How a Year of Free Service Taught Me a Lesson in Feedback
Reacting appropriately to negative feedback can be difficult, but it’s worth it. Here’s how you can strive to receive feedback constructively every time.
Recently, I canceled a web service we were using for quarterly goal management in our organization. Upon cancelation, I wrote an email to the company detailing my reasons for pulling the plug and providing some constructive feedback.
Their response surprised me. They reached out to offer me a free year of service in exchange for an hour of my time to discuss my concerns in detail. I was so impressed that I couldn’t say no — though I took a rain check on the free year of service until after my concerns were addressed (they agreed).
This experience reminded me just how powerful feedback can be and how, when received appropriately, these exchanges offer priceless opportunities for companies to improve.
Unfortunately, feedback (especially of the negative variety) doesn’t always come in the calm and reasoned manner I used in the situation above. Rather, the delivery of feedback can range from subtle and indirect to emotionally-laden and downright hostile.
Reacting appropriately to all manners of negative feedback can be extraordinarily difficult, but it’s worth it. Here’s how you can strive to receive feedback constructively every time.
In some instances, the feedback isn’t explicit and your takeaways will be indirectly related. You might simply be part of a situation with a less-than-positive outcome and will need to recognize on your own what to take away from it.
For example, we’ve all had a client express frustration over their technology failing often in the form of an exaggerated statement such as "This system never works."
While they may not say it directly, the implication is clear — you did a poor job with the installation. You know the technology failing is not your fault, so you simply do your best to resolve the issues as they arise, and you make no apologies.
But if you’re receiving this passive feedback appropriately, you realize that there’s a bigger lesson here. This client clearly doesn’t appreciate the general fragility of today’s technology experience. If your goal is to create an excellent client experience, then educating them on that concept is important so that they enter the relationship understanding that your role is to help get them back on track as smoothly as possible, not prevent 100 percent of the issues.
By paying close attention to the passive feedback you’re receiving in this situation, you can better craft your communication strategies moving forward.
Sometimes feedback from our clients can be incredibly harsh and direct. In these situations, it’s always important to separate the manner in which the feedback was delivered from the content of the feedback itself. In the moment this can be incredibly difficult, but you’ll thank yourself later.
For example, a client might be frustrated if a service appointment doesn’t end the way he/she expected. Maybe the service tech discovered a bigger problem, which forced them to leave the site without resolving the original issue. The client comes home expecting everything to be working, and you know what happens next.
The client calls/emails and is absolutely livid. Because you know there is a logical explanation for the situation, your instinctual reaction might be to stand your ground against a client who you believe is acting irrationally.
However, by separating the emotionally-charged delivery of the feedback from the content of the feedback itself, it’s clear to see that, again, there is a bigger lesson here.
Proactive communication (read: a quick phone call, a note left on the kitchen island, or an update through your ticketing system) explaining what the technician found would likely have prevented this client’s frustration.
Only by appropriately receiving this harsh and direct feedback can you pass this valuable lesson onto your team and improve for next time.
While it’s important to take unsolicited feedback, it’s equally important that we take a proactive approach to feedback. We should encourage our clients (and colleagues) to tell us how we’re doing.
A quick email or phone call after resolving a service incident to solicit this feedback goes a long way. The information you will uncover is highly valuable to improving your client’s experience and would likely go unsaid were it not for this extra step.
Your solicitation of this feedback can transform many critical judgements into constructive ones and demonstrates to clients that you genuinely care about how you are doing. Not enough companies take this approach, which means it’s easier to stand out from your competition if you do.
Feedback as a Tool for Improvement
There is immense value in honest feedback, but receiving it and reacting appropriately can be challenging. In certain situations your client’s feedback may be subtle, requiring a critical ear to pick out the actionable items and areas for improvement.
In other cases, the feedback may be harsh or emotionally-charged, requiring you to consciously remove the emotion from your thought process in order to find value in an otherwise difficult situation.
And in many cases the feedback will go unsaid, leaving you totally in the dark about how to improve your operations, unless you take proactive steps to solicit it.
Prizing feedback is something every company can benefit from. At OneVision, we have written out some core values such as “be objective and seek the truth” and “communication solves all problems," which help remind us that feedback from our clients and partners is the single most effective tool to help us improve.
As an industry, the importance of this feedback loop will only grow as we increasingly stake our value proposition on the level of service we can provide.
For more information about service and using it to create RMR, visit www.onevisionresources.com/blog.
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Joseph Kolchinsky is the founder of OneVision Resources and investor of companies in the personal and home technology industry. He is also a frequent speaker on the evolving nature of supporting the connected home and related IoT. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Joseph at [email protected]
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