Criticism: When It Comes Knocking, Let It In, And Make It Feel At Home

Criticism.

Now, before we go any further, how many of you just cringed a little? It’s all right – that’s natural. We as human beings are naturally averse to criticism. And that’s okay, so long as you can break yourself of that habit. Why would you want to? Because criticism is a tool – and not, in point of fact, a thing to be reviled.

You will never please everyone all of the time: It’s an impossibility. Striving to, on the other hand, is something that you as business owners should always put at the forefront of your daily lives.

With criticism, the first truth you have to accept is that it comes in two forms: angry criticism (jack-wagons who like to yell about how awful something was, instead of being rational) and constructive criticism (when people are level-headed, and genuinely concerned with making a difference.) Both are relevant, and both – it’s sad to admit – are important.

Criticism is your customer’s way of telling you something needs fixing. How you respond to it could make or break your business. Remember the old adage, “The customer is always right!”? We all know that isn’t completely true. What we have to remember is this: “The customer always THINKS that they’re right”. And sometimes, though it may pain you, you have to play along with that little farce.

There was also a number cited somewhere that has always stuck with me: For every person that complains about something, there were ten who did not. So when someone complains, consider it as coming from eleven people. This, I’ve found, is extremely prescient insight into the minds of consumers.

Just this morning, a good friend of mine (who is a foodie and chef-type) was upset about a genuinely constructive post he had placed on a moderately-priced, higher-end, restaurant’s Facebook page. Their response? They deleted it: That was it. No public or private response. Nope – deletion, for them, ‘solved’ the problem.

Here was what he posted to his friends, in the aftermath, just to prove my point further:

“Shame too, I have had very good pizza there every other time we were there. I have told tons of friends about the place. And you know what they say about dissatisfied customers.”

Guess where he and his circle of 350+ friends will no longer be going? How much money did that establishment just lose with that one, single, mouse click?

I personally ran into this situation on one of the pages I admin this past week. I announced that I would be doing a book signing, and that a portion of the proceeds from book sales would be going to The Salvation Army. Within an hour or so, a response was posted. It read: “Are you aware that The Salvation Army doesn’t support same-sex relationships?”

Actually, I wasn’t. But, that also wasn’t among my considerations when choosing a charitable organization to allocate funds to.

My first response was, I’m guessing, unlike yours might have been – and only because I’ve trained myself to think this way over many, many years: I took a step back and analyzed the situation. Why was this post here, of all places? What was this person attempting to gain?

Here’s what I guessed: She had had a bad experience with The Salvation Army in the past and, right or wrong, this was her way of retaliating.

Instead of deleting it, I addressed it cordially. I didn’t call her names, I didn’t belittle her right to post that – none of that. I just responded honestly and openly in a friendly manner. Then, I went further: I sent her a private message inquiring what her negative experience had been, and why she had felt compelled to post this. Know what happened? We had a very long, grown-up conversation about the whole thing, and parted as respected equals. I showed her that her concerns were important enough not to be ignored, and even went so far as to take the time to understand them.

Not only did I save a relationship I didn’t even know I had (she was subscribed to the page, but I didn’t bring her there personally), I made a friend and salvaged a potential client or conduit for clients down the road: All because I didn’t dismiss criticism.

And you shouldn’t either. No matter how insane the criticism might seem on the surface, listen to it. Ask questions. And, even if you don’t agree with the viewpoint of the harbinger of this ill-news, at least gain their perspective to assist you in the future when considering things said and done.

Above all, never, never, NEVER ignore criticism or – worse – dismiss it. You’re doing the bringer a disservice, and you’re doing yourself an even more egregious one.

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~ by digitalninjasmedia on December 6, 2011.

 
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