Bad reviews: how to bounce back

Ah, the interwebs. Where everyone can post his opinion, and everyone else can weigh in on that opinion.

While this is fine for Facebook between friends, enemies, or frenemies (bullies not allowed!), in business? Oof! A bad or even a lukewarm review can have a lasting negative impact, especially for a small business.

It’s easy to get defensive and go straight to, “The reviewer didn’t really see the whole picture,” or, “The reviewer is just exposing their own sour grapes.”

But why didn’t they have a bigger picture to work with? And why are their grapes sour?

Maybe it’s the emotional equivalent of validating a toddler’s feelings. (I do acknowledge that I’m prone to over-connecting business and parenting.) We’ve got to explore what the reviewer is telling us.

Ineffective management? Incorrect application of performance metrics? Even if we decide that the reviewer’s recommendations for change are not the direction we want to go in, (1) at least we are re-evaluating, and (2) we can think about how to adjust communication about a policy, even if we ultimately decide we don’t want to change the policy.

“In all affairs it’s a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.” Bertrand Russell

In another separate vein, part of my job is to conduct client reviews. I’d say about two-thirds of the reviews have some negative aspect. This is largely selection bias – when things are going very well, clients don’t often take the offer to do a review, but if there is something we could be doing better, they like that we asked and want to participate.

Sometimes, feedback can be difficult to hear. It’s important to not take things personally and go back to the project teams to evaluate the feedback for developing tangible changes to address those gaps, both for the current client as well as other clients in the future.


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