Piyush Gupta
Piyush Gupta 8 January 2020
Categories B2B, B2C, Customer Experience

How Organisations Can Handle Their Detractors in 2020

I recently had a bad delivery experience with a food aggregator and like any irate customer, I let the live agent know. They gave me a call within three minutes of receiving my unpleasant message, initiated a refund and also offered an additional 20% discount for my next order. Now, will this bad experience deter me from ordering again on this platform?

Well, obviously no, not just because they gave me that 20% discount coupon but because they were human enough to admit their mistake and ensured to tackle my unpleasant experience immediately, without meaning that I had to send multiple follow up messages.

As a marketing technologist, I often wonder how many companies have formalised such the process of handling unhappy customers.

Firstly, are businesses capturing customer feedback? Secondly, if the company is aware of such unhappy customers, are they reaching out quickly to such customers before the customer decides to wash their dirty linen in public?

After doing a bit of research, it turns out that such a proactive process of handling unhappy customers is not as common as it may seem. According to a recent survey by Salesforce, only 51% of customers state that companies understand their needs and expectations.

Many customers believe companies haven’t caught up with their expectations. And even fewer (47%) believe companies record their feedback.

The least that businesses should be doing is to become aware of their customer feedback and keep track of the ratio of their happy to unhappy customers.

Net promoter score software can prove to be useful in this case. It can help businesses capture customer feedback and classify them into three basic categories.

  • Promoter: If a customer gave a score of 9 or 10 then the customer is clearly a promoter of the brand.
  • Detractor: If a customer gave a score of 6 or below, then the customer is a detractor.
  • Passive: If a customer gave a score of 7 or 8 then the customer is passive.

The ratio of promoters to detractors is a critical metric to understand the overall sentiment of your customers.

Successful businesses often keep track of the same and have an exponentially higher percentage of promoters vs. their detractors. But there remains a grey area of receiving no feedback.

Many businesses make the common mistake of perceiving the absence of negative feedback as a sign of customer satisfaction. Well, the bad news is that your customers may not be happy, or worse, they may be sharing their bad experiences with others before it reaches you.

In this article, we focus on this important customer category called “the detractors” and what are the critical measures to handle them.

"Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning. Don’t burn bridges. It’s not worth it." -Bill Gates

The good news is that not all is lost with a detractor with just one bad experience. It's a series of bad experiences that could eventually prove to be fatal.

Studies prove that up to 95% of detractors will give businesses a second chance and 11 % would avoid churning out if their complaints are resolved in a timely manner.


So, what are a few critical measures to handle detractors and convert them to promoters?

As mentioned above, the first step towards identifying your detractors would be to record customer feedback across multiple channels (email, social media, SMS, calls, etc) and deploy an NPS tool to assess your customer split between promoters, detractors, and passives.

After that, start by assessing a customer’s journey and map it to the relevant internal operations necessary. This is one of the core steps in setting up what I have termed as a detractor handling process.

Setting up a detractor defence process can become an important differentiator – an opportunity where your business practices can be remembered for good.

So, how can your organisation set up a detractor handling process that can be institutionalised for years to come? It’s not just about introducing tools and measuring metrics; the process should consider the following factors holistically: 

  1. Setting up or updating the internal processes as per the various customer journeys.
  2. Setting up or updating a comprehensive feedback ecosystem that measures critical customer sentiments.
  3. Humanising detractor interactions.

Let’s start with setting up or updating the internal processes as per the customer (rather detractor) journeys:

Most businesses deal with detractors in a very reactionary manner and make decisions on a case-to-case basis rather than setting a process around it. Let’s take the same example of a food aggregator business dealing with a detractor.

In a traditional setting, most businesses would expect their call centre team to deal with irate customers, handle their complaints and document them for future training purposes. But the resolution may not end there.

What if the irate customer spreads negative news about the brand on social media, leaving reviews across Twitter, Facebook, Reddit and may further negatively influence his/her network against your brand.

If a business keeps taking reactionary measures, they may not have enough time to make relevant changes in the complaint handling process.

Instead, with a small assessment of its customer journey, an organisation can: 

  • Identify the likelihood of receiving complaints across multiple channels.
  • Provide sufficient self-service resolution options.
  • Set up an instant reward incentive to avoid churn.
  • Rerrange a follow-up call to understand the concern. 
  • Automate a comprehensive email journey to keep the unhappy customer posted about their issue resolution.


Assess your customer journey, plan the requisite follow-up process and measure the relevant metrics. 

1. Break down the customer experience as per your product category and create an unpleasant journey matrix on the similar lines that you would test a product: one can start by creating a simple document that lists two columns on the different product/service usage scenarios and what could go wrong that could lead to a customer complaint.

2. Map the current internal operations to handle these unpleasant journeys. Call out the relevant metrics to assess for each of the team handling these detractor journeys, such as unnecessary wait times or delays in communication.

3. Allot a priority matrix to the detractors. These journeys should be defined based on the type of products and the different touchpoints that are made available to the customer.

4. Assess the entire detractor handling process and track improvement in metrics such as NPS(net promoter scores), customer satisfaction scores, customer effort scores, wait times to handle a detractor’s complaint, email follow up times, call-back timelines, etc.

5. Keep improving the detractor handling metrics and institutionalize this detractor defence process.

The next measure would be to set up an ecosystem of tools that measures the metrics and the impact of your initiatives to handle different types of complaints and feedback from your detractors. In simple words:

Set up an omnichannel feedback collection and complaint handling ecosystem. 

Track and automate the feedback collection process at critical stages of a buyer’s journey and facilitate the feedback collection process across multiple channels. Make sure to make it easy for any customer to reach the customer support team via different channels.


As a precautionary move, to reduce the volume of calls or emails, businesses should also consider capturing complaints or feedback via chatbots/messengers and create self-help guides that can be easily accessed on the website.


Enable an ecosystem to monitor and automate customer interactions across multiple touchpoints to provide consistent support.

Certain software such as the Cloud-based automatic call distributor (ACD)/IVR or intelligent call routing software allows calls to be easily routed to the agents with the relevant skills and knowledge to help them, eliminating the need for customers to repeat their complaints.

These call routing systems help agents to get immediate access to important information such as products ordered by the caller, the number open cases against the caller, caller status and sentiment — allowing them the room to personalise and resolve the caller’s issue in a timely manner.

Certain NPS software also helps businesses recognise detractors before they can raise a complaint. With the aid of such software, organizations can easily identify their dissatisfied and at-risk customers through certain real-time detractor alerts that can aid in setting up an instant feedback loop to reach out to your detractors in a timely manner.


Coming to the most important measure of all: humanise your interactions. 

Once organisations have set up the processes and systems in place, they should come to grip by humanizing the detractor interactions to neutralise their negative sentiment.

  • Firstly, if you have not reached out to the detractors via a phone call, it is highly suggested that companies set up a process to call and initiate an honest and apologetic conversation with their detractors.
  • A few thumb rules for humanising your detractor calls include: Apologize and acknowledge the problem. Listen patiently to the detractor’s feedback and be proactive to own up the mistakes, however small or minute they may be. 
  • Be transparent about the situation, explain what went wrong and assure to avoid future occurrences of such issues. 
  • Extend and facilitate a simple follow-up mechanism: Notify them about the issue resolution progress via emails and calls based on a prioritisation matrix based on the complexity of the issue and the sentiment of the detractor

A few steps in humanising the interactions can go a long way in transforming detractors to promoters.

Again, changing a detractor into a promoter takes more than one phone call and requires a journey of interactions that builds up trust and confidence in their minds.

However, implementing some of the above-mentioned measures can go a long way in transforming a detractor’s attitude towards your business.

After all, every detractor too is a human and understands that it’s only human to err.

Please login or register to add a comment.

Contribute Now!

Loving our articles? Do you have an insightful post that you want to shout about? Well, you've come to the right place! We are always looking for fresh Doughnuts to be a part of our community.

Popular Articles

See all
Top 10 B2B Channels to Help Your Business Grow Worldwide

Top 10 B2B Channels to Help Your Business Grow Worldwide

Explore the essential B2B channels for enhancing global business expansion, focusing on lead generation, effective branding strategies and fostering connections to unlock new market opportunities​.

Salman Sharif
Salman Sharif 21 March 2024
Read more
7 Reasons Why Social Media Marketing is Important For Your Business

7 Reasons Why Social Media Marketing is Important For Your Business

In the past two decades social media has become a crucial tool for marketers, enabling businesses to connect with potential customers. If your business has yet to embrace social media and you want to know why it is...

Sharron Nelson
Sharron Nelson 29 February 2024
Read more
The Impact of New Technology on Marketing

The Impact of New Technology on Marketing

Technology has impacted every part of our lives. From household chores to business disciplines and etiquette, there's a gadget or app for it. Marketing has changed dramatically over the years, but what is the...

Alex Lysak
Alex Lysak 3 April 2024
Read more
How to Review a Website — A Guide for Beginners

How to Review a Website — A Guide for Beginners

A company website is crucial for any business's digital marketing strategy. To keep up with the changing trends and customer buying behaviors, it's important to review and make necessary changes regularly...

Digital Doughnut Contributor
Digital Doughnut Contributor 25 March 2024
Read more
Facebook & Instagram Ads Alchemy: Our Secret Formula for Targeted eCommerce Campaigns

Facebook & Instagram Ads Alchemy: Our Secret Formula for Targeted eCommerce Campaigns

In modern marketing practice, a significant portion of advertising campaigns gravitate towards social media platforms, particularly Instagram and Facebook. These platforms have become key to the strategies of...

Andava Digital
Andava Digital 25 March 2024
Read more