Negative Feedback Management

No one wants to hear negative feedback. Trust me, I’m the last person who wants to get feedback from my clients if they aren’t happy about something. However, it’s much easier to be open to receiving criticism when you know that you are not being attacked personally.

Now it’s a whole different ball game altogether if a client has a track record of saying nasty comments to you, many of which are not founded in reality – and trust me, I’ve been there with those types of clients too.¬†That’s a great opportunity to cut and run and avoid interacting with the client ever again.

Take a step back before responding to negative feedback

However, if you have a client who, on the whole, has been pleased with your work and suddenly provides you with negative feedback, it can be a shock to your system to realize that something you spent a lot of time on was not received well. The first thing I encourage you to do if you receive negative feedback from a client is to take a step back. It can seem like a personal attack when you initially receive an email or another request to update some materials and being emotionally attached to the project yourself is not making things any easier.

In fact, you put yourself at higher risk of responding emotionally and making the client upset with how you have interpreted their comments. Read through the materials and then promise to revisit it a day later; there’s a much better chance you’ll do so with a cool head and a better perspective on why the client feels this way.

Approach the Client feedback with an open mind

When you’ve had a day to think it over, come back and review the materials. What seems fair in their assessment? Are some of the comments truthful? Could things be tightened up, cleaned up, better represented or more clear? Did you fail to follow some of the instructions? Being aware that someone has asked for revisions is simply part of the process when you are in a service-based business; not everyone is going to be thrilled with what you do all the time. It’s a bitter pill to swallow but it’s one you should get used to.

Now I’m not saying that every client is going to throw you horrific feedback that is difficult to interpret. However, many clients will, at some point or another, have some feedback that you can incorporate. When you are of the mindset that they are simply trying to help you and achieve their target goal more effectively, you can respond with an open mind. The first thing I recommend you do when it’s time to respond to the client is to thank them for their feedback and apologize for any honest mistakes you may have made.

If there was a miscommunication in the instructions, you can indicate this and note that perhaps you have updated your instructional materials to reflect their new request. This is a great way to build a bridge with the client and show that you take their concerns seriously. After you have made the necessary recommended changes, send over a new version and ask if it meets their specifications.

There’s a good chance that if you completely interpreted everything they said after having a chance to sleep on it the first night, the client will be thrilled that you took such care to incorporate their feedback. Learning from the feedback experience is important because it better clarifies what your client needs and can also ensure that the materials you turn in in the future are better aligned with what they were looking for to begin with. Feedback doesn’t always have to be such a bad thing – in fact, it can be a great opportunity for you to grow, to apply new lessons and to become even more of an expert in your chosen field.

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