Just last week, we received glowing feedback from a client. It was PHENOMENAL, and truthfully, the kind words go both ways, she was a dream to work with. We all congratulated each other on our success and continued with our day. Positive feedback, especially unsolicited, motivates you to keep doing what you’re doing. It’s reinforcement that what you offer works, and best of all, it resonates with your clients.

Sometimes feedback isn’t so positive. It’s tough to deal with, and tough to hear. It’s so easy to say that there’s growth in criticism, but that doesn’t make it any easier to view it constructively. The unfortunate (fortunate for our ego, not fortunate for growth) challenge, is that many of our unhappy clients don’t complain. There can be many reasons why, some clients are hesitant to complain directly to you (they may complain on social media, or over coffee with a colleague) because they don’t want to seem confrontational, which many of us choose to avoid.

Yes, I’m the type of person to ask for a steak medium, receive it overcooked, and eat it anyway even though I’m paying for it. I hate complaining or seeming “picky.”

Negative client feedback can be tough to hear, and our first response is to go on the defensive – it’s not us; it’s them. However, it can be incredibly educational and constructive, with the right frame of mind.

Here are some tips on how to grow from negative feedback:

1. Start by creating a culture around your business that welcomes feedback. I frequently remind clients that I’m looking for ways to improve and need their help. This keeps the door open and can position the conversation constructively. The trick here is to say “thank you, can you please tell me more”? The more your client describes their concern, the greater you can understand it, acknowledge it, and possibly improve your processes going forward. You must listen with the intent to understand, not the intent to respond. When you listen to respond, your constructing your response mentally while you should be listening. Really listen, take notes if you need to, and then take your time responding. Everyone values being heard.

2. The last thing you want is to have your clients quietly dissatisfied. You can’t grow and improve, and you lose them as a referral source. So find ways to collect feedback that are less confrontational, perhaps a survey where responses can be made anonymously. Ask open-ended questions that lead the respondent to think about a certain aspect, breaking down different areas you could improve upon, such as delivery, communication, time or pace.

3. Acknowledge negative feedback as soon as you receive it with a request for a follow-up call. This is especially important if the negative feedback is received online on a public channel (Facebook for example). Don’t let negative comments sit publicly, even if a resolution has not been reached. Acknowledge the comment (on the platform it was made) and request a follow-up conversation.

4. Remember to thank your client for taking the time to comment. For some, a lot of consideration was put into leaving that feedback. It’s tough to criticize, so acknowledge that. This being said, some people LOVE to complain, and there’s no pleasing them. Weigh comments carefully. You can always improve, but you can’t please everyone all the time.

5. Try not to take it personally. I know it’s hard when you try to do everything right and think that you’ve covered all of the bases, to uncover that you could have improved. Remember, there’s always room for growth; it’s not personal, its business. Take a deep breath and walk away to clear your head.

Remember…

You can’t implement solutions to all of your client’s concerns, especially if these resolutions aren’t true to your brand, or frankly, aren’t feasible. Know the limits of what you can/are willing to change and know when it’s ok to agree to disagree.

What was the hardest feedback you ever received? How did you handle it? Could you have handled it better?

By Peggy Murrah, Founder of PMA Web Services

Author's Bio: 

Peggy Murrah is a unique combination of web and marketing savvy, along with dependability and resourcefulness. These qualities have been instrumental in her building a successful business that serves clientele across five continents. PMA Web Services provides marketing direction and strategies for entrepreneurs through mentoring, social media marketing, list building and management, and development/maintenance of their online presence.