Negative Feedback Loop: Definition, How-To and Examples

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated October 18, 2022 | Published March 20, 2020

Updated October 18, 2022

Published March 20, 2020

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

When striving to generate high quality work, giving and getting feedback is important. Positive feedback can be more pleasant, but negative feedback is often more useful for tasks like product development or employee training and improvement. Implementing a negative feedback loop is an effective method you can use to improve processes and restore balance to any unstable areas of a business.

In this article, we explain what a negative feedback loop is and how to use one, then review their advantages and disadvantages and share examples of implementing this type of feedback loop.

What is a negative feedback loop?

A negative feedback loop is a procedure that uses criticism to change a process. This process is a loop because the output of feedback is input back into the process when the company makes changes.

You can then receive more feedback on the new product or outcome and implement more changes, continuing the cycle. Negative feedback loops can occur naturally, such as drinking water when you're thirsty, or automatically, such as when a thermostat returns an environment to its set temperature.

In business, individuals use negative feedback loops to improve a product or service by responding to customer complaints and concerns. They can also make changes to the workplace environment in response to employee dissatisfaction.

Negative feedback loops draw attention to issues in a company and involve making a plan for a long-term solution. Using a negative feedback loop is beneficial both for the business and its customers.

Related: Growing Your Career: Learning From Negative Feedback

How to use negative feedback loops

Using a negative feedback loop is an important way to show customers, clients and employees that the company for which you work values them. It's also an excellent way to ensure that your employer's product or service is the best it can be. Here are the steps for using a negative feedback loop:

1. Gather information

The first step in a negative feedback loop is receiving criticism. There are many ways you can gather negative feedback, such as a customer or employee survey, social media or other online reviews, a comment box, complaint calls or emails from customers, and reports from the customer service desk in a store.

To be able to use the negative feedback in a positive manner, consider implementing a system to clearly record and categorize all complaints and concerns, and a time when you regularly review them such as once per month.

Related: A Guide to Giving Constructive Feedback at Work

2. Ask questions

To use the negative feedback well, you may need to follow up on complaints and concerns to understand what the issues are or what is causing them. Examples of questions to ask include:

  • What could we have done to improve your experience?

  • How would you change this product?

  • How do you wish the service had been different?

  • What would you do to improve the workplace?

  • What do you think is at the root of this issue?

Asking specific questions when collecting feedback can help you gain specific information and allow you to request opinions on certain aspects of a product or service.

Related: How To Ask for Feedback After an Interview (With Tips)

3. Analyze the feedback

After you collect and research the negative feedback, analyze it thoroughly. A careful review can help you determine whether problems were one-time issues, serious product flaws, customer service failures, minor concerns, management oversights, seasonal occurrences or caused by another reason.

Categorizing complaints by their underlying issue can help you with the next step. Some negative feedback may be more valuable and constructive than others, so it's also helpful to recognize this when analyzing feedback.

Related: SWOT Analysis Guide (With Steps To Perform and Examples)

4. Determine responsive actions

Next, decide how you can use the negative feedback to improve the entire process, product, service or workplace. Implementing positive solutions based on negative feedback creates a loop. The purpose of using a negative feedback loop is to focus on constant improvement.

Determine what actions you can take to respond to the criticism and create a short- or long-term plan to enact those changes.It may help to use the SMART goal method to plan your improvements. Clearly define the goal of what you want to improve, how you might reach it, how you can measure progress and the time when you expect to reach it.

Related: Your Guide to Positive Feedback Loops (With Examples)

5. Notify customers and employees

The final step of a negative feedback loop is to ensure your employer's customers and employees understand the changes and the reason for the changes. You could put up a sign in the company's store, send out a press release, add an explanation on product packaging or send a company-wide email. Notification is important, because explaining the steps you're taking to improve may encourage customers to buy your product again, inspire loyalty and inform employees of why a difference in their actions or in workplace processes is necessary.

Related: FAQ: Why Is Business Transparency Important?

Advantages and disadvantages of negative feedback loops

Implementing a negative feedback loop in your workplace can have many advantages, including:

  • Improved morale and trust: By clearly listening and responding to customer or employee complaints and concerns, you can earn their trust, establish a reputation for integrity and honesty, and create loyalty.

  • Improved product and revenue: Using negative feedback to make changes can result in having a better product, service or workplace environment. An improved product leads to increased revenue as you gain more clients and customers or as employees are motivated to work more efficiently.

The disadvantage of a negative feedback loop is that it involves inviting criticism. Asking for negative feedback may mean that others see these responses and choose not to purchase the product or service because of it, such as with poor online reviews. Though, clearly responding to the feedback can offset this disadvantage by satisfying customers and creating repeat business.

Related: How To Respond to Customer Reviews

Examples of negative feedback loops

Companies can use negative feedback loops in numerous ways, such as:

  • Changing a product's construction based on customer reviews

  • Implementing new customer service policies due to a customer survey

  • Increasing service options in response to dissatisfied clients

  • Offering flexible work schedules to improve employee morale

A specific example of a negative feedback loop is if a grocery store receives consistent negative feedback about the time it takes for customers to check out. They might use this feedback to address the problem.

They can do this by increasing the number of open registers, adding employees to bag groceries after someone else calls them to speed up the process, or making other changes to improve customer experiences. The changes result in happier customers who shop at the store more often, which is a positive result for the business.

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