No matter how diligent a person is, they will, at some point, receive negative feedback in their career. Whether it’s an unsatisfied customer, an upset manager or a tense situation with a colleague, you can’t make everyone happy 100% of the time.
But negative comments don’t mean you’ve failed. In fact, you can use them as a learning tool and an opportunity to build a positive outcome with the other party.
To help you do this, we asked members of Young Entrepreneur Council their strategies for responding to negative feedback the right way. Their best responses are below.
1. Determine The Internal Points Of Failure
List the key criticisms, determine the internal points of failure and implement a corrective solution. While some businesses might jump to understand motives first, that doesn't help solve the problem at hand. Instead, follow the three steps listed above in order to determine more permanent fixes that are likely to turn that negative feedback around. Becoming solution-oriented, rather than defensive, about the customer or team criticism helps companies grow. This also allows them to foster a more open environment and a more frequent feedback loop. – Firas Kittaneh, Zoma Mattress
2. Focus On Looking Forward
Always keep the conversation forward-focused. It’s easy to head into a downward spiral of past events that created this negative feedback. Instead, acknowledge the problem and start working on implementing solutions and ideas to repair the issue. This turns the feedback quickly into a positive conversation centered around creating actions and resolution. All parties will more quickly feel a sense of relief once a solution is set in place. – Matthew Podolsky, Florida Law Advisers, P.A.
3. Reflect On Your Actions And Find The Root Cause
Take the feedback as an opportunity to reflect on your actions. Don't let your emotions stand in the way of truly examining yourself and finding the reasons why the negative feedback was given. If you feel that you were at fault, apologize and see how you can change things so that it doesn't happen again. If after examining your actions you feel that you were not at fault, start an open conversation with the other person and truly seek to understand why the feedback was given. Always acknowledge the other person's feelings of disappointment in you, and don't just brush it off thinking that you are right. If you are sincere about understanding where you were wrong and your desire to change it, other people will feel it and your chances of resolving the situation are much higher. – Omer Reiner, FL Cash Home Buyers, LLC
4. Don't Take It Personally
Customer reviews are invaluable resources to any business and reviews play an important role in decision-making—but don’t take the negative reviews personally. Instead, apologize for any inconvenience by responding to their review immediately. Once you are done responding and resolving any discrepancies, start collecting more reviews from customers. Keep in mind that sometimes despite your best efforts some customers won’t be happy, so expect a few grumpy customers. Finally, don’t make the mistake of screening your bad reviews. When people see your negative reviews and your efforts to resolve the issue, it shows that you actually care for your customers’ problems. – Vikas Agrawal, Infobrandz
5. Ask The Other Party How They Think You Can Do Better
Recognize and keep in mind that no person, business or product is perfect. Recognize that we will make mistakes. So, learn to look at negative feedback as something to learn from. Let's be honest, there is always something to improve and sometimes we just don't know “what.” When we have the feedback, the customer, manager, etc. telling us right up front, it saves us the time to figure it out. Go beyond that and ask them their opinion on how they think we can do it better or what they expect. It will save us even more time to try to figure out “how.” This approach helps us to be realistic and to develop a positive view of negative feedback. It helps us to improve through a positive stimulus. Positive stimuli move us to action, while negative ones usually don't. – Riccardo Conte, Virtus Flow
6. Offer To Make It Right
Negative feedback is an opportunity to show customers both old and new how you handle business under pressure. If you crumble or turn defensive, then fewer people will want to invest in your brand. But by responding to negative feedback and reviews to offer help, you're showing a genuine need to solve the problem. Customers aren't looking for perfect businesses because they don't exist. Rather, they want businesses that are reliable and care about their customers as more than just numbers. – Stephanie Wells, Formidable Forms
7. Try To Learn More About The Problem
Negative feedback can be harsh to deal with. But sometimes it can give you valuable insight into the changes you need to make. You might be tempted to get defensive, but that can do more damage than you think. This is especially true if the commenting happens on social media where everyone can see your message. A good way to deal with such negative comments is to talk to your customers and find out more about the problem they are facing. Put yourself in the customer's shoes and determine if the criticism is fair. If it is, acknowledge the perspective and try to uncover the root of the problem. Your next job is to fix the problem at the earliest. But if the criticism doesn’t feel fair, make sure to politely explain why you beg to differ and how the strategy can benefit them. – Thomas Griffin, OptinMonster
8. Keep It Private
The best way to respond to something that is publicly online is to always take it into a private communication channel. This is important for several reasons. First, it shows other viewers that you're taking care of the issue and you're responsive. Secondly, it's more personal for the customer and they can enjoy the privacy of dealing with the situation correctly. Third, it can help prevent the issue from spiraling out of control, which will make your brand look very bad. Nobody looks good if it erupts into a huge back-and-forth online battle, and with some customers, you never know what might trigger them emotionally, causing them to post even more damaging comments in that same online thread. – Andy Karuza, LitPic
9. Pause, Then Process
Pause, breathe in and out, then process whatever that person just said about you. Ask yourself, “Is it a constant problem I've been told about or accused of for a long time?” If yes, then change it. You may also ask yourself if the comment is something you should be accountable for. Then, think if there are things you could've done on your end to make things better. Finally, think of whether the comment is subjective. If it is, apologize only for what you can control and for the frustration the person is feeling toward you or the brand. For self-respect purposes, only apologize for the things you are responsible for, not for everything beyond your control—because if you do, you won't see criticisms as helpful anymore. – Daisy Jing, Banish