It’s hard starting your own business from scratch, building it from nothing, generating stable revenues, getting an office, bringing on employees. And even if you love it, even if you have an undying passion for it, you can always feel the pressure to keep up with the competition, to keep growing, to keep learning, to keep pushing forward.
And if you don’t run your own business but work for an event-related business like a hotel, venue or caterer or work for a larger company or non-profit, you still take pride in what you do and (usually) in who you work for, and you want to do your best and help your organization and everyone around you succeed.
If you’re anything like me, your own sense of self gets tied up into your work. Your work and your business become part of you, because essentially they are. They are an extension of you and how you want to make your impact on the world. And so, embedded within your business and/or career is a strong sense of pride in what you have done and what you have created.
And this sense of pride is what makes us so defensive when clients start providing lots of feedback and input about how we do business. Most customers are well-meaning and polite when they provide feedback about your products and services, but some of them can be rather direct, and a few can be downright rude and mean.
This is where a thick skin can make all the difference for you and your business, because you cannot control how other people think or how they behave. You can only control your reaction to their behavior.
Granted, sometimes it hurts to get feedback and criticism because it feels directed at you. Like I said earlier, our egos are wrapped up in our businesses and careers, so how can this not feel like criticism directed at you. And when it is conveyed in a negative or belittling way, then it becomes even harder to not be defensive and tell the person to F-off.
When I receive pointed feedback and criticism of our event management software, yes, my first reaction is to say to myself “Good god. We’re giving you something that didn’t even exist 5 years ago, and we are listening to our customers and making improvements every week and doing our absolute best to provide a great product and experience. What the hell else do you people want?”
It’s fine to say this to yourself, but then take a deep breath and dispense with the emotion of the situation, because all you should really be interested in is if their feedback is valid and if it would help you improve your product or service.
Here are the three most important things to remember about customer feedback:
1. Even the meanest, nastiest, bitchiest feedback you ever receive will probably be useful.
At some point we all get to experience the wrath of an unhappy customer. It may be someone who was never the right fit for your product/service. Maybe everything that could have gone wrong with their event did. Or maybe they are just eternally unhappy and treat everybody they encounter like crap.
In the past, they would usually unload on you online or in an email. But now with the advent of social media, they may also vent all over Twitter and Facebook. And because it isn’t face to face, they may say things that they never would to your face. This all makes it even more difficult to both diffuse such a situation as well as gain some useful input.
But sort through all the bombast and profanity and you may be left with some very valuable advice. You just have to remove the emotion from what is being conveyed to you and look for the facts.
Fortunately, most feedback is delivered in a sensitive fashion as constructive criticism, but even then it is always a good habit to remove yourself emotionally and look at what they are saying analytically and rationally.
One way you can make clients happy is by having the tools you and they need to make sure their events come off without a hitch.
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2. Receiving feedback and criticism means that people still care.
Put it this way. If your product or service were so crappy, if you were such an awful person or business, then the client wouldn’t bother to give you feedback. They would just never call you again, stop doing business with you and possibly badmouth you whenever the opportunity arises.
However, because they are coming back at you with ideas, feedback and input, it means they still care about you and want you to improve. Sometimes it may not sound like it, but their comments are really tough love. They are telling you the things you don’t want to hear, and it’s hard to hear these things, especially when the volume is turned up.
People get emotional about things they care about, so the fact that they may get a little emotional when providing feedback is also a good thing. It means they are invested in this and want to make it work.
Feedback and criticism are always better than apathy and silence. The former make your business better; the latter leave you clueless and possibly penniless.
3. Resist the urge to ignore criticism and find ways to channel it into making your business better.
It’s always easy to discount someone’s opinion when they are screaming at you. You might find yourself saying sometimes, “Yeah, they’re obviously nuts and irrational, so why listen to them?”
But instead of instantly pretending the whole conversation never happened, instead look to see what parts of it are useful to you. Does the person have a legitimate gripe? Do they have a point? Is there a good idea in there somewhere? And have you heard this from other customers before?
You see, sometimes it takes a figurative slap upside the head to get us to attend to something that has needed fixing for some time. And it could come in the form of a come-to-Jesus conversation with a client who isn’t 100% happy with what you offer. So leave yourself open to this possibility and you may be surprised as to the content of their message once you look past the tone of it.
So how do you deal with tough love from your clients? Let us know in the comments below.