Mike McMullen is the CEO of prominences and the author of Build. Rent. To sell. To repeat!
It doesn’t matter what industry you work in, you’re always dealing with other people. Sometimes customer relationships are smooth as butter, but sometimes it feels like everyone is a critic.
If your company has been criticized, you are not alone. Creative and enterprising types have always had to deal with this. Russian writer Checkov wisely said it when he likened critics to buzzing horseflies that “impede the horses in plowing the ground.” While Checkov talked about art critics, entrepreneurs and industry leaders will probably find this all too familiar.
Let’s be honest; critics are annoying. It can often feel like they want to get you. You work hard to make something out of nothing and then those annoying people come along whose whole purpose seems to be to tear you down, find every flaw in your plan and point out why your hard work just isn’t working.
But as annoying as it can be, criticism isn’t bad for you. In fact it is the opposite. Good faith criticism is the forge of success, and even bad faith criticism can thicken your skin. Here are four quick tips for dealing with even the most incessant critic:
1. Take complaints seriously.
In business terms, you cannot afford to ignore formal complaints. The costs can be high for your digital presence.
Twenty years ago, building a digital presence was considered optional for all but the biggest players in the industry. Now, in a world where more and more consumers are getting their information online, building and maintaining your company’s brand is critical to success.
This means that you must take complaints seriously. An unaddressed concern can do a lot more to your reputation than 10 compliments. So when salespeople tell you they’ve had trouble communicating with your suppliers or a tenant complains about poor landscaping, start by giving the benefit of the doubt. If possible, get in touch personally and promise to try and win back their business.
Success in business depends on good faith agreements with people who help other people find what they need. If you’re not willing to provide that kind of customer satisfaction, you probably shouldn’t be in the industry.
2. Respond quickly.
The key to managing a crisis is hitting while the iron is hot. It doesn’t matter that you solved a relevant problem if your efforts are a year late.
I suggest hiring someone to handle any complaints you receive. Depending on the size of your business, responding to negative reviews, dealing with feedback, and communicating with dissatisfied customers may not be anyone’s job, but responsibility for the job of reputation management should be clear and understood. The enemy of a quick response is confusion about who is supposed to respond.
For best results, prepare for critics before they arrive and have a secure system.
3. Deliver solutions, not excuses.
Sometimes criticism is mindless fluff. We’ve all seen the litany of online videos where someone loses their cool in line at the coffee shop and tries to blackmail their barista by recording them on their phone. Simply put, sometimes people are cruel and won’t be satisfied with anything.
But even, and above all, when dealing with irrational criticism, you have to rise above the rhetoric. Nothing makes a business less professional than being hateful to their Yelp reviews.
Look for solutions instead. Ask yourself, “Is there any truth to what this person is saying?” “What can I do with the information they give me?” “Do I need to fix something here?”
If you examine it and find that they are wildly wrong, don’t rub it in. Practice the art of subtle brushing. Irrational critics are like first-graders. If you deny them attention, they will probably stop throwing gum everywhere.
4. Don’t take it personally.
A friend of mine, a seasoned real estate expert, once gave me this tip: “If you’re not getting sued or suing someone, you’re not doing enough business.”
It was clear he was exaggerating. But there was something convincing about his simple idiom that has stayed with me over the years. I could rewrite his sage wisdom for the digital age: “If a furious slanderer isn’t trying to close your shop with a poorly filmed mobile tirade, you’re not doing enough business.”
The thing to remember is that you shouldn’t take criticism personally. It is there to help you improve or it is there to remind you that perfection is the enemy of progress.
If you get discouraged, try what the writer Flannery O’Connor did: collect your bad reviews in a box. Not only are they a sign that you’re producing consistent work, but they can also mean that you’re making waves in your industry.
Janice has been with businesskinda for 5 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider businesskinda team, Janice seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.