How to get more constructive (negative) customer feedback

A long list of 5-star reviews and positive customer survey results may look good, but they are meaningless if customers feel pressure to always leave positive feedback.

Negative feedback is necessary; otherwise, you’ll never understand how your customers actually feel or the areas where your business can legitimately improve. Constructive criticism may be tough to hear, but it’s the only way to learn and grow as a business.

Why most businesses get inflated positive feedback

If you’ve ever measured your customer satisfaction, do you suspect they are being “too nice”, or that your score is somehow “too good”? You are likely receiving inflated feedback from your customers. When you expect to get high ratings and push your customers to give them to you, you lose the value of receiving feedback.

An article in the Los Angeles Times pointed out that customers give 5-star reviews because they are coached to give 5-star reviews.

Wait, what??

It’s time you asked yourself if your business is really searching for feedback from your customers or just asking for another 5-star result.

There’s a natural psychological bias among customers who wish to be perceived as nice people. People giving feedback have no wish for a hard-working employee to get into trouble on their account.

Customers also want to do what’s easy. They may not want to give poor ratings because then they might be asked to answer follow-up questions.

The dangers of inflated customer feedback

Receiving inflated reviews is not only unrealistic, it’s dangerous. Customer feedback is supposed to serve a purpose: It’s designed to help you improve your business practices based on data from your customers.

Inflated scores may feel nice and look good in reports, but they aren’t giving you any value.

 You need to truly know how your customers feel about your business in order to make positive changes.

Why you need critical/negative customer feedback

Inflation isn’t the only problem.

You need to receive negative feedback in order to learn from it. Criticism is a healthy part of growth. Without it, you’re left carrying on with business as usual, eyes wide shut to all of the ways you could be improving your processes and outcomes.

Your business must receive negative feedback in order to determine what areas need improvements. If you receive the equivalent of 5-star reviews across the board in all areas, the data you collect won’t tell you much about how you are actually doing. 

Remember, most customers aren’t going to give you these critical reviews naturally. They’ve been conditioned and trained for years to give positive reviews so they can move on with their day. On the other side, you don’t want to wait until you have an angry customer to start receiving some criticism. Chances are this angry reviewer isn’t leaving you constructive feedback with their hot-tempered 1-star rating.

So how do you flip the script to receive negative feedback and valuable criticism from your customers?

Strategies: How to get critical feedback from customers

Ask for negative feedback

Let your customers know it’s okay to be critical.

You want them to be critical. Simply asking your customers for negative feedback will make a difference. If they aren’t completely thrilled with everything your business is doing, you want to hear about it. Let them know that it’s okay to give a negative review and how much it will help your business improve if they take the time to be critical. 

Survey timing

Switch up your survey timing to ensure your customers don’t feel like their feedback is connected with a specific agent.

As long as they are happy enough, people don’t want someone they work with to get in trouble on their account. Quarterly NPS surveys will help customers feel like the feedback they are giving is not centered around one person, but rather the company as a whole.

Increase the rating scale

An increased rating scale will allow your customers to rate your services more freely. If you only have a 1-3 scale, a 2 might seem too harsh. With a 1-5 scale, the 3 and 4-star ratings don’t seem too bad to the customer while still providing your business with valuable insight. 

Simplesat user Proper Sky consistently received a good-looking-but-not-that-helpful 100% CSAT score before switching to a 5-scale survey

Forced ordering

Ordering your services or best attributes from top to bottom forces the customer to make decisions about what you do best and what you need to improve. Make the customer rank their favorite parts of your service so you always end up with something toward the bottom of the list.

This will help you see what you can do better without making the customer feel awkward if they’re uncomfortable criticizing your business.

“One thing to improve”

Ask the user what the one thing is your business could do to improve. This works well sandwiched among other questions as it reduces friction. Ask for one good thing, one bad thing, and one thing to improve.

Follow up

Forgetting to follow up could push your customers away from leaving criticism again in the future.

If a customer leaves critical feedback that nobody addresses, they could feel like nobody is listening. What’s the point of providing feedback if no one is doing anything about it? Always follow up to show your customers you care and how much you appreciate them taking the time to give you feedback. If you can, tell them what you are doing with their feedback and if there are any changes your business will be making.

Learn more in our complete guide to customer survey questions.

Start collecting (negative) feedback with Simplesat

Simplesat surveys are easy to create and super flexible. Multiple questions, metrics, and delivery channels give you the options you need to make sure you’re collecting the critical feedback your team needs to make real improvements. 

Try a sample survey today or sign up for Simplesat free for 30 days to begin turning your CSAT and NPS data into action.

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