“You Guys Suck.”
Yup, I’ve gotten that feedback from a customer. And I’ve learned to cherish it. Here’s why I love my unhappy customers.
Earlier this year, I was put in charge of growing a productivity tool called followup.cc – a nifty way to make managing email more efficient. As part of my effort to understand how to improve the customer experience to drive more growth, I leaned into the simple and ever popular Net Promoter Score.
My strategy in addressing feedback
I inherited a great NPS tool that automatically samples a percentage of my users daily for feedback, and so was blessed with an immediate and direct channel to my customer. And with response rates topping 70%, I felt good that a meaningful number of users were engaged in the feedback process.
So, I committed to myself that I would not leave any NPS response unaddressed, positive or negative. That included customers that only left a score and not a written comment. And I tried to manage response time to within two weeks after receiving their feedback. After all, these were customers who had taken valuable time to stop what they were doing and tell me their feelings about my product!
It ended up looking something like this:
The jewels in negative sentiment
I certainly had many wonderful interactions with our delighted customers (our promoters), but as I embarked on this challenge I quickly came to realize that it was my detractors that were giving me my richest material.
Why? Three things.
1) The pearls of wisdom come from your biggest critics.
While I have thoughtful feedback on both ends of the spectrum, the brutal honesty of our detractors has helped me see our shortcomings, and even envision the future. “Sign-up was a terrible experience; that must have taken extra effort to get so bad” or “frustrating!!! So disappointed with the new format!” are powerful comments to digest.
Trends among this group have shaped “bigger picture” elements such as our product roadmap, but also closer in elements like our landing page user experience.
2) They care enough to comment
It’s always easiest to focus on your biggest advocates. They are already drinking the Kool-Aid. They’re excited to tell friends and family about you.
Detractor comments can sometimes seem so overwhelmingly negative that you assume hope is lost. They may seem like a waste of energy to pursue. Case in point, this comment I received from a customer recently (expletives removed):
“too f**ing expensive. you guys suck. I love this thing and would happily pay $5/month for it. F** you with your $144. come on.”
My initial thought was that even if I could offer a solution, he might not be open to hearing it. But I reached back out to him anyway, thanked him for his comment, and shared a solution – we did in fact have a $5 plan.
He ended up apologizing for his tone, and sharing meaningful commentary on the user experience around pricing…feedback that was immediately actionable for our team. And, he became a happy paying customer at $5/month.
Moral of the story: sometimes your worst critics actually LOVE you. And they want you to help them stay in love with you by addressing their problems. That low score is a cry for attention, and to push you to be better. Don’t let it slide by unaddressed.
You should be more concerned if your detractors aren’t engaging with you – indifference is a much harder attitude to influence!
3) You are doing yourself a big favor to engage them – or face the consequences!
It seems like a no brainer, but you’d be surprised how easy it is to focus on trend analysis and scores, and not actually responding to customers. If you’ve got a great tool to help you, this is easy. And the consequences of doing nothing can be big!
Think about it…you’ve asked for feedback. They’ve given it, and it may not be pretty. If you do nothing, you’ve most likely lost them. They may even mentally give you a few extra negative points for not acknowledging their criticism. Usually these things come back to bite you, most likely in the form of negative word of mouth.
Not every detractor can be turned into a promoter. But I have found that with a little bit of personal attention I’ve been able to turn some of our most negative users into successful and satisfied paying customers. And even when I haven’t been able to turn things around I almost always walk away with valuable feedback
As we continue to grow (and we are growing fast!), you can bet that I’ll be continuing my rigorous focus on closing the loop.
Tips for making this work for you
- Know your Net Promoter Score. You need to know where you are before you can start to improve. Wootric was designed to do just this. It is simple and it keeps a constant pulse on our users. The data is extremely valuable—I review the score weekly with the team and measure our improvement.
- Follow up on your feedback! Thank them. Show them that you want to learn. They’ll be happily surprised, and continue to give you feedback the next time you ask. If you don’t have a tool to make this easy for you, get one. You’ll be able to keep your focus on the customer, not on managing the process.
- Don’t write off the aggressively negative customer. They took the time to write you about your issue. Sometimes you’ll find that there are ways to bridge the frustration and find solutions. Capitalize on the high engagement of these customers and channel that negativity into building a better product and experience.
Suzanne Cohen is the General Manager of email productivity tool followup.cc. She lives in Santa Barbara, is married to an adventure outfitter and loves to spend her out of office time showing her two boys the incredible outdoors. She also is fond of all things related to follow up (naturally), so she’ll happily respond to any comments below!
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NPS and Net Promoter Score are trademarks of Bain & Company, Fred Reichheld, and Satmetrix Systems, Inc.