By Tyler Bray, owner, The Trailer Parts Outlet.
I’ll be honest with you. I used to be terrible about receiving negative feedback. It was mostly an ego problem. As I grew, I learned that negative feedback is something to be met with gratitude. Why? Because it’s practically a gold mine of information. Because I believe there’s a positive to be found in every negative.
All entrepreneurs, no matter how talented, encounter negative feedback at some point. It never feels good, but it presents an opportunity. It’s a chance to learn about shortcomings and blindspots in your business, and it’s a chance to grow personally.
Let’s talk about how to handle negative feedback in the best way possible.
Find Your Technique For Calming Yourself Down First
You are only human. Negative feedback is going to feel bad, at least at first. This could range from a mild to intense feeling, depending on how fairly you feel you were treated. However, being an entrepreneur means accepting responsibility for a certain result. And responsibility goes hand in hand with maturity. Here’s what I can guarantee: If you lash back at a customer who lashed out at you, you’ve taken a short-term, emotional gain over a long-term gain for your business.
Before you reach out to a customer who left a bad review, focus on staying calm — whether it’s through deep breaths, a walk around the block or brewing a mug of tea. If you’re dealing with an angry customer in person, you may feel extra anxiety. Drop into your radio DJ voice — easy, slow and fair. That’s the first step to moving someone from confrontation mode to problem-solving mode.
Focus On Empathy
To demonstrate this, let me start by empathizing with you. Someone criticized you. Congratulations! That means you did something worth noticing. That in and of itself makes you rare. It separates you from people who live their whole lives keeping their heads down and never risking anything.
There are always difficult and unfair clients and customers. However, most people who come to you in anger probably feel as though they parted with money and didn’t get what they really wanted. Through empathy, perhaps you can see that you might behave the same way in similar circumstances. One empathetic act is to simply paraphrase their pain point back to them, either in writing, in person or on the phone. Once someone at least feels heard, they usually begin to calm down.
Focus On What’s Fair
When you’re getting negative feedback, and the honest part of yourself recognizes that it makes sense and it is fair, you have to make sure to be fair to yourself. That doesn’t mean telling the complainer your side of the story. Frankly, you won’t find people care that often. You probably won’t find it makes you feel better either. What I mean by fair is simple: If a replacement is the fairest option, offer that solution. If it’s a refund, that’s fine too. A lifetime supply or never-ending free subscription is probably not what you should use to appease anybody. You know what kind of fixes and solutions are fair and sustainable for your business, so don’t overcompensate in a tense moment.
Focus On the Future
I have changed furious customers into loyal, happy, long-time customers simply by dealing with fairness and empathy. Envision the best possible future for the complainer while they are giving you negative feedback. Remember, whatever happens in this moment of complaint will determine the next story that the angry customer tells about your business. And word of mouth always matters, no matter how digital life gets. Make sure that angry customer doesn’t leave with a story about how people lash out and blame others at your company, but instead leaves with a story about what fair, good-willed problem solvers you and your team are.
Managing your emotions and focusing on solutions is a big part of being an entrepreneur. Negative feedback is one of the biggest confrontations you will face. Mine the experience for lessons. Get together with your team and do a breakdown of what went wrong. It’s not about assigning blame. It’s about building stronger systems that create better outcomes in the future.