handling customer feedback

Once a customer gives you feedback in your satisfaction survey, what should happen next?

Sometimes, as a customer, it feels like we’re just shouting into a black hole with no chance of ever seeing a response. It’s incredibly disheartening to think your carefully considered feedback is immediately filed under “Very Important” and never seen again. And, if you leave a glowing review for someone that went above and beyond to help you – will that ‘thank you’ ever actually make it back to the front line?

We think what happens after the feedback is received is just as important as all the work leading up to it.

In this article, we’re going to show you how to develop your own scalable feedback processing machine to make sure your customer’s voice is heard.

Step 1: Read

It seems obvious, but you need to read what your customers send to you. Before setting up a process, determine who the best person is to read the feedback, how often they will be able to review it and what format they’d like it in.

Usually you’ll want to delegate feedback review to someone that you trust to be objective. While agents should have access to survey responses on their tickets, they shouldn’t be the only person responsible for acting on it. You also want to make sure the feedback reviewer is empowered to act quickly if a response warrants further action.

If there’s any delay in a response, you could see an angry customer take to social media to continue their rant.

A quick resolution of poor feedback is essential to reducing public complaints.

If you have a big team, reading responses can quickly become distracting. Imagine getting pulled away from your work every time a new survey is completed. If you allow your focus to be diverted for every response, you’ll never get anything done!

Alternatively, if you only read responses once a week (or even once a day) you might be delaying an urgent follow-up. Find a rhythm that works for you and makes sense with your business.

Perhaps use a filter, like Customer Thermometer’s email alerts, to send an email, only for negative responses with a comment could help with expediting responses, while maintaining your focus.

Example of handling feedback

You could also filter positive responses into an email folder and quickly power through twice a day to cover it off and send out rewards to the team member responsible. If it takes a lot of time, you can create a shared view in your help desk and pass the responsibility between different team members.

When reading customer feedback, keep three things in mind:

  • Context: What was the original problem or issue the customer is giving you feedback  about? Are they a lead, or a long time customer?
  • Sentiment: Is the customer happy? Resigned? Upset? Impatient? Try and put a human face to the response you’re reading.
  • Undertone: Is there something that isn’t being said? Read between the lines of the customer’s response to see if there’s a way your team can go above and beyond.

Step 2: Take Action

Once you’ve read it, you need to decide what kind of feedback you’ll act on. Setting some guidelines for your team helps take uncertainty out of follow-ups. It might not be possible to follow up with every customer that fills out your survey.

We’ve talked about the service recovery paradox on the blog before. Customers can often become more loyal to your business after a service failure (and the recovery!) than they were before. But the key to taking advantage of this phenomenon lies in the follow-up. If a customer is upset following a service interaction, you absolutely must take action to resolve it.

The service recovery paradox

At a bare minimum, any survey responses that include an unanswered question, a complaint or a misunderstanding should be addressed within 24 hours. We’ve found that the quicker you follow up, the more likely you are to regain the customer’s appreciation.

If you have the resources, you might also want to respond to any unsatisfied customers who didn’t leave a reason for their unhappiness. Rather than guessing at the reason, simply respond with an inquiry as to why they weren’t satisfied:

Hello John!

I’m a team lead at ABC Company. We take our customers’ happiness seriously, and we noticed that you weren’t satisfied with our latest interaction. I’ve gone over the responses from our team, and I want to know – what can I do to make this experience a good one?



Team Lead, ABC Company

Okay, so that takes care of all the unhappy customers.

Now our favorite part – responding to enthusiastically satisfied customers! When you make providing feedback easy, you’ll tend to find you get more positive responses from your customers (instead of just grumpy ones!). This gives you a great opportunity to convert happy customers into huge company advocates.

Grasshopper has come up with 7 ways you can turn happy customers into raving fans, including:

  • Featuring their reviews on your site – satisfied survey responses are a great place to look for case study participants!
  • Remembering their stories and celebrate their successes – send a birthday card or a new office warming present.
  • Surprise and delight – a thoughtful, unexpected extra goes a long way. A free month’s credit might be small to you, but it creates a fan for life!

And… the simplest, most effective way to appreciate customers that take the time to give positive feedback? Thank them! Take the time to personally respond and let them know what their kind words meant to you. Print out their review and take a photo with it. Send a handwritten card with stickers to their office. Small moments of appreciation is what turns a business transaction into a long-term relationship.

More: See even more ways to get the most out of positive customer surveys

Step 3: Analyze

Addressing individual concerns is important, but you’ll get a much better picture of how your business is doing if you zoom out and analyze trends.

There’s a ton of different ways you can slice and dice your data to find areas of opportunity in your survey trends. We recommend taking the time at least once a month to deep dive into your results and checking the following buckets of data:

Team data – is there a specific team or region that stands out? This could be either positively (find out their secret!) or negatively (might be time for more training?). You can also get more granular to find out if you have a team member that’s struggling or one that needs to be rewarded for consistently impressing customers.

Type of enquiry – is there one area of your product that gets more rave reviews than others? Forward this information to your product and marketing team so they can capitalize on whatever is working. Is there a bug that’s consistently making customers furious? Forward to your engineering team so they can squash it.

Comment reporting screens

Common themes – If you’re more of a visual person, you can create a word cloud from your survey responses to see trends. Use the built in Customer Thermometer Word Analyzer to see phrases that pop up often like “quick reply”, “friendly” or “confusing”.

Layer data – To see if there’s correlation between survey ratings and other metrics, compare them! Overlay first reply time with CSAT. Compare CSAT with NPS. By finding correlation you can start to determine causation and see how one metric may impact another!

Step 4: Improve

Once you’ve identified areas that need improvement, it’s time to create an action plan. Reacting to individual comments is great, but you’ll get the most bang for your buck when you address issues affecting your entire customer base (even customers that may not have responded!).

  1. Identify an area of customer concern where you can have the most impact. This might be the speed of replies, the availability of your live chat, or bugginess of a product. Or perhaps you’ve noticed that an agent who is going the extra mile with her tickets and  is getting more positive responses, and you want to try and share that customer service spirit!
  2. Brainstorm 2 or 3 initiatives for the next month or quarter that you think will make an impact. This might be adjusting your team’s schedule, adding in more personalization to each email, or altering an autoresponder.
  3. Execute. Make it happen. :)
  4. Measure your improvement over the next month or quarter. You might see an improvement, or you might not! If customers are responding positively, add the experiment to your day-to-day playbook. If they aren’t, drop it and return to business as usual. There’s always next month’s experiment!

Step 5: Share Company-Wide

Share your feedback resultsSharing is caring! If you’re handling customer feedback solely inside your customer service department you’re not getting full value. Find a way to get the company invested in what your customers are saying. As you shrink the distance between customers and individuals in other departments, you’ll find it easier to make customer-centric changes!

  • Real time: Use a Slack integration to push comments to a dedicated Slack channel, or post your favorite ones manually. You’ll have a constant stream of customer feedback for the rest of the company to scroll through and remind themselves of why they do what they do.
  • Dashboards: Display result dashboards in a company visible location. Everyone should know the results of your latest NPS survey, or the current CSAT score. It might be a TV hung on the wall, or in your Yammer feed, or on a bulletin board in your coffee break room. The best we’ve ever seen is a printed out summary hung on the back of toilet stalls. You know you’ve got a captive audience!!!
  • Weekly emails: It’s tough to ignore criticism or praise when you see it in a customer’s own words. Each week take a selection of the most impactful customer statements and email them around the company. Facilitate conversation around these statements – what can we improve on?

Keeping your survey responses front and center keeps the customer front and center.

The Takeaway

Getting feedback from customers is a privilege.

Handling customer feedback effectively and with purpose will make a real difference to how fast you can grow your business.

Make sure you’re squeezing every ounce of insight out of your CSAT surveys. You’ll make happy customers into fans, and grumpy customers into advocates!

We’ve been helping customers get better at this for 6 years now. Want to talk? Get in touch.