Practical Application: Responding to Customer Feedback

Instructor: Scott Tuning

Scott has been a faculty member in higher education for over 10 years. He holds an MBA in Management, an MA in counseling, and an M.Div. in Academic Biblical Studies.

Customer feedback, even negative feedback, is a gold mine for business leaders. The only thing worse than a customer who says not-so-nice things is a customer who says nothing at all. Quiet customers are

We Love Angry Customers

Wait! Before you delete that three-page letter from an angry customer, give it a second look. It might be the most valuable thing you'll see today. That angry customer is giving you the gift of knowledge - the kind of knowledge some companies must pay market researchers millions to discover.

  • What valuable knowledge does an angry (or delighted) customer have that an organization desperately needs?
  • How accurate is this information, and what must an organization do with it once they have it?

As you answer these two questions, you might review a lesson about responding to customer feedback

Let's analyze the following scenario and then identify steps for responding to and implementing the feedback.


Michael is the service department manager for a large auto dealer. He's been coming under an increasing degree of pressure, as his customer satisfaction scores had steadily decreased for three straight quarters. If the fourth quarter didn't see improvement, Michael was going to be placed on the ''at-risk'' list, jeopardizing his job security.

Although he was doing everything he could think of, Michael was now wondering how in the world he was going to fix this issue before the fourth-quarter deadline.

  • What does Michael need to do right now?
  • Should he take a slow, methodical, and accurate strategy or should he respond quickly and decisively?

Michael contacted the corporate office and asked for more details from customer surveys about their experience. When Michael received these a few days later, he was appalled. For the last three quarters, there were multiple customer concerns, documented in the survey, that Michael had never seen. Specifically, there were more than 20 tangible, material complaints that could have been resolved had he known they existed.


He was now armed with some important knowledge, and he was going to build a strategy to respond to the concerns articulated by his customers.

  • In a broad sense, how should Michael go about responding to these complaints?
  • As he looks at the customer feedback, what criteria should he use for determining significance and potential impact?
  • Which customers should get the first responses? Those with the most significant complaints or those with the most recent complaints?

Response Tone

As Michael prepares to begin responding to the complaints, he wants a game plan regarding what we will say, how he will say it, and what the overall tenor and tone of the response should be. In general, he could take a couple of different approaches. They could include some examples like:

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