Negative feedback about floral arrangements (“too small,” “died too quickly”), delivery (“too late”) or customer service, alas, happens pretty regularly for retail florists — particularly after a holiday, when volume is exceptionally high and includes irregular flower buyers. In the age of online reviews, this feedback can feel especially harsh, because anyone can read it. How can you turn this into a positive?
Respond, but take your time, said customer service expert Amy Glass, executive vice president of BRODY Professional Development and a senior facilitator/executive coach, who has worked with many Fortune 100 companies, including Citi Private Bank and Campbell Soup.
“Take a breath and don’t respond right away,” she advised. “When feedback is negative, we feel vulnerable and when we feel vulnerable, we get defensive, angry and self-conscious. What we tend to do is react and try to fix everything right away. Give yourself some time to digest it. Then acknowledge the customer’s experience and ask questions for clarity.”
Tips on How to Respond Positively
Acknowledging your customer’s perception as their reality can be as simple as saying, “I’m sorry that this experience wasn’t what you were looking for. Let me ask you some questions so I can better understand.”
While no one wants to hear negative feedback, sometimes it’s necessary, said Glass. It’s how your business learns and grows.
It’s important to remember that negative feedback is not a personal attack on you, said Glass, who explained that internalizing negative feedback can adversely influence your response and cause a downward spiral. “It’s tough,” she acknowledged. “You’ve put your blood, sweat and tears into the work you do and when you receive negative feedback, how do you not personalize it?”
Glass suggests reframing your mindset; start looking for the positive – maybe the wedding you did last week where the bride was effusive about your wonderful flowers or consider non-work things you do well in your life.
“Remind yourself of a greater part of your identity,” she said. “Yes, you’re a florist but you might also be a mother, father, community member, a good friend. It’s not your entire identity. Reframing will decrease your vulnerability.”
Look for Patterns, Seek Feedback
However, if you begin to notice patterns in your negative feedback, you may need to reevaluate the way you are working. If one particular bride wasn’t happy, then it may be her, but if the data reports that many people are unhappy, take a closer look at your process and your team.
To that end, Glass suggests seeking feedback after a big event. Ask questions such as “What were the strengths of working with my team?” “What could we do better?” Then, listen and learn.
Breaking it down, here are five tips to turn negative feedback into a positive and powerful learning experience:
- Listen with an open mind.
- Don’t respond right away or try to correct a problem on the spot. Take a breather and acknowledge the person’s perspective as his or her reality.
- Get clarification by asking questions and asking for specific examples. Try not to accept generalizations such as “awful” or “disappointing.” Instead say, “Help me to understand what you mean by ‘disappointing.’ Can you be more specific?”
- Look at the complaint from a different perspective. Consider that the person giving you feedback is just trying to help you. Resist becoming defensive or argumentative when you receive negative comments. Instead accept this feedback gracefully and with a positive attitude.
- Evaluate the feedback and look for patterns. If you notice repeated mistakes, you need to consult with your team and discuss ways in which you can improve.
Looking for more tips on how to manage online reviews? Last month, the Society of American Florists ran a three-part series on Mother’s Day digital strategies, including one session, “Master Online Reviews,” focused entirely on that topic. Check it out and share the free session with your team.
Renee Houston Zemanski is a contributing writer for the Society of American Florists.