I recently wrote an article about 2 very different customer experiences - one that was outstanding, the other – not so much. I wrote with honesty, authenticity and even before writing had offered to provide personalized feedback to the lesser company – of which they didn’t take up.
Once the article was published, the owner replied quickly and sharply. Their response was personal and hard. For those that read their reply they were shocked that a business owner would attack a customer personally. It was a little surprising. However, I understand – all too well. I get how personal feedback can be when it’s your own business. It feels as though every single thing that people say, write, do or act is about you – “your” name, “your” brand, “your” reputation - so when someone writes something negative, it’s hurtful and if not taken the right way – can feel personal.
I recently read the book “An astronauts guide to living on earth” by Chris Hadfield. It’s a brilliant book and shares so many insights on his experience as an astronaut and as a leader – but more pertinently the key tips to becoming a better person. One of the key sections in his book is about how important negative thinking is. We are told throughout our lives to be positive and only think of the best outcomes – but that means we are not prepared, nor are we open to, the negative ones. If positivity is our only option, then what happens when we face the negative? Negative thinking and the openness to it, isn’t about malice or harsh criticism, – it’s about preparation and betterment.
Reflecting on my career as an entrepreneur, I remember many times when customers had tried to give me negative feedback and I brushed it off with excuses, reasons or theories as to why they were wrong. The few times I did listen, like really listen without emotion– sheer brilliance arrived. The customer was able to help me define the solution, measure the success and then become an even bigger fan. Clients that I have listened to have worked with me for years, become friends and don’t hold back when they think things are going in the wrong direction. We even discuss new business concepts, ideas and test theories together. This is the gold dust of a true customer business relationship.
There will be plenty of people who tell you how amazing you are, how incredible your product is, and how they think you’re the best thing in the world – but sometimes the most important piece of information is the negative bits. You really only become the best by understanding the worst and being open to hearing about it.