Ever had a piece of customer or client feedback that made you shrink a little? Or perhaps it set you fuming at the injustice? Or maybe it made you feel like giving up? We’ve all been there. It’s an inevitable, often unpleasant but always beneficial part of working.
Feedback can be an absolute gift if you know how to look past the ego and embarrassment and see into the content. Now there is a caveat to this article - some customers are just plain rude and demanding and there’s no doubt we’ve all been on the receiving end of feedback that’s just uncalled for. But let's set that stuff aside and concentrate on the feedback you get that has some truth to it (as hard as that may be to swallow!)
Learn how to receive feedback constructively
We’ve all heard the saying the client/customer is always right. While we all know that’s wrong - the saying is essentially reminding us that customer and client service is paramount to business success. Now of course if your customers are being aggressive or discriminatory there is a different set of rules. But if you're receiving feedback that comes out with a twang of rudeness, it’s important to look beyond the attitude to the content.
Remind yourself to be professional and practice active listening by staying present and trying to understand exactly what it is your customer is telling you. As hard as it is not to be defensive wherever possible engage a little with your customer to make sure you understand the problem and how it’s affected them.
This will help you in two ways:
First - active listening is an extremely important skill for leadership and development. It helps you learn faster, build better relationships and become more efficient at your job.
Second - managing uncomfortable conversations constructively comes in very handy as your career progresses. If you are able to practice receiving feedback from clients and customers constructively without taking the content personally you’ll begin developing highly valuable stakeholder management skills.
Reflect on feedback with someone you trust
Once you’ve heard or received a piece of feedback it can be beneficial to reflect on the content with someone whose opinion you trust, not just for their honesty but also for their insight and fairness. It’s important not to gossip or turn it into a rant session. Rather share the feedback, details of the interaction and your reflections and invite a conversation. Whether you receive more insights into your own behaviour, tips about how to manage future conversations or ideas on how to solve the problem for future customers - chatting it out with someone you respect is a great way to process the new information.
If you don’t feel comfortable chatting with someone about the feedback, consider journaling as a way to explore how the interaction made you feel and generate your own insights.
Integrate your learnings
Once you’ve given yourself time and space to reflect on the feedback and your interactions make a plan of how to integrate your learnings. If the experience has highlighted skills or experience you need to develop, talk to your manager (if you have one) and include it in your work plan and/or professional development plan.
If there are personal areas of behaviour or interpersonal skills you’ve identified need work, practice them in your daily interactions. The important thing is to practice self-compassion and remember that although feedback can be hard to hear at first, ultimately it is all a learning experience that can make us better people and professionals.