Why Negative Customer Feedback Is Vital for a Strong CX Program

What's the most infuriating customer experience you've ever had? For me, it was spending hours creating a personalized item for the holidays only to have the online workflow end with a price tag that was twice what I expected. The chat with the customer support agent confirmed that I had to choose between abandoning the project I'd invested so much time in creating or paying the unexpected high price. When I got a customer service survey after they closed my ticket, I cared enough about this company to provide lengthy feedback that the experience left me frustrated enough to discontinue using its service after years of loyalty. While the response I got was appropriately professional, it did nothing to address the strong negative emotions I felt nor changed my mind about abandoning the service for good and telling others about it.

A customer experience program requires you to think about the ideal customer experience, whether it's for a consumer's ecommerce experience or business user's digital journey. That customer journey goes through the buyer experience, starting when a prospect is looking for the right information at the right time to onboarding, the first customer service experience, and hopefully, into an engaging and productive relationship with that organization's products and services. It's critical to understand the moments in that journey that impact customer perceptions of their experience. Whether those are moments of delight or despair, these instances of exponential emotion are where you can learn where to focus your organization's customer experience initiatives.

That's why I took the time to fill out that customer support survey; I hoped the company would learn and change its product based on my frustrating experience. Even though it&'s hard to be on the receiving end of negative customer feedback, it's vital to building a strong CX program.>

Why? Negative feedback prioritizes your time—your most valuable resource. On what are you going to focus? Where are the listening posts that matter most? On what are we going to tell product development to focus? Angry customers highlight the parts of the experience where you have loaded emotions, and that's where you have the opportunity to make the most powerful impact.

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Mary Winfield, vice president of customer experience and trust at Lyft, at SurveyMonkey's Curiosity Conference. We discussed how negative feedback can shine a light on your most important areas for improvement. She shared how Lyft combines operational data with qualitative feedback to identify and understand moments when customer emotions run high.

"Cancellations are a great moment of truth—a rider cancels on a driver or a driver cancels on a rider. Either way, it can be a pretty frustrating experience... We look at operational data to see where the problem spots are—for example, during a specific time of day or after a certain amount of time has elapsed since a rider ordered the Lyft. We can then use SurveyMonkey to collect feedback that augments our data to help us better understand what happens./p>

"Is there a problem with ETAs? Is there a specific situation happening that we need to accommodate for? The team uses both the quantitative and qualitative data to understand why the cancellation takes place to help us engineer a better experience for riders and drivers alike."

Negative feedback also helps you better understand your overall customer satisfaction. When you get your Net Promoter Score report, it can be tempting to focus on promoters and passives first. Promoters love you! That feels good, and marketing should be focused on finding more people like them. Passives aren't delighted, so it's tempting to wonder what it would take to get them over that hump.

But it's actually detractors who will tell you the most about where you stand. Yes, you want to understand happy customers, but it is just as critical—maybe more—to pay attention to the people you're not delighting. What is driving them? How did the experience fail them? Remember, these are the people who care enough to give you feedback. If they express frustration, you can be certain other frustrated customers exist who aren't even bothering.

At SurveyMonkey, we recently did a deep dive into a double-whammy of negative feedback: our email unsubscribe flow. As an international business, we take privacy rights seriously. We heard that people were confused by our unsubscribe options and weren't sure which emails they'd still get.

Many marketers would rather not focus on the folks who are opting out of their content, but we knew it was important to listen to the negative feedback if we wanted to drive true customer delight. We talked to sales and customer support, read customer emails and comments, and conducted user testing. Then we acted.

We overhauled the email unsubscribe flow and redesigned the email settings page to make it clear and user-friendly. Our goal was to help people be confident in their email settings. The changes we implemented effectively reduced customer support volume for this issue by rougyly 96 percent, thanks in large part to our customers and their wonderful, negative feedback.

Feeling frustrated with a company isn't fun—and hearing about those frustrations isn't exactly fun, either. But if you're only looking at happy constituents and rationalizing away the negative review that comes through, you're missing a huge opportunity. So the next time you get a negative review, send up a little message of gratitude for all that frustration. It's there to help you better understand your customers, their experience with your products and services, and where to prioritize your energy in getting closer to that holy grail of customer delight.

Christine Rimer is vice president of customer experience and advocacy at SurveyMonkey.