Managing Feedback

In many ways, your business is like an organic life form – it grows, it consumes resources and converts them into other resources, and if neglected it decays and eventually dies. It makes sense that business would in so many ways mimic their component human lives, just as the human life cycle so closely resembles (and is so utterly dependent on) the life cycles of its constituent cells.

Another sense in which business resembles organic life is the response to stimuli. When you step on a tack or grab a hot pan, your body instinctively reacts and recoils to prevent you from further damaging yourself. Nobody likes pain, but it’s an important indicator to your brain which lets you know when you’re taking actions that are harmful to your overall well being.

Complaints serve the same role for business. Nobody enjoys hearing a complaint (by contrast, it’s hard to imagine a better feeling than reading an effusive review of your services). People who complain tend not to be nice about it, either, which only digs the knife in that much deeper. You’re likely to feel very attached to your business, and it’s only natural to take these comments personally. Don’t fall prey to that urge.

Instead, remember that nobody is perfect, and that every business must be constantly striving to improve. Nobody expects you to get it right 100% of the time. They do, however, expect you to be responsive to their needs and concerns. My motto is “get it right or make it right.” And the only way you can make it right, and get it right the next time, is if you know what “right” is for your clients, customers, teammates and audience.

With that in mind, recognize that complaints and other feedback are valuable information with which you can bolster your customer service experience, your product offering, and your management style. Give your customers and teammates every opportunity to bring up concerns with you. If you can address a concern before it becomes a complaint, then so much the better, but properly addressing a complaint can turn an angry situation into a peaceful resolution with a satisfied customer.

When you receive a complaint, keep track of it. Even a flawless response that converts the complaint into a glowing review is not as valuable if you don’t learn from it and apply the lesson to your future interactions. You’re a busy person, no doubt, and you have enough to memorize. Keep a log of complaints with time, date, the nature of the complaint, the client or teammate in question, and your response. This will give you a chance to identify problem areas and address them promptly and permanently.

It’s also possible that you simply have an uncooperative client or teammate who likes to complain about everything. We all know people like that, and working with them can decimate morale and drain your mental and emotional energy, leaving your work joyless and frustrating and sucking the soul out of your business. If it’s a client, identifying the problematic relationship can give you the courage you need to recognize that their business isn’t worth it. If it’s a teammate, a complaint log can give you the ammunition you need to let that teammate go and begin to restore team morale.

The bottom line rests in knowing how important it is to respond to the stimuli that complaints and feedback present for maintaining  and growing your personal, independent earnings. When you understand that, you’ll never doubt the need to invite feedback at every stage, to constantly be looking for additional input, and to keep reliable track of your feedback interactions. And that’s smart business.

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