How The Best Brands Deal With Detractors 


Detractors are customers who are unhappy with a company’s service, product or experience.

Conversation about them is generally a vetoed subject in the business industry, plainly because nobody likes to speak about unhappy customers. However, they are a crucial part for all businesses, as they help make improvizations, and play a huge role in the overall business advancement.

Typically, most unhappy customers either never use the company’s services again or go ahead and share their disappointment with others. In the worst case scenarios, a large number of detractors can also bring a company’s sales and profits down.

According to a survey by Vonage, poor service costs businesses an average of $41 billion each year — and that’s in the US alone. Unhappy customers can also have a negative impact on a brand’s image, especially in a time where social media is thriving like never before. According to data by Convince & Convert, 70% of unhappy customers call out companies via social media. What’s more? Detractors can also be beneficial to a company’s competition. The first thing an unhappy customer does after casting aside a brand is to find an alternative. From general insight, most customers don’t hesitate in switching to other services in case they receive poor customer service.

Therefore, in many cases, negative feedback may sound like the worst thing for companies, but on the bright side, it also offers the developers an opportunity to learn from the experience and improve from it.

A few years ago, a shopper found a loophole in American multinational retail corporation Walmart’s price matching. The customer observed that a product was priced higher in the store than it was marked online. When he asked an employee to match the cheaper price, the employee denied his request due to the company’s policies. In this situation, the customer presented a clear opportunity for the business to provide a top-tier customer service, however, it backfired on the business causing many news stories being written about the incident, which clearly cost them many clients, and left a mark on their reputation.

What Walmart could have done in that case was maybe bend the rules a bit to build their customer loyalty because after all, the same product was being sold by the same brand for a lower price on an online platform.

In 2013, British Airways (BA) faced a setback for ignoring a customer’s complaint. One customer sent a message to the airline, via a tweet, about lost luggage. It took about eight hours for BA’s social media team to respond to the complaint. Not only was their response confusing and demonstrated a lack of competency, the Twitter thread was also seen by over 70,000 users, and the story was then featured on multiple news websites.This case is an excellent example of why response time is so important in the tech-driven age. What BA should’ve done in this instance was respond to the customer within minutes, because when it comes to lost baggage, it is crucial to track it immediately or it can literally end up anywhere in the world in eight hours. In fact, Twitter found that airlines that respond to tweets within 6 minutes are likely to make $20 more from the customer who wrote the tweet.

In November 2021, an Air India passenger faced a similar situation where they tweeted that the poor handling of their luggage by the airline staff caused their suitcase to break down, in addition to damaging other goods. Impressively, Air India was quick to respond to the unhappy client’s tweet within minutes, apologising and offering a range of solutions from their end.

Many clients turn into detractors also because companies fail to provide real-time support. Research conducted by Hubspot states that “90% of customers rate ‘immediate response’ as very important when they have queries”. Therefore, businesses that focus on providing 24×7 customer support are more likely to increase their customer loyalty and satisfaction.

In another example, many people made jokes and complained about how Domino’s pizza tasted like “cardboard”. As a result, in 2009, Domino’s came in last in a consumer’s taste preference survey done by Brand Keys. Soon after that, the company paid attention to its clients and responded by changing their entire pizza recipes followed by asking consumers and food bloggers to try their new pizza and encouraged them to leave their feedback on social media.

The willingness to take criticism and change their ways generated plenty of goodwill towards Domino’s and helped the company recover the customer’s trust.

In another case involving e-commerce giant Amazon, a customer’s package was stolen from their delivery address. When a complaint was placed regarding it, partners at Amazon did not point fingers and instead delivered a replacement order and waved the shipping charges. In this situation, the company solved an unhappy customer’s problem even though they weren’t at fault. The news of the company’s generosity helped them build a positive image and generated plenty of goodwill among their clients.

Recently, Forbes revealed a list of go-to strategies for remedying negative situations and regaining the customer’s trust and loyalty. In the list, they mentioned pointers like usage of surveys, asking customers for their help, setting up automated customer service checks, offering win-back promotions, responding right away, being proactive and open as a few things companies can do to deal with detractors.

The co-founder and COO of Passport Shipping, Aaron Schwartz says that the best solution for when a customer contacts you with a problem, is to proactively fix the issue with the best of your ability. This may mean issuing a partial refund, offering a free month of service or researching the answer to a customer’s question so that they don’t have to. “We never say, ‘We’re thinking of doing X, does that work for you?’” Schwartz told Inc. “Instead we take the action and ask, ‘What more can I do to help?’”

To sum it up, here are a few points best brands incorporate to handle poor customer service. They address feedback in a timely manner, are polite and professional, they gain context before jumping in, they have a resolution plan in place, follow up once the situation is resolved, and take steps to prevent similar situations to occur in the future.

If you liked reading this, you might like our other stories

Why Do Feelings Matter In The CX Journey?
Leveling Up with Employee Experience