Peripheral Visions

a blog from SuppliesGuys™ -- Good Guys. Great Buys.

Responding To Customer Criticism

How does your company react when it receives harsh criticism from a customer or client? Do your business leaders experience Kübler-Ross’ 5 stages of grief or do they proactively seek for a fast resolution to the criticism. Responding to negativity can be very difficult for some business leaders, however learning how (and how quickly) to respond separates the strong from the weak, the best from the rest.

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross identified the process for how people tend to deal with unpleasant events such as a death or catastrophic loss, which ultimately became known as the 5 stages of grief. Denial is the first step, followed by anger, bargaining, depression, ending with the acceptance. While this process might be acceptable for someone grieving for the loss of a loved one, it isn’t as acceptable for a company under scrutiny by the media, investors or worst, its customers. Successful companies accept criticism sooner and find solutions faster than companies who are steadfast in their ways, or are slow to respond. This is obviously counter-intuitive by nature and is a trait that isn’t easily obtained. However, business leaders who are able to avoid sitting in the anger or denial stage tend to heal quicker.

Case in point Kevin Rose, founder of Digg.com a social news sharing community. Digg.com recently released a new version of their site which drew heavy criticism from its users. In the new release there were several significant functional changes on top of overall design modifications. Essentially the new version was supposed to make it easier to find the news stories that were most relevant to each user by analyzing their browsing history and by having users identify their interests. The problem was that the current users were more than upset with the changes, and they let the world know. How did Rose respond?

He addressed their concerns and criticism on his podcast Diggnation released earlier today.  He stated his case, explained why they made the changes they did and said what he was going to do to address their concerns. Internally Rose may have internalized the 5 stages of grief (we’ll never really know) however his actions showed that he accepted their criticism and was ready to find a solution. Other sites interpreted his response as “take it or leave it” but I thought Rose did what he needed to do (now we sit and wait to see if Digg makes the changes that Rose promised).

I think its important to listen to your customers and strive to make them happy. Bend over backwards if need be. Listen to their feedback and criticism, take the bad with the good. At the end of the day the customers are in fact your business. There are hundreds of alternatives in this environment, the days of treating your customers like just another order number are over.

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