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A friend of mine recently had his car repaired at a local repair shop. He was pleased with the work, but the situation then became a bit awkward. As he was getting ready to leave, the mechanic came over to him and, rather than casually suggesting that he give them a good review, blatantly asked him to give the repair shop an excellent review. In fact, he became very adamant about how much they needed a great review of their business. My friend told them he would write a review and hastily drove away, feeling very uncomfortable, with thoughts about whether or not to find a new mechanic.

Essentially, this scenario totally defeats the whole concept of providing feedback. Giving feedback is something you do at your own discretion, and it should be your unbiased opinion…not something being scripted for you or forced. Otherwise it’s not genuine and totally lacks credibility.

Does feedback really matter?

Anyone who says, I don’t care what people think of me, or my business, is either lying, narcissistic, stubborn or all of the above.

Unless you’re living alone on a deserted island, you need feedback. It tells you how you are doing. And from the anxiety we experienced when receiving our report cards to the tension we feel before getting our job evaluations, apparently we care very much about feedback. In fact, feedback can carry a lot of weight. Consider that for many years, the bad review of just one major theater critic could sink an entire Broadway show sending many actors, among others, to the unemployment lines. Bad reviews have shut down restaurants and negative feedback has put an end to products from the infamous Ford Edsel to 8 track-tapes.  Even today, feedback can affect what is in stores or on websites. Updated versions of Apple’s iPhone keep appearing with new features because of feedback and stores like Trader Joe’s listen to customer feedback to customize inventory. In our business, we know the needs of our customers because of feedback through surveys and conversations.

Taking it Personally

So, how do you respond to feedback?

Positive feedback is validating and motivational. Whether in business or in your personal life, positive feedback lets you know that you are doing something right. It is inspiring and keeps you moving forward with a spring in your step. Such feedback can range from a room full of applause to someone simply saying, “good job.”  Those to little words can make a world of difference to employees and it’s what business owners love to hear from clients. Who doesn’t like being told you did a good job? It makes your day.

And then there’s Negative Feedback

Negative feedback, whether it’s a comment, bad review or poor rating can be hard to swallow.  As humans, our initial instincts are to defend ourselves, sulk, or even walk away from the situation.

The challenge, however, is to make negative feedback work for you. If a customer is unhappy we want to know it. We want the opportunity to (as they say), turn a frown upside down. Negative feedback should be an energizer. The key, when getting negative feedback, is to allow yourself to get frustrated or even upset at first and then take a deep breath. You want to stop and assess the situation. Is the feedback justified? You need to take a closer look. If there is merit to the feedback (or it comes from multiple sources) it’s time to channel your efforts into creating a positive outcome. There are tons of business and personal stories about people who, rather than sulking, used negative feedback to create positive results.

Feedback presents us with the best opportunity to make the improvements we need to grow. So, if the repair man, mentioned earlier, really wanted constructive feedback he should not have asked the customer for a marvelous review, but instead asked what (if anything), he could do better at the repair shop.

Joe Kelemer

Kelemer Brothers

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