How To Turn Detractors Into Disciples

Written by Jaren Nichols | Leave a Comment | 7 min read

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Today’s post is from our guest, Jaren Nichols. You can learn more about Jaren in his author profile below the article.

Your business needs a little passion to survive — passionate ideas, passionate leaders and passionate customers. Even when this passion turns negative, it can still contribute to driving your business growth.

In fact, angry customers can be your secret weapons.

Here’s the secret: with a little bit of targeted intervention, you can turn a detractor into a disciple.

The passion inherent in an angry customer can be redirected into a positive passion. These detractors have strong opinions and are willing to share them, so if you can turn them, they will become your business’ biggest advocates.

Make sure you see the feedback

The first step in turning detractors into promoters is giving them a voice. Frequent and accessible venues for real-time feedback give you the power to establish audience trust, make amends and prevent negative experiences in the future.

If you haven’t done so already, implement a live chat or feedback tool. Allow direct messaging and prominently feature your contact information. Whatever platform customers are using, it should be easy to get in touch. They shouldn’t have to go to an additional channel in order to have their voice be heard.

With just a bit of targeted intervention you may be able to turn a detractor into a disciple. Click To Tweet

Offering many outlets for complaints allows you to nip criticism in the bud. If customers know there is an easily accessible venue for feedback, they are less likely to be venting pent-up emotion. They are coming to you directly, rather than airing your dirty laundry for friends and strangers.

You don’t even have to wait for customers to come to you. Constantly remind them about feedback options that they can use, so they know upfront that their opinion will be valued.

Monitor Online Reviews

urning detractors into disciples starts with knowing where your detractors are. You would hate for a negative voice to go unnoticed.

Customer feedback that comes directly through your support line or in response to an NPS (net promoter score) survey is easy to monitor. But online reviews cannot be neglected either. Because reviews are public, it is even more important to track down these detractors and make things right as quickly as possible.

Some companies try to game their customer feedback on Google or Facebook or even buy Yelp reviews, but there are easier, more ethical ways to improve your online reputation. Use reputation management software to help you invite and track reviews on every platform.

Keeping an eye on promoters and detractors on a continuous basis will allow you to resolve any problems as often and as efficiently as possible.

Respond ASAP

To convert a detractor, they need to know you are an attentive company. Respond as quickly as you can, while still maintaining a professional stance.

Try to fix the problem before you post your response. Talk to all parties involved so you know the whole story first. If you can resolve the problem as quickly as possible, your detractor won’t have the chance to sit and stew and become immovable in their dislike.

Detractors are, by nature, more passionate—which is a great asset when they are turned into promoters. However, allowing their emotional language to fuel an emotional response from you will get you nowhere. Consider taking a day, sleeping on it, and then crafting the perfect reply.

Say “I’m Sorry”

Before you do anything else, apologize. Even if you feel that the customer’s comments are unfair, consider their perspective—they had a bad experience. Just acknowledging that is often enough to cool them down.

Besides, you will have more success in improving customer relationships if you are willing to empathize and take the fall. You’re not perfect either, and odds are, at least some of what your customer is saying is true.

Always take the time to listen and say you're sorry. If you start out with a sorry then you have a good footing to gain a disciple. Click To Tweet

Publicly say “I’m sorry” and don’t fall into the trap of blaming your customer. Beware of sounding scripted, just keep it simple. You can not change the way they felt when they left the review, but you can change their perspective moving forward.

Offer Individual Solutions

Disciples and detractors tend to care about the same things: price, service, and product. In order to convert a detractor, you need to identify the flaw in their specific customer experience.

Get to the bottom of the complaint and work with the detractor to find an individual, best fit solution. A general solution (like a standard discount or free meal) may help calm the detractor, but it won’t tip the scales into discipleship. Do your research first, investigate solutions and offer reparation.

To put it simply, show that you care. If you really are invested in the customer experience, solving the problem individually and making your disgruntled customer feel respected will be worthwhile.

And if it takes time to implement feedback or solve the problem, keep them informed along the way.

Don’t leave them stewing in the dark.

Wow your Detractors

If you really want to turn negative passion into positive passion, you have to add a little pizzazz.

Go above and beyond to do something unique, something they haven’t seen and wouldn’t expect other brands to do. Personal emails, handwritten notes, flowers—these things are still meaningful but have been done. What can your business offer that others can’t?

Lego famously replaced a seven-year-old boy’s lost mini-figure. Trader Joe’s made a holiday delivery to a snowed-in elderly man. Sainsbury’s renamed a product — from tiger bread to giraffe bread — at the request of a confused three (and a half) year old. In their early years, Amazon scored big by sending a new PlayStation to a customer whose package had been stolen.

While this level of customer service is not always cheap, it is very effective. Don’t worry about the short-term losses, think about long-term brand loyalty. In addition, it doesn’t hurt to do nice things just for the sake of being nice.

Having top executives personally respond to complaints is another powerful way to show how invested you are in your customers. As a detractor, it feels good to be recognized and have your feedback taken seriously.

Ask for an Update

Many customers who feel that their complaint has been addressed are willing to change their reviews. However, they probably won’t think to do it on their own.

If they shared feedback publicly on a review site or elsewhere, ask them to update their post to reflect how you worked to solve the problem. This will show anyone reading the thread that you are focused on making customers happy—loyal or not.

Take Feedback to Heart

While the end goal is to turn a detractor into a disciple, take advantage of the qualitative data these individuals provide to your business. Honest feedback is a great drive for honest evaluation, so listen with an open mind and make the changes you need to.

Typically, for every 1 customer complaint, there are 26 customers angry about the same thing. If there are multiple comments about an issue, then it’s time to implement a solution. Focus on macro-level problems, but offer individual-level solutions.

If detractors don’t turn right away, have patience. Optimization is a long-term process and some detractors need to see continued efforts from you. Just keep at it. Being willing to learn from your mistakes and trust your customer will save you the stress of more negativity in the future and will also help your business be more effective.

Don’t Neglect Employee Satisfaction

As an aside: Team members can be some of your best prospects for brand advocates. 47% of consumers say that they view employees as very credible sources of information about a product or service. Don’t let unhappy employees become detractors. Just as the customer experience is critical to your business reputation, so is the employee experience.

By managing and responding well to feedback from all angles, your business’s reputation will grow with a small army of your very own passionate promoters.

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