How to Deal with Negative Customer Feedback When It Feels Personal

How to Deal with Negative Customer Feedback When It Feels Personal

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Positive, I used to be solely serving espresso. However it was my first day and I felt like someone had handed me the nuclear launch codes.

I used to be nervous to start out with – the great sort. You recognize, the place colours appear brighter and also you’re filled with power? About midway by means of the day,  nonetheless in my eagerness, I put down a cup too quick. Some espresso went over the sting and into the saucer.

The cup’s meant gave me a glance – only a single look – after which returned to her dialog.

However that look was so loaded with which means, it might have written a e-book.

My younger thoughts wasn’t outfitted to deal with it. It struck me to my core and knocked me off kilter. I stumbled onwards, however carried on making extra errors.

The ground supervisor gave me a pep speak: “Don’t fear, she’s a horrible individual. Don’t let her get to you.”

Although the client had solely wanted one look to get beneath my pores and skin, the ground supervisor’s phrases rolled proper off me. My funk stayed and my first day was a catastrophe.

On the time, it felt like from that look my dangerous day was future. Now I do know totally different.

  1. The impact of that look and people phrases had on me was right down to my ‘explanatory fashion’.
  2. We will affect our personal and different’s explanatory types if we all know what to do.

Let’s discover each of these concepts.

What is that this factor referred to as ‘Explanatory Type’?

Explanatory Type was first conceived by the psychologist Martin Seligman within the 80s. In a nutshell, it's the way you clarify and interpret the great and dangerous issues that occur to you.

It has three underlying elements:

  • Personalization – was I chargeable for this occasion or was the trigger exterior, like luck?
  • Permanence – how lengthy will the impact and the fallout final?
  • Pervasiveness – the occasion’s significance, and does it have a huge impact?

Taken collectively they both offer you an optimistic or pessimistic explanatory type.

Explanatory fashion in follow

So, say you get an angry email from a customer, like this one which Kayako truly acquired:


Pessimistic explanatory type vs optimistic explanatory type

With a very pessimistic explanatory fashion you’d interpret this negatively. So that you’d consider it was your fault, the client was misplaced perpetually, no one was going to overlook it, and it might even have an effect on your private life.

When you have an optimistic explanatory fashion you’d interpret issues in a different way. You may assume the client was having a nasty day, that you can persuade them to remain or at the very least mollify their anger, and that your own home life will stay unaffected.

Apparently, the consequences reverse for constructive occasions. Say you bought an e-mail of reward. When you have been an optimist you’d take credit score and consider it stated one thing about your character. Should you have been a pessimist nevertheless, you’d consider it was an remoted incident and not using a wider significance.

What the analysis says

A number of analysis has discovered help for explanatory fashion. For instance, individuals with a pessimistic explanatory fashion are more likely to suffer from depression and physical illness. These with a extra optimistic type, within the meantime, are sometimes extra profitable. Optimistic students do better in law school, whereas optimistic skilled athletes are more resilient after sports failure.

Equally, explanatory fashion might be useful in careers with numerous damaging suggestions.

Increase worker retention

Take the story of MetLife. Their insurance coverage salesforce was experiencing an extremely excessive turnover fee because of the excessive fee of rejection that got here with the job.

Some individuals have been managing, however for many it was an excessive amount of. Half of latest hires give up within the first yr. Turnover is dear and the corporate was at a loss (no pun meant). Why have been some individuals quitting whereas others stayed? How might they predict who would do what?

Martin Seligman found the predictor was explanatory style:

  • These with a extra optimistic type have been sticking round twice as lengthy.
  • Even higher, they bought on common 37% extra insurance coverage. And this elevated to an astounding 88% when in comparison with their most pessimistic friends.

MetLife was so impressed they modified their hiring course of to incorporate individuals’s explanatory type.

Feels like a reasonably helpful talent to have for individuals who cope with a variety of damaging suggestions, proper?

So let’s transfer on to that second level. How are you going to change individuals’s explanatory fashion to raised cope with unfavorable suggestions?

Exploring and altering your workforce’s explanatory fashion

The first step is to evaluate what fashion any person makes use of. For that we have to return these three dimensions of personalization, permanence, and pervasiveness. With them, you'll be able to discover the place the issue lies and don’t find yourself barking up the mistaken tree.

Take that canned-response e-mail talked about above. Receiving an e mail like that may really feel like getting intestine punched (you possibly can take my phrase for that). If that was the case for considered one of your reps – let’s name her Susan – you wouldn’t simply need to work out if she’d been affected however how.

You can use questions like these:

  • Personalization: Do you assume it’s your fault that you simply obtained this response, or was it one thing else? Do you are feeling you write emails that folks may really feel is canned?
  • Permanence: What do you assume the results of the e-mail shall be for you and the corporate? Can the client’s anger be mollified? If not, will we recover from their loss shortly or not?
  • Pervasiveness: Do you assume it will have an effect on the corporate and your profession? What about life usually?

If Susan felt it was right down to her writing fashion, you might make her consider examples of emails she wrote that folks actually appreciated. If she as an alternative felt that this indignant buyer was by no means coming again and that was an enormous misplaced alternative for the corporate, you’d want a unique strategy.

Maybe you can say it was solely a trial and with that angle they’d in all probability not have taken the paid product anyway.

On this method, you'll be able to shortly transfer to the guts of the issue. Say you understand Susan didn’t take it private, however was fearful she’d get fired. Then you might clarify that that wasn’t going to occur. That may be simpler than tackling a non-existent drawback that you simply thought she had.


In fact, managers can’t undergo this train all day lengthy. That’s simply too time-consuming. Fortuitously, you don’t have to. As an alternative train them the ABCD technique:

  • Adversity. That is the opposed occasion. It occurred. The client despatched the indignant e-mail. It could actually’t be modified.
  • Perception. That is the way you consider the adversity will affect your life. Do you see a adverse occasion as devastating? Do you consider you may get fired or the corporate may go bankrupt? Or do you as an alternative see it as a chance? Like maybe we will use this to put in writing a greater welcome e mail?
  • Penalties. In the event you consider an occasion has critical repercussions you may very properly create a self-fulfilling prophecy, the place you create that actuality. For instance, maybe your emails all of the sudden get an undertone that's off-putting to clients.
  • Disputation. However you possibly can argue with these beliefs and nudge your self onto a unique path. Is that e mail actually the top of your profession? Or do all customer support reps get indignant emails on a regular basis?


Level D is the place you create change, so let’s focus there. The aim is to dispute held beliefs by analyzing them and seeing in the event that they maintain up.

  • Is the assumption based mostly on sound reasoning or are you able to poke holes in it? A hatred of canned emails isn’t a standard factor. It'd simply be a pet peeve of this buyer.
  • Are there other ways to interpret occasions? Perhaps the client was having a nasty day.
  • Is it a logical argument or simply an emotional one and are you leaping to conclusions? It's only a trial. Although we misplaced a possible buyer, it wasn’t within the bag but.
  • Would you settle for such an argument if someone else proposed it? If Billy informed me his day was ruined as a result of he received this e mail, would I say he’s being dramatic?
  • How are you going to cope with the fallout in a constructive and extra constructive method? What’s the chance right here? Let’s take into consideration writing a brand new e-mail or establishing a system the place clients that reported an issue don’t get an e mail like this.

Right here too you should use these three underlying elements.

  1. Do you are feeling that is who you're?
  2. Are you able to provide you with counter examples the place that isn't the case?

Equally, attempt to keep in mind issues are not often as dangerous as they first seem and that the consequences won’t last half as long as you think they will. Additionally, keep in mind we’re solely the middle of our personal universe. Others don’t pay us half as a lot consideration as we expect they do (one thing referred to as the Spotlight Effect).

Some issues to notice

  1. We would like individuals to study to do that for themselves. If anyone else does it, we run the danger of the individual with the pessimistic explanatory type simply complains whereas the opposite individual refutes their complaints. That isn’t altering any person’s explanatory fashion. That’s a pep speak.
  2. We’re not making an attempt to suppress unfavourable feelings. They’re an necessary a part of our mental wellbeing. As an alternative, it is best to deal with the underlying purpose for that emotion (e.g. you assume the foul-mouthed buyer could have much more impression than they actually will).

Make explanatory fashion a part of your hiring course of

If individuals apply their ABCDs sufficient they’ll internalize them and nudge their types in the direction of optimism. In fact, there's another solution to change the explanatory fashion of your customer support staff. It isn’t a lot a nudge as an entire makeover.

Keep in mind how Metlife made explanatory fashion a part of their hiring course of? In case your workforce has to cope with loads of unfavourable suggestions, why not do the identical? Nudging individuals’s explanatory types is like bailing water out of a leaky ship. It really works, however it’s labor intensive. Hiring individuals who have a naturally optimistic explanatory type, nevertheless, will plug the holes.

It's because extra optimistic individuals increase the explanatory style of the entire team, permitting everyone to rebound quicker.

I do know all about this. On the finish of my first day in that cafe I used to be depressing. The workforce I’d labored with wouldn’t let me depart that method, although. As an alternative, they informed me their very own first-day horror tales, made me snigger, and helped me relativize. And so, as an alternative of quitting – like I’d thought-about  – I got here again the subsequent day, in addition to the weeks, months and years that adopted.

That’s the facility of a constructive group explanatory type. In fact, that one happened by largely accident as the ground supervisor hadn’t recognized about it. Now, you do. So, you'll be able to be sure that an optimistic explanatory fashion is a part of your workforce’s design.

Ebook: The ultimate guide to communicating customer feedback