Thursday, August 15, 2013

Making the Most of a Negative Review


… make lemonade.

Few things are more humbling in our business lives than receiving a negative review.  Like most things, it’s not so much the event as it is how we deal with the aftermath.  We’ve assembled a few suggestions to hopefully help you weather this inevitable storm and to realize there is good that can be taken from a negative review.  From evaluation to recognition to resolution, here is a mini-guide to helping all involved feel better!

Give me five.  Reacting immediately to a negative critique is the equivalent of taking the club from your reviewer’s hands and hitting yourself over the head.  Brilliant financier Warren Buffett was once asked what was the greatest piece of business advice he had ever been given.  Without hesitation, he said he was once advised:  “Remember, Warren:  There’s always tomorrow to tell someone to (take a leap)!” 

Whether you have read feedback online or actually have endured a face-to-face unhappy camper, your long-term best response is to step away from the keyboard or, if you are confronted in person, simply say, “I appreciate you’re taking the time to share your thoughts.  I’ll certainly think about all that you’ve said.”   Ask for their number or email address so that you can follow-up.

Really?  Here’s the part where we get our coffee and close our door.  It’s also the part where our conclusion determines our next step.  Was your receptionist honestly rude?  Was your promised delivery time missed by a mile?  Was your floral arrangement prepared with white carnations when they ordered red roses?  Could you really have served breaded rubber bands and saved the cost of fresh calamari? 
We always fry it for three minutes.  Determining if the criticism is valid really is the first step to resolution.  Have you had complaints before about Sally at the front desk?  Has your delivery service been late getting to your shop for a pick-up? 

Here’s how we know:  Take a listen to how Sally approaches your customers.  Are there times when she’s swamped and gets a little snippy?  Pull that floral order.  Could you have read it wrong?  Try the calamari. 

Squeeze the Lemons.  First, right the cause of the wrong, if there was one.  Change delivery services or put them on notice.  The front desk is a hectic mess and Sally really could use some back-up during rush times.  You didn’t read the description of the arrangement – only the item number.   The difference between the “5” and the “3” was … well, roses vs. carnations.  Have each order double-checked (not by Sally!) to be certain the description matches the product.  The new fryer runs hotter – looks like it’s now only two minutes for the calamari.
Pour the Lemonade.  Perhaps the most important strategy of all in winning the war against negative comments is to respond in the same venue as the critique was first given.  If you received unflattering feedback via social media, respond both on your Facebook/Web page and to the individual.  Keep it very, very brief.   If the comment was a valid criticism, thank them for their input and explain the changes you’ve made.  (Keep in mind, if Sally had to go … this isn’t the place to announce it!)  If the critique wasn’t valid, then the simple response thanking them for their input, along with a little blurb about how your customers are valued partners, works best.  (Because it’s true.) 

Customers will remember how you resolved their problem longer than they will remember the problem.  A refund for the floral arrangement, totally your fault, is in order.   An apology?  Those always come from you – you are after all the name on the door.  A nasty server, unpleasant customer service representative – or even Rude Sally – shouldn’t be the ones to apologize to the customer for that is the very best way to unleash an Armageddon-sized can of worms.  Offering a gift card is a great way to ask for a second chance to do it right.  The next appetizer is on us! 

Just remember that the worst possible mistake is doing nothing.  Even if you feel the critique is thoroughly unjustified, responding will mitigate the damage! 

Now, pass the calamari!

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