the customer experience you want for your company, build the rules and train your employees.
10. Showcase Your Improvements:
If you've successfully resolved an issue, don't hesitate to showcase your improvements. Share stories of how you turned a negative experience into a positive one in your marketing materials or on your website.
Don't fear negative feedback; embrace it. Negative feedback doesn't have to be a stumbling block; it can be a stepping stone toward growth and excellence in estate agency. Remember, even the most successful estate agents encounter dissatisfied clients from time to time. It's how you respond that sets you apart - it's your chance to shine as a professional estate agent who's committed to client satisfaction and continuous improvement.