We all wish for the never ending positive client interactions. But often, the feedback that feels most painful provides a foundation for much needed change. One member of a Board that we facilitate summarized her perspective well when she said,
“I feel like we are really helping to progress something when we can dig into a problem. If the goal is continuous improvement, it is our job to find those areas that may be difficult to hear.”
And this begs the question – how do you react to customer feedback that is hard to hear and may even feel unwanted?
Stop talking, start asking.
It is a simple tip, but one that we all forget when we are under pressure. Take a breath and stop talking. When someone is giving you difficult feedback, you need to stop talking and start listening. Focus on understanding what they are saying, why they are saying it and the role you / your company can plan in solving the problem. Most customers are giving you the input because they want to help.
Engage your customers in the solution.
Nothing shows focus in solving a problem more than engaging actively with a customer to build a solution. Define a working group with your clients that will review your progress in solving the challenge. This also will help them to understand the complexity of the challenge and feel more invested in the solution.
“We can’t solve this one” is a better response than no response.
Sometimes the answer to a problem is appropriately, “we heard you and we are unable to solve for this because ….” Clients don’t love to hear this as an answer, but they understand that you are a business and they can accommodate these types of responses as long as you explain why. Ignoring or avoiding the problem will only add fuel to the challenge.
We’ve all had the experience where something bad turned worse, and we swear off of the company for the rest of our lives. But, many of us have also had the experience where our grievance was taken seriously, and we became the biggest advocates. Before you have fully defined the solution, ask your client advisors if they will serve as advocates. Often, if the journey to solution is collaborative you will find you’ve developed some wonderful case studies in the process.
Customer advisory groups are ripe environments for momentum to build around the solution. Try engaging your customers as active problem solvers and there is no end to the success you may find together.