Unless you plan to spend the rest of your days hiding under a rock, it's inevitable that you'll encounter some negative feedback in your business. You may believe that the feedback is unwarranted, or that there's a person to blame. The worst thing you can do is to launch into a tirade, absolving yourself (either directly or indirectly) of all accountability for the feedback. There is a way to handle complaints with class.
Admittedly, there are business owners who believe that they have the right to loudly and boldly defend their business from complaints. For some businesses, they've actually made it part of their brand, but not all businesses can pull it off. Unless you've got a superstar copywriter, you're unlikely to want to go down this path. You'll be more successful if you choose to handle complaints with grace.
6 steps to handling complaints with class
- Learn to live with it. Let’s face it, criticism is an inevitable part of life. It might seem unfair, but the more success a business has, the more criticism there will be. You’ll never please all of the people all of the time.
- Breathe and become aware of your emotions. It’s not easy to receive bad reviews about your small business. Your first response may be to lash out at the reviewer, or worse, your team. This is a very bad response. What you need to do first is to bring your emotions under control. Your team is looking to you for leadership, not reprimands, doomsday predictions, or blame.
- Learning how to help yourself calm down is a skill that can be strengthened with practice. There's a wealth of books on meditation and other relaxation techniques, so go ahead and get one. The sooner you learn to stay calm in your day-to-day life, the sooner you will be able to manage your emotions better.
- Ask yourself, “Does this person make a good point?” Once you've calmed down, consider whether or not they might have had a good point. Nobody is perfect. It's inevitable that a mistake will be made at some time.
- If the feedback is valid: If the criticism was constructive, do a post-mortem on where the process failed. You need to know if someone in the team was responsible, but do not make this a ‘witch hunt’. Most likely, you’ll find that the person wasn’t trained properly, or that the process documentation is incomplete. Examine every step and determine where your business can do better. Don’t make the same mistake twice.
- If the feedback was not valid: If you investigate the criticism and find it's not valid, then discard it - there's no need to dwell on it. This can be hard when you feel slighted, but you owe it to yourself and your business to rise above the hurt feelings. Remember: Successful people have the ability to set their emotions aside and move on quite quickly. After all, they understand that they have more important things to do. So must you!
- Thank them for their feedback. The best way to disarm your critics is to be gracious, accept their feedback and thank them for putting in the effort to let you know how they feel. Where appropriate, take the opportunity to tell your client how you're changing things to avoid the mistake happening again. Your client will appreciate your candour.
- Keep moving forward. Again, don’t dwell on the criticism itself. Incorporate the learnings into your processes and procedures. Ensure that you check in to make sure these new processes are understood by all relevant team members. Most importantly, look to the future and be determined to do things better, rather than stewing on your mistakes.
- Quietly congratulate yourself. Each time you receive criticism and handle it appropriately, take the time to quietly congratulate yourself. Use the opportunity to instil confidence in yourself, and your team, that your business can handle negative feedback with grace.
All businesses receive negative feedback from time to time. It might be valid, such as an order that wasn’t sent or it might simply be a customer who complains about your prices (likely because they can’t afford them - not your problem!!). Either way, the manner in which you handle their complaint will reflect on your business, so it’s important to do it graciously and with class.
Use these tips to handle criticism when faced with it. After you've calmly considered the criticism, either adjust your strategy or simply dismiss it and move on. Remember to celebrate your success afterwards!
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