The Pros and Cons of Responding to Negative Feedback from a Customer Survey

Can you follow up with unhappy customers when they respond to a survey? Probably. Should you? It depends.

Market research is extremely important when it comes to understanding a customer’s experience with your brand.

In most cases, customer experience (CX) research, such as satisfaction surveys, will uncover the good and the bad parts of your business.

In this blog post, Drive Research, a customer satisfaction survey company, will detail the do'sand cons of following-up with dissatisfied customers after they respond to a customer survey (and how to proceed if you decide to do so).

The Pros and Cons of Responding to Negative Feedback from a Customer Survey

Pros of Responding to Dissatisfied Customers From a Survey

The purpose of customer surveys is to understand customer experiences; whether they be positive or negative.

When you understand the strengths and weaknesses of your business from the perspective of your customers, businesses are able to make better decisions based on data to improve customer retention.

What are the pros?

Following-up with dissatisfied customers allows a business to:

  • Learn more about a problem
  • Fix any broken processes
  • Potentially turn a negative experience into a positive one

While it may seem like picking up the phone and calling angry customers to make things right is the easiest way to fix the problem, it’s important to consider several factors. 

By reaching out to customers who are flagged as detractors from a survey, your company is at risk of disregarding customers’ confidentiality and even hurting your brand’s reputation even more.

Cons of Responding to Dissatisfied Customers From a Survey

Let's talk a little more about respondent confidentiality?

In market research, non-disclosure agreements (NDA) are often signed between a firm and its clients. While client confidentiality is important, what about the research participants?

Here's a real-world example.

Once I got a really bad haircut. I didn’t want to cause any issues, but I thought that the hair salon should at least know about my bad experience.

Naturally, I filled out the survey from the link that was on the bottom of the receipt. The next day, I received a phone call from the manager asking me about my negative experience; I had no idea they even had my phone number.

To be honest, that follow-up phone call made me feel uncomfortable. To this day, I still haven’t gone back to that hair salon.

What are the cons?

As a survey respondent, it’s easy to assume that your responses will remain anonymous or confidential by default.

Receiving any unrequested follow-up communication in regards to specific feedback certainly violates any presumed respondent “confidentiality.”

In some cases, survey respondents, like myself, may not even realize they’ve been tied to their responses through a receipt code or survey link.

The importance of privacy and confidentiality in market research is often overlooked.

Confidentiality in market research ensures that the feedback received is honest and accurate.

If a customer is personally tied to their survey responses, it may change the accuracy of their feedback, therefore, not being as beneficial to your business as it could be.

Proceed with Caution When Reaching Out to Dissatisfied Customers

If you’ve decided it’s best to follow-up with dissatisfied customers, it’s important to keep a number of criteria in mind. 

First, consider if individual survey responses are valuable enough on their own or if negative experiences need to be made right. 

Then, decide who will be making the calls.

In my case, if the hairdresser was the one who called me, I probably would have panicked and hung up. The same can be assumed if a salesperson calls their customer or client after they provided negative feedback.

In most cases, it’s important for the person making the calls to be detached from the negative customer experiences.

Perhaps consider using a third party to maintain confidentiality. 

Remember to gently approach the follow-up calls without singling out specific feedback or exact responses from the individual's survey if confidentiality or permission-based follow-up was not given.

A customer service response example might be something along the lines of: “We are placing follow-up calls to customers to see if there any areas from the survey you'd like to expand upon?”

This approach allows the customer to bring up negative experiences on their own, without calling attention to their negative survey responses.

If they are uncomfortable sharing information, that's okay. Still, many will end up expanding upon their issues directly to you over the phone on their own. 

Contact Drive Research

Drive Research is a customer satisfaction survey company located in Upstate New York. Our experts help companies from across the country with customer survey design, analysis, and recommendations for the next steps.

Interested in partnering with our customer survey firm? Contact us through any of the four ways below.

  1. Message us on our website
  2. Email us at [email protected]
  3. Call us at 888-725-DATA
  4. Text us at 315-303-2040


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