01 August, 2020

Why negative product feedback is more valuable than you think

Hellonext, Inc.

Karthik Kamalakannan

No Product Manager/Owner ever likes to hear, “Your product is terrible.” Any negative feedback would give you a cold/hard dose of reality. And this is something to look forward to.

Is negative feedback a good thing?

For many product developers, the accepted opinion on their product is great. Many developers and designers have worked hard on the product. Customers are paying for it. We must be developing something right!

Companies with these above thoughts might have a hard time receiving difficult feedback.

Any negative or dissenting feedback from your customers is something that is more valuable. Yes! You’re catching an opinion that differs with the view that your product is great and perfect as is. But it’s honest feedback. You have to agree that not everyone will be thrilled with your product.

Yeah! An objection is a disagreement, but it’s also the start of a conversation. It awards you a blunt, clear view of where you can improve.

When you hear “Your product is terrible.”

There would eventually be an emotional reaction when reading something like that. This is fine, just take a breath. Provide some time to the emotional part of the brain to let the initial reaction subside.

Negative feedback must not be responded with your initial reaction. Most of the time, your instinct is to get defensive and argue. It is said that, when you get emotional, you lose.

When you get a negative feedback

Read through the negative feedback a few times and start asking yourself the below questions.

  1. The feedback is from a user or a random person?
  2. Why did they invest their time in writing this?
  3. Does the feedback make any valid point?

Find it out, when you don’t know the answers to any of these. Once you know whom the feedback is coming from, it’s time to probe further.

Time to engage with the user

Don’t just halt with the feedback. This allows you to engage with the user. But remember, not gloss over their frustration. When they just write, “your product is terrible,” it means that you need to know more. Despite their message or tone, they took the time to give you feedback. You’ll have to thank them for it.

Debating with a user on their feedback might feel good, but it doesn’t explain to you why they got so upset in the first place. Admit the fact that something didn’t go according to plan.

Interpreting the received negative feedback

Better translate valid negative feedback into actionable steps.

Lessen adjectives here. For instance, stating “this incensed user wrote a nasty complaint about our newly-released beta feature” will put things into crisis.

Alternatively say, “this X user wrote in about this X feature.” Adhere to the facts and avoid criticism or cop-outs.

Even when you receive negative feedback which is completely off-base, ask what may have led to their perception. Most of the times, they may not be the only ones who feel negatively, but they may be the only ones who will express that negativity

Drive forward—on the high road

When you respond, confirm your emotions aren’t running high. Let your vital sign come down.

Before you hit “send,” peruse your reply for 2 key red flags: The words “you/your” and any adjectives. Remove them if in the slightest degree possible.

The goal here should be to point out your dissenters that they’ve been heard. It’s to not defend, accuse, or justify anything. The first focus is to concentrate. State facts, not opinions.

If there's an action you'll be able to take, then take it! This is often where a feedback tool like Hellonext comes in handy. You'll use feature voting to highlight their vote to a problem they care about and thus ensure they get updates on what matters to them.

Don’t expect kudos. Be prepared for further conflict.

And, draw the road if things get truly nasty and abusive. If they’re more focused on insulting you and your team than telling you about your product, red flag. Stop responding. In extreme cases, it's going to be best to chop ties altogether and fire them as a customer.

Keep your guard down

Don’t hear your ego. Feedback isn’t as bad because it seems - it’s something to be treasured. It’s valuable, which also makes it difficult to receive. That’s to be expected.

Bake the strategy of handling feedback into your culture. Disagreement shouldn’t just be welcomed - it should be downright celebrated. Without disagreement, you won’t know how to develop your product better.

Never let a troublesome piece of feedback go unanswered. Dissenting, feedback shouldn’t be treated kind of a foul review - it should be the start of a fruitful conversation.

Last updated: December 6th, 2022 at 10:08:37 AM GMT+0

Hellonext Blogpost Author Profile

Karthik Kamalakannan

Karthik is the Founder of Hellonext. He has helped prioritize customer feedback to build great products since 2006. Today, he helps product companies build data-informed products with Hellonext.

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