How to respond to negative course feedback

responding to negative course feedback

Sometimes, our training doesn't live up to expectations. Regardless of what was at fault, there's a number of steps we can take to respond to the dissatisfaction, both by helping to support the delegate, investigating what was at fault and finding a suitable resolution.

Most of us have sat in at least one training session that didn't meet our expectations. Perhaps the trainers delivery style was poor, perhaps the content was dull, or maybe the session was completely irrelevant to your role or position. In truth, there's hundreds of reasons a training session might fail to meet our expectations. In order to respond and for us to action any feedback, we need to capture that feedback effectively in the first place. Download our ultimate guide to training surveys if you're interested in creating evaluation forms that can help you to acquire actionable feedback.

Feedback can be captured in a number of different ways - typically for training providers it might be captured in a post-course survey, an online review, a social media comment or a face to face conversation. Regardless of the channel, our action plan following this feedback is very much the same.

So, we've just run a course, and uh-oh, someone's not happy. What do we do next?

Acknowledge that it happens

We cannot please everyone all of the time. Every business that provides a good or service has some experience of negative feedback - to any buyer searching for that good or service online, it can in fact be a helpful thing to have. After all, can we trust a business that is supposedly without fault?

Striving to be perfect can often be more of a hinderance than a help, particularly with regards to reviews and testimonials. Which company would you likely go with below? It's said that 68% of consumers are more likely to trust a company when they see both good and bad reviews.

Company A

Secondly, as humans, our diversity and differences in what we enjoy and what motivates and drives us can vary considerably. What one delegate might love, another might hate. We must acknowledge that everyone is different, with varying expectations and aims from your training sessions.

Thank them

Once you overcome any fleeting feelings of resentment, you must recognise that a delegate has just given you an opportunity to improve your course. Just think how many training sessions you've sat through that have been sub-par at best and you've said nothing. The delegate has given you this feedback because they care, and a great place to start when responding to negative feedback is to thank them for bringing it to your attention, regardless of your position on the matter.

Take your time

Following your initial response of acknowledging the feedback and thanking the delegate, it's then time to investigate what went wrong. Depending on the nature of the feedback, this step could be a long and complex process or something rather straightforward. This is where we must assess if the feedback relates to a one-off, situational or trivial issue or something that's deeper rooted in your overall training strategy. You could simply ask yourself, "how serious is the issue?", "what impact has this had on the delegate" & "can we expect to face this problem again?"

By taking our time, we are giving ourselves more time to involve more of our team and respond in a way that is in line with our brand and avoids any emotionally charged rebuttals.

Involve your stakeholders

Training is an activity that is almost always collaborative in nature; there's often a number of moving parts that all contribute to a positive experience for delegates. Even if the negativity is related to an isolated situation or individual, there's likely lessons to be learnt across your team and it's helpful to get the thoughts of different stakeholders in your business.

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This step could be carried out in a weekly meeting with your team, or may involve senior management/stakeholders depending on urgency, severity and threat to business reputation.

For any team members that were involved in the negative experience for your customer, it's important to have a conversation with them and discuss where things fell down.

Find your resolution

So, how do we proceed?

Unfortunately, it's impossible to give instruction on what a resolution might look like. There's every chance you may feel the negativity was untrue or unwarranted, in which case the resolve may simply be to move on.

A resolution can come in a number of different forms, many times this may involve offering a value-add or discount for the customer if the assessment is that they haven't received an expected level of service.

Often, simply by empowering the customer, both by actively listening to the feedback and putting measures in place to mitigate future issues, will help to restore confidence and demonstrates your level of care. This is a common tactic that's regularly seen on review sites where negative feedback is often followed up by a member of the customer experience team looking to find out more about the problem over a call or email.

Document it

What's worse than receiving negative feedback? Receiving the same negative feedback twice. Or more.

Once you've taken the steps above, the last thing you want is to have to run through them again with another delegate a couple of weeks later. News spreads, and before you know it you may find yourself firefighting on social media!

During, or straight after any negative feedback, there needs to be a documented record logging the nature of the feedback, who it relates to or impacts and the measures or steps that have been put in place to stop or mitigate this happening again, if required.

Monitor the situation

Monitoring course feedback is a key process for any training department, regardless of whether the reviews are positive or negative. After all, in our latest training industry benchmark report, training professionals told us customer satisfaction is still, by far, their chosen measure of success.

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As a core part of any effective customer experience strategy, your account managers need to have their ear to the ground at all times, and that means keeping in close contact with delegates and key accounts and addressing/resolving any concerns before they spiral. Ideally, every interaction should be well documented in your CRM.


Negative feedback is not something we can always prevent, but it's certainly something we can prepare for.

Appropriately and effectively responding when we receive such feedback relies on investigation, patience, collaboration and education. When we follow the above steps, we can strengthen brand image while supporting our delegates and dissipate any residing hostility or negativity following a course through empowerment and compassion.