There’s an old saying… “People are much more likely to share bad experiences than good ones”. But is it really true?

Well… yes, according to research by Zendesk. But perhaps the most significant statistic from the research is this:

It’s more likely that your customers will tell friends, colleagues and their social network than you – the company providing that experience.

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Let’s explore this for a moment…

A comment on Facebook, or an image shared on Instagram can reach tens of thousands of people at the click of a button. It’s a connected world. We’re all very aware of the power that social channels and review sites place in the hands of the consumer. And according to the research above, it’s via social channels that people have the greatest propensity to share negative rather than positive experiences.

So what can businesses proactively do to manage this risk? And how can marketers capitalise on the opportunity that social media presents?

Here are three things to consider:
 

1. Get structured feedback – fast!

If there’s something wrong with the experience you’re providing to your customers then you will want to know about it, so that you can:

• improve your product or service offering and not keep making the same mistake with future customers, and

• intervene directly with the customer to explain how you’ll put things right.

But how can you make it easy for your customers to feed back to you as a business, rather than to their social network? And how can you glean this insight quickly, so you can do something about it?

An effective and proven method is the Net Promoter Score (NPS) approach. It uses one simple question: “How likely is it that you would recommend [company name] to a friend or colleague?”.

Customers respond on a scale of 0-10, and each customer is categorised as a “detractor”, “passive” or “promoter” based upon their answer.

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Using Net Promoter Score makes it fast and easy for the customer to feed back, and it provides the business with a structured framework upon which you can act.

In addition, you may also want to ask some qualitative, open questions such as: “If there’s one thing about our product/service that could be better, what would it be?”, or “What was the best aspect of our service?”.

However, bear in mind that if you’re asking for lots of feedback, you need to give your customer a compelling reason to spare you their time. We’re all busy people! A competition or incentive can help things along. Or consider asking for the most important feedback up front.
 

2. Act in the moment

Whilst tracking overall consumer sentiment is important, the real power of NPS is unleashed when each customer’s feedback is used to drive desired outcomes with that particular customer. To give an example…

If a respondent’s feedback is negative (0-6) then you’ll probably want to understand why this is, and consider whether there’s anything you can do to placate them or make them feel a bit more positive.

On the flip-side, if they’re feeling positive (9 or 10), think about how can you encourage and prompt them to wax lyrical to their social network, or post a glowing review.

Technology can help to automate this process, and brands are using a variety of channels to gather feedback – either by email and web-forms, automated voice services, or by SMS.

3. Customers are NOT all the same, so don’t treat them that way

In ideal world, you’d want to call every unhappy customer immediately. Or better still, pop round to see them with a box of chocolates and talk it through. But for large brands, the scale of their business means this simply isn’t possible.

That said, it’s very likely that you’ll have particular customers that really do merit special attention. Whether and how you respond to negative or positive feedback may be influenced by factors such as:

• How valuable are they to your business?
• How loyal are they?
• What’s their level of social influence?

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When certain key customers are feeling negative, you’ll want to be in the know. For example, imagine that your most valuable and profitable customer (who also happens to have millions of followers on Twitter) isn’t feeling too happy right now. You just might want to prioritise reaching out to him or her above all else.
 

Be on the front foot with a proactive strategy

Consider how you can build opportunities for customer feedback into your communication processes so that you can better manage your brand reputation. Try to do this in a structured and automated way and make it a core part of your business.

When it comes to understanding and improving the customer experience, businesses really need to be on the front foot. After all, what’s more important than the experience of your customers and your brand reputation?