One of the most difficult things in the world to do is take a look at yourself through a different lens. When we look at ourselves or our businesses, we see the full context of our experience, from startup to present day. We know exactly why everything is the way it is, why certain decisions were made, and are often heavily invested in the method we’ve used to build what we have.
It’s tough to take a step back and look at things from another perspective. Sometimes we’re too close to the company not to take criticism personally. It’s often a business owner’s first instinct to go on the defensive and try to over-explain, or worse, get obviously upset with a customer.
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Unfortunately, we must remember that other people are only seeing things from the outside. We’ve had many clients get ruffled over a negative Yelp review, explaining how the reviewer had a skewed experience or is just flat-out wrong. There are a few things to keep in mind in these instances.
An outside perspective can give you new insight. You may immediately bristle at criticism of your business, but it’s vital to pay attention and seriously consider what your customers are saying. Even if you ultimately disagree, remember that they’re seeing things from a different angle, and that angle can be invaluable. They may uncover something that you never see because you’re too close.
Remember that customers have a limited view. Many businesses respond to negative sentiment with explanations, but when you’re online, these exchanges have a very different tone for your customers. Regardless of how polite you are, explanations come off as excuses and any implication that the customer may be wrong will be met with offense. Worse yet, uninvolved parties may feel you’re being confrontational and defensive, and wonder what you’re hiding.
Negative sentiment is a catalyst for change. Instead of trying to explain issues away, always thank customers for their feedback and verbalize the steps you’re taking toward ensuring their negative experience isn’t repeated. Then consider their feedback critically and decide what changes really do need to occur, if any.
Learn which battles are worth fighting. We all know that there are customers that will never be happy no matter what you do. They come into a complaint looking for a fight with their teeth bared. The reasons why this happens are unimportant. What’s important is to remember that when you’re dealing with customers like this publicly or online, you have a silent audience watching in the wings. Keep your head, stay classy, and show that you’re making a true effort to rectify the situation. Even if the initial customer can’t be appeased, other customers will take note of your behavior.
These are some of the many ways you can turn potentially negative criticism into something that makes your business stronger. In addition to customer insights, you may want to ask another outside agency or knowledgeable individual to give their thoughts on how to improve your business. When you hear suggestions, try to consider them with an open mind, even if your first impulse is to reject them. It may be just what you need to reinvent your business!
Stephanie Wargin is the Social Media Strategist at Zenergy Works, a web design and SEO company located in Santa Rosa, California. Her friends like to brush her hair into her eyes whenever she talks about Facebook.