Recently I wrote an article titled “Don’t lose a good customer over a petty issue” and I received quite a few emails expressing the frustration that many business owners feel when dealing with customer complaints. I hear you.
The reality is that if you run a business you have to deal with the fact that there will be times when people will criticise you and your business, and as tough as these criticisms may be, we have to learn to cope with them. Here are five simple ideas that you might find helpful when dealing with criticism:
Remove the emotion and be analytical
It is hard not to get emotional if someone is criticising you, your staff or your business in general. But we need to learn to take the emotion out of play and look at the facts. Instead of reacting, try being impartial and even better, put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Do they have a fair point? Have you promised something but failed to deliver?
Accept that you can’t keep all of the people happy all of the time
When starting out in business our aim is to keep everyone happy. The thought of an unhappy customer is quite devastating and a critical interaction with a grumpy customer can really destroy our confidence. But as we get a bit older, and more experienced, we realise that you just can’t please some people. And in fact, some people are really difficult to deal with. Now I don’t want this to sound like a cop out, it isn’t, it is just the honest reality of life. Don’t take this approach as home base, it is the last resort when it comes to trying to fix a situation with an unhappy customer, but is an option.
What can you do to make sure the problem doesn’t arise again?
One of the most important outcomes from any critical encounter is hopefully some clarity around how you can avoid the situation happening again. Perhaps you need to manage the customer expectations a little better, or perhaps there are some systems that need to be improved. Regardless of the details, we need to learn from any experience, even if the customer is being unreasonable (see the point above).
Reframe your thinking – criticism is an opportunity
Whenever I am dealing with some form of criticism I always take time out after the event to sit quietly and really think about the situation. What could I have done differently? What have I learned from this experience? What can I do to avoid it happening again? By taking this approach I tend to find that during a bout of criticism I am not quite as affected by it as I am thinking about my “strategic review” of the situation as my own debrief that I can use to get better at what I do.
We are only human
At the end of the day, we are only human and sometimes we get things wrong. We don’t set out to disappoint a customer, but it happens. We can beat ourselves up for months, or we can simply say we tried our best (assuming you did), but we are human and sometimes we make mistakes. And remember, mistakes or failures are where we learn a lot more about ourselves than most other situations, so they are not all bad.