One of the “aha moments” I've had in the past few weeks is that many solo professionals (or entrepreneurs) contract and defend after receiving any question or suggestion about how they do their work. Instead of making the choice to relax, take a breath, and look at what was commented on, they waste their time (and their customer's time, too!) in defending what they did. It's such a waste of their time and energy, and such a lost opportunity for growing the best mindset for their own life and their business. And it's a lost business opportunity, too.
If you get a comment or complaint, and then you choose to defend your actions, you are standing in a place of refusing to consider change. That reaction is always, 100% of the time, fear based. You don't build a great life or a great business based on fear. And your customer, seeing that you defend instead of look with curiousity and openness about the comment, will simply walk away.
Here are three ways to actually INCREASE your business when you get a comment or flat-out criticism of your work.
- Don't react with “that's the way we have always done it.” No one cares about how you've always done it, they care that what you did didn't completely do the job they wanted done. In the moment that the client (or customer) says something you did for her didn't quite work, prick your ears up like a dog on point. You have someone offering you FREE comments on your own work procedures that, with a little bit of thought, can more than likely improve what you do and increase your customer satisfaction. Try saying, “Oh, I appreciate your comment about that. Can you tell me more?” And listen up! You'll probably keep that customer, and she'll be so shocked at your positive reaction to her comment that she'll tell two others who will do business with you, too.
- Don't react with a long-winded explanation (or even worse, e-mail) about WHY you did what you did and how long everything you did took. Your customer doesn't want to listen to your defense of what you did. She wants you to get that she doesn't completely perceive the value of what she got for the money she invested. There are only two answers to this concern. One is that you actually did charge too much money for her to ever feel she got a good result for what she spent. The second is that you didn't communicate effectively the full monty (so to speak) of what you actually were going to do, and a part of it is not something your customer values. Your goal is to have your customers saying “that was worth every single penny” not “well, I got the job done but it cost twice what I thought it ought to cost.” Once someone thinks that about your work, making them listen to or read a long explanation about why you did what you did will NOT solve the problem. You'll lose the customer and the word of mouth referrals.
- Don't react to a critical comment by building even more policies and operating procedures to further justify the way in which you work. The one big advantage that entrepreneurs and solo professionals have over the big guys is that we are nimble. We can make or break our own rules right in the moment, and sometimes we should do just that. If you try to build a policy or procedure to handle every stinking little thing that ever gets commented on you will soon be spending most of your waking hours either writing the rules, defending the rules, expanding the rules, or explaining the rules. None of this time builds your business.
Once a few years ago I worked with a massage therapist who had a rule that her clients had to show up a full 15 minutes before their massage time. This was a rule she implemented in a foolish attempt to make sure her clients were never late and never impacted her schedule. Notice that I used the word “foolish” just now? The rule came into being because one weekly client always showed up ON TIME but then spent 10 minutes of her hour-long massage hitting the restroom, getting a drink of water, and precisely folding her clothes before hopping on the massage table. In reaction to this ONE client, the foolish “15 minute rule” was implemented on EVERY client. Don't make a new rule, instead face the problem with the client head on and deal with it only where it makes sense to deal with it. See, not wanting to talk to the offending client was fear. The new “rule” went into effect so that this massage therapist could avoid facing her fear of talking straight out to this client. She could mutely point to “the rule.” Except, as I'm sure you have figured out, it didn't work. The offender still messed around when she got there and everyone else complained about the new rule and left. Enough said!
When entrepreneurs defend against comments or criticisms they run the risk of leaving thousands of dollars on the table. This makes me sad. Take your customer comments as little gems, go off and sit with them, and evaluate your mindset and your work. Thank your stars that someone cares enough to comment instead of just silently walking away from you and your business. That's a sure path to success.