12 Easy Rules for Coaches to Make the Best of Negative Client Feedback

negative feedback

If you’re afraid of getting negative feedback on your coaching services, calm down – it’ll definitely happen. 95 percent of people share unpleasant client experience. And you will even enjoy it because negative feedback is a brilliant opportunity for business growth. It can be a driver of positive changes in your coaching business since it allows us to monitor our performance and alerts us to crucial steps we need to take. 

But let’s be honest, when you read a negative or insulting review about your services, it’s difficult to believe that you’ve faced something brilliant and enjoyable. What’s more, acting on negative reviews is not always easy. But coaches just can not ignore negative feedback about their services: potential clients are searching specifically for bad testimonials. 


In this article, we will walk through tried-and-tested steps you can take to turn things around, benefit from critical reviews, and even enjoy them. After reading, you will see unsatisfied customers as a golden opportunity to get it right next time.


Don’t neglect negative client feedback

The bad news is that people are more likely to share bad testimonials than positive ones. So don’t give up if you come across negative feedback – that’s natural. Luckily, negative reviews are not the end of your business.

51 percent of potential clients expect to see responses to all online reviews.’

Nevertheless, don’t underestimate its impact to minimize the potential harm for your public perception. Think about it: up to 97 percent of people read reviews for local businesses, and 85 percent of those people are influenced by negative reviews.

negative feedback

So yes, negative feedback does influence prospecting clients. Losing clients who have seen bad reviews can be costly for your business. Considering that, respond to every negative piece of feedback. Just ignoring unsatisfied clients, you can fuel the fire.


Be the first to know

To respond to negative client feedback, you first need to monitor what clients are saying about you and where they are saying it. For instance, 45 percent of people share bad client experiences via social media. Luckily, there is an ocean of online tools. Some of them are absolutely free to use (for instance, Google Alerts) while others are cost-effective and can fit your tight budget. 

Also, pay attention to business review sites and improve your business rate to rank higher here. To sum up, check your online and social media mentions once a week carefully (manually or with the help of tools) to be the first to know about negative testimonials.

But before taking negative feedback into account, check review authenticity. First and foremost, make sure a testimonial is not fake. Do you know this client? Have you both collaborated? Don’t start reacting without fact-checking. Ask third-party resources, where the fake review has appeared, to delete it, if the negative testimonial is pure spam. 


Influence the ratio of negative reviews

Negative feedback isn’t an immediate threat to your business if there are many positive testimonials too. How to increase the number of positive reviews? Just gather positive feedback yourself! Doing that, you’ll ensure that negative testimonials won’t be the only recommendation for your services.  

Gathering feedback from satisfied clients is much easier than you may imagine it. The most convenient way to collect feedback is to adopt a comprehensive testimonial and rating platform like Trust. You need to send a rating survey to your client and ask to share their opinion.

Experience survey text

If they give you a good rating, you can ask them to leave a text or video testimonial immediately.

To record a video testimonial, a client can make a new video or upload their own one from Facebook, YouTube, etc. Then, Trust works on the data and features text and video testimonials on the website after your approval. What’s more, Trust offers the ability to e-sign a contract between you and your testimonial sender.


Don’t rush to react on impulse

Being a client yourself, you’ve probably seen various reactions to your critical feedback. The most unconstructive responses are usually emotional, whether it’s a direct insult or hidden sarcasm. The truth is, it’s very difficult to stay calm when the feedback conflicts with our self-image. We’re still human.

On the other hand, critical feedback always includes the fact that would help you improve. It’s easier said than done, but try to accept the negative feedback with gratitude. The key here is to see upsetting information as helpful data. Another helpful technique is to take a few minutes to remind yourselves of other winning aspects of our identity to see the bigger picture, take it easier and clear your head before responding. Only after that, you can take a deep breath and decide how to respond.

Only when your emotions aren’t at their peak, you can move to the answer. If you need more time, it’s okay to say to the client that you need to take some time to collect your thoughts. When the emotions are removed (your ultimate goal is to get rid of emotions entirely), it’s time to look at the negative feedback objectively.


Identify the actual problem

Leaving negative feedback requires energy. When your client is so unsatisfied that they’ve decided to spend their time complaining (especially in front of the whole world), you should figure out the reason. If you quickly respond with a shallow and generic response, you run the risk of making the situation worse. 

To resolve the problem, it’s crucial to understand what the issue really is. The best way to do it is to listen carefully to the client, despite the tone of their voice. In order to get to the root, you may need to read between the lines. Try to find the bottom line of feedback, abstracting from the quality of its presentation. 

For example, if your client claims that they didn’t get what they asked for, chances are you both cannot communicate correctly and clearly. And the ‘bomb’ was planted when you were signing a contract without clarifying the terms related to your business niche (for instance, what ‘useful skills’ or ‘modern technologies’ meant). 

After this reflection, you’ll understand the next step, which will help you fix the current situation and protect yourself against similar situations in the future.


Don’t put off a response

While you definitely need to take time to think out your answer to negative feedback, don’t wait too long. If the bad testimonial is posted online, others are watching how you respond to it. Addressing the issue quickly (even by only inviting the reviewer to contact you directly), you show the online audience that you take care of your clients. Clients, especially unsatisfied ones, want to feel they are heard. 

negative feedback


Ask questions to get more data

Asking questions is a powerful method to resist the urge of justifying clients who have left negative feedback. What’s more, the right questions will help you put together the right response to negative feedback. We can’t act until we truly understand the feedback. 

The very first and toughest question is, ‘Is it true?’ Sometimes it can be difficult to admit your fault. But the best of us can freely own their mistakes and try to learn from them. It also can be useful to understand how influential and angry the client is (in other words, how big the threat to your business image is).

The next crucial question is something like ‘What exactly went wrong?’. Is it poor service quality? Is it an expectation mismatch? Or something in between? Answering these questions, you will put yourself in the shoes of the client and find out a solution you can offer to the unsatisfied client. 

What else? Now we can move to the question, ‘What can I do to fix things?’ Let’s discuss it in detail in the following section.


Offer proactive solutions

In addition to asking questions, you need to suggest ways to fix the issue. When talking directly with clients and providing them with a solution, you will change their opinion about your business and the opinion of prospective clients who may read negative feedback. One more option is explaining how you will prevent this problem in the future. 

There is a brief draft for you to steal:

  • Start with saying how sorry you are about what has happened,
  • Mention that this situation does not represent your values, 
  • State the specific action you will take to resolve the issue.

Should you make commitments to fixing all issues? It depends. Sometimes client request is unrealistic or impossible. In this case, it’s okay to correct a client (professionally and respectfully), turn down a request, and clearly explain your reasoning.

But sometimes it’s better to fix the things even if you are not at fault. Even if the claims are unjust. It’s the price of earning the trust of future potential clients who read the testimonial if you offer to make the problem right for the client. So don’t ignore your gut in each case.

And last but not least. Should you offer some sort of a gift like your service for free or at a discounted rate? There are no rules, and it’s all up to you. If appropriate, compensate clients for the inconvenience. What would it be: an Amazon card, discount, or refund? It depends on you. But remember that it’s better to start talking about any kind of compensation privately and at the end of your conversation. Why? There’s a chance that clients may give negative feedback to get a discount or refund on purpose. 


Be human and personal

What tone are you using? First, even if the truth is on your side, don’t break out your very best sarcasm. Don’t patronize the client who has left the negative. Don’t prove someone is wrong (even if they are in the wrong). Especially if you are talking online. This looks bad. Resist the urge to look like the evil guy to other prospective clients. If clients are really wrong, you can correct them, assessing the situation objectively. 

Instead, always be polite. Even if you’re speaking with a client privately, always respond as if the conversation were public. Remember: the client may choose to share your responses. There are a few ways of avoiding further negative comments

  • Address the customer by name and refer to the details mentioned in negative feedback to show that your response isn’t scripted.
  • Be empathic (note that empathy and an admission of guilt are not the same). 
  • Use a little humor when possible. This recommendation doesn’t apply to really rough feedback. But sometimes a little humor can smooth over the situation.
  • Don’t hesitate to apologize if needed, but don’t over-apologize. Apologize only once, but sincerely. Also, your apology should show that you understand the issue.


Fix the process

Look for the gold. Negative feedback is an opportunity to improve your business. So, get to the bottom of why the issue occurred and focus on fixing the process, not the problem. By truly assessing the issue, you can adapt, learn from your mistakes, fix the source of the issue, and prevent it from happening again.


Ask the client to change or delete the negative feedback

If you have managed to fix the issue the reviewer faced, encourage the client to change their review. The ground rules here are not asking about it publicly and not being too pushy. If you have proved that you are worth it, the client may replace a negative testimonial with a positive one. If the client doesn’t want to do it, it’s okay. You did all you could do.


Follow up to show you really care

Reach out to ensure that the client is satisfied with the steps you have taken to resolve their problem. It’s an excellent idea to go the extra mile here and find out if there’s anything else you can do for them. That shows that you care about the client’s overall experience, not just a standalone complaint and that you’re in the business for a long time.


Wrapping up: 12 easy steps to deal with negative client feedback

There’s no way to avoid negative feedback, no matter how excellent your services are. The only thing you can do is to learn how to deal with it when it comes your way. If you want to keep your public image positive, you shouldn’t respond with the very first words that come to mind.

Instead, do your best to turn negative feedback into something more helpful to your coaching business with the following 12 rules:

  1. Don’t ignore negative feedback.
  2. Check your online and social media mentions.
  3. Gather positive feedback yourself with a testimonial and rating platform.
  4. Don’t rush to react on impulse.
  5. Identify what the actuall problem is.
  6. Don’t wait too long to respond.
  7. Ask questions to get more data.
  8. Offer a solution.
  9. Be human and personal.
  10.  Learn from your mistakes and fix the source of the problem.
  11.  Encourage the client to change their review.
  12.  Follow up to show you really care.

Yes, you will spend lots of time crafting a meaningful response to negative feedback. And yes, it will all pay off. 

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