Effective complaint management provides growth opportunity

Businesses naturally worry about receiving negative customer reviews about their products and services. Whether they come via social media, call centres, emails, or are shared in-person, it goes without saying that they are not something a brand aspires to receive.

However, rather than seeing negative reviews as something to fear, they should be viewed as a valuable opportunity for growth. 

If your business has the right complaint management systems and processes in place to capture not just the review, but the context around the review, and can quickly get that insight to the right functions, you have a chance to turn things around.

Here is how a negative review can in fact be a blessing in disguise, and how you can implement the right software, systems and processes to make the most of them. 

Handling negative feedback

A simple cause for negative feedback

To begin, it is important to stop and consider why negative reviews happen. Usually, the answer to this is that you have made a promise, and you haven’t delivered on that promise to the customer. In contrast, when the service you promise equals the service that you deliver, positive feedback is more likely.

It doesn’t matter if you are a premium brand or low-cost brand, or equally what sector you are in, this logic will apply. For example, if you are a low-cost airline and provide a no-frills experience, your promise and delivery align, and customers will be satisfied. If you are a high-cost airline but offer a no-frills experience, customers will complain. 

Embedding feedback loops to track customer complaints and negative reviews, and cascade it seamlessly to the appropriate teams for actioning takes patience and a commitment to act.

However, a core question is, how can you do this at scale?

Handling negative feedback – Who does it well

We can look to a leading and innovative Australian mattress retailer as a good example of a business that has the balance right. They offer a 120-night trial period for customers to decide whether they like the product or wish to receive a free return. In fact, they will even pick up the free return products in most metropolitan areas.

They have built and scaled the brand by using reviews as a form of digital currency and leveraging them in performance marketing campaigns. Therefore, paying extremely close attention to all reviews, including the negative ones. You can almost guarantee that for every negative review about one of their mattresses online, you will see a timely, personalised, and extensive response by their customer service team ready to assist.

They also promise to deliver a ‘mattress in a box’ to your doorstep within 4 hours of an online order (on weekdays in capital cities). That may seem ambitious, but the reason they have been successful is because the company delivers on time, time and time again. 

Effective feedback management – strong processes plus CRM

Technology alone won't 'close the loop'.

Being able to handle negative feedback effectively requires more than just a complaint management platform. It requires a combination of strong processes, future-fit functional teams and a powerful CRM (customer relationship management) system that will enable you to connect your front, middle and back offices so that customer complaints and other relevant data are delivered to the right people or teams to respond quickly. As the world increasingly digitises, this speed to service is a key competitive advantage. 

Developing the internal processes to capture these insights through a CRM is critical as it allows you to paint a more complete picture of your customers. Where feedback is received through owned channels i.e., website, social or direct CRMs can automatically ingest the data and create individual consumer profiles empowering internal customer teams to manage the conversation more effectively with unhappy customers.

Where customers provide negative feedback through third party channels i.e., product review sites, non-owned social pages, blogs the ability to automatically pull data into CRM is compromised and it becomes the job of receptive internal community managers to actively communicate with customers through these channels and bring them back into the businesses’ channel ecosystem to resolve customer issues. In both instances, CRM will surface the issues with the appropriate teams or people within the business to promptly close the product feedback loop. 

Australian cosmetics retailer MECCA was the number one Australian brand in the KPMG Customer Experience Excellence Report 2021, and applies this analytical approach to continually delight its customers. Sam Bain, Chief Digital Officer, MECCA Brands, said that MECCA has always been "customer-obsessed", but has recently focused its efforts engaging with data to inform decisions.


The biggest change is probably the extent to which we now use customer feedback and data. We use a lot more quantitative data to drive decision making today, whereas we used to rely more on anecdotal insights.

Sam Bain
Chief Digital Officer
MECCA Brands

Managing negative reviews – KPMG can help

At KPMG, we use our KPMG Powered Enterprise Marketing, Sales & Service to accelerate your transformation to being customer-centric. KPMG Powered Enterprise allows you to easily track negative reviews and customer complaints so they can be directed to the relevant teams for action. Our goal is to get you to a position where you can make the most of customer insights faster – including positive and negative reviews – to help you level the balance between promise and delivery, and be ready for sustainable growth.

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