Current Issue
This Month's Print Issue

Follow Fast Company

We’ll come to you.

When it comes to customer feedback, you usually only hear from the people who really love you or the ones who really hate you but generally not from those who land somewhere in the middle. And, somehow, the negative always seems to outnumber the positive, no matter how much you try to over-service your customer base.  

Sharing positive feedback with your team should be the easy part. I say "should be" as I’ve worked for some bosses that have done a great job of doing so, and others who haven’t. Many bosses talk about celebrating small victories and shared credit, but whether it be their own ego, forgetfulness, or some other reason, they just don’t do it. But it’s sharing the negative feedback that keeps me awake at night. 

In a perfect world, you have a chance to prepare your team emotionally and mentally before discussing any scathing comments you have received from your customer base. But that’s not always possible. As a result, the negative feedback can open the door to hurt feelings, resentment, and anger that could (and usually does) put a strain on the interactions between your team and your customers.  

How do you handle damage control?

In my experience, the first step is stripping away how the feedback was framed to get at the core issues. For example, the wording someone uses to express their opinion on a comment card might be inappropriate (that’s why it’s always a good idea for you, as the manager, to screen comments before they get to your staff), but the point they’re trying to make could be meaningful. Because they’re emotionally invested, the team could get caught up on how it was said instead of focusing on the underlying message. 

Once you’re able to work with your team to identify the core issues, that gives you a chance to talk about how you’ll respond. That discussion can also help to diffuse the situation because it allows you to talk through the customer’s experience and what might have led them to feel that way.  

How do you handle sharing negative feedback from customers with your team?  

Shawn Graham is Director of MBA Career Services at the University of Pittsburgh and author of Courting Your Career: Match Yourself with the Perfect Job (