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Customer Critics – your best business friend!

Receiving criticism can be hard. The pang of guilt and failure triggered when someone criticises you, can cause even the most confident person to feel like crawling into a little ball and hiding under their doona.

Businesses however, don’t have the luxury of being offended or defensive when customers are giving feedback.

The customer or client who feels brave enough to complain or point out areas where your business has a weakness is a customer you need to embrace.

More than this, you need to be brave enough as a business to actively seek feedback from customers and clients. Now, I'm not talking about the warm and fuzzy stuff that affirms for you how great your business is but look for the comments that may offend you, anger you or confuse you.

Why? Because these clients can show you what you can’t (or don’t want to) see for yourself.

Often when you are inside the organisation it can be hard to see the simple improvements that will make the most positive impact on your business growth.

This may seem like a no-brainer but it can be common, particularly with smaller businesses, to shy away from genuinely wanting feedback from customers.

When your business has been built through your own blood, sweat and tears it can be difficult to delineate between someone criticising you (cue doona time) and someone giving you valuable business feedback.

The real trick is learning not to take the criticism personally.

A few years back I went for a weekend away at a popular cabin retreat and was so happy with the experience, when the feedback request email came through, I uncharacteristically decided to respond.

My feedback was extremely positive with only two relatively minor suggestions for improvement – providing tea and coffee making facilities in the room and upgrading the towels as they were threadbare to the point of having holes in them.

Even though I had scored the business a 9 out of 10 on the feedback form, I received an email tirade back from the manager that was nothing short of unbelievable. He chastised me for suggesting tea and coffee making facilities and said ‘guests should have the sense to bring their own’. My comment regarding the towels unleashed something so ridiculous I won’t even bother sharing it.

Talk about a PR nightmare! This post-trip experience ensured not only would I not go back there, but this was now the story I shared when people asked how the trip was.

This is a classic example of a business owner who was unable or unwilling to separate his own feelings from the customer feedback process. Sure he knew how to ask for feedback but he really wasn’t brave enough to accept it gracefully.

It pays to remember while you may not want to take on the suggestions of a customer and you may not agree with their opinion, always be grateful they shared their negative feelings about your business with you and not their friends. After all their friends might be just the customers you are trying to attract.