At some point, no matter how hard you try to do good business and treat your customers right, you are going to get some negative feedback. It is never pleasant; something would be wrong with you if it was.
As business people, we put so much of ourselves into our work, when someone is not pleased, it hurts our heart. They are not just criticizing our work; they are criticizing us.
But negative feedback is par for the course in business, so it behooves us to learn how to use it to our advantage. That way, when you get less than stellar reviews, you have a plan.
Here are five steps you can take to utilize negative feedback for your good:
1) Take a deep breath
Literally. The moment you receive negative feedback, several physiological reactions are going to happen. First, adrenaline will be released into your bloodstream, causing your heart beat to increase and making you short of breath. You will naturally feel defensive at the criticism, and this is your body’s way of making you ready to fight. Fighting is a bad idea at this point, so take a deep breath to calm yourself. This will also slow you from lashing out immediately if you are prone to a volatile temper. Just breath a minute.
2) Give it some time
At the moment you receive criticism, you are not thinking clearly and will almost always make the wrong decision about how to respond. So, if at all possible, shut up and wait a while. If need be, tell your customer you need to think over what they said, and will get back to them on it. This will do two things for you. First, it will diffuse a possibly explosive situation which could hurt your business (basically a fight), and second, it will give you time to reflect on the feedback. Which leads to the next point.
3) Decide if the feedback is legit
Once you calm down a bit, it’s time to consider whether or not the criticism has merit. Many times it does, so now is the time to be an adult and see if you can get better. In fact, criticism is a great way to improve. Think of it as a gift; if your customer was really, really displeased with you, s/he would probably fire you. Feedback is a way for him/her to say, “I still want to do business with you, I’m just not completely satisfied.” Rise to the challenge, adjust and grow.
4) What are they really saying?
Sometimes what a customer says is not what they are really trying to say. For instance, their feedback might sound something like, “This project sure is taking longer than I thought.” Now, you may be on track timewise, you may not be. However, if you are, what your customer may be saying is really, “I haven’t received enough reassuring communication from you, and I am getting nervous.” They may just need updates. If negative feedback doesn’t seem to add up or feels like it came out of nowhere, try your best to read between the lines and interpret what the real issue, and solution, is.
5) Take a stand
Okay, moment of truth. After you have worked through the preceding steps, it is time to decide what your final reaction will be. If the feedback is legit, acknowledge it as so, thank your customer for the opportunity to improve, and move on. If it is not, if you have been genuinely maligned, you have two choices – duke it out or break relations. Fighting in these situations rarely comes out well. The way to handle it is to marshall as much evidence in your favor as you can and try to talk it out with your customer rationally. If it gets crazy, it might be time for a business divorce. However, if you react well to negative feedback, you will be surprised how very few times it comes to this. Most business break ups happen because hot heads prevail.
Negative feedback is a fact of life in business, so brace yourself. But, if handled properly, it can be a real opportunity to sharpen your skills and firm up your game. Take it for what it is and get better.
Thanks for reading.
Do you have any other tips for handling criticism? What are they?