Sunday, September 10, 2017

I got a bad review. Now I want to quit. What to do?

Now reality has overtaken Dave Eggers' The Circle and everything possible and impossible is being reviewed, the people at the receiving end are having a hard time. Reviews, feedback and evaluations can make or break your day, your business, your job, your income, your way of living.

People can get rather upset by one bad review, even if it is outweighed by a hundred good ones. Why is that? Not just because reviews matter. Maybe more so because we take reviews too personally?

It's not personal

Reviews can feel very personal, so the first thing to realize is: they are not. They are not about you as a person, but at best about the service you provide. A review says as much about the reviewer as it says about the subject of the review. Maybe the reviewer has a grudge against the company you work for. Or against the website that acted as the broker. Or against their spouse. Or their car didn't start. Or they are just being silly.

Trust me, I write reviews, and sometimes I do so mindfully, other times I just jot something down. If it is the tenth request for a review that day, I may not realize that on the other end there is a real live person to whom this matters much more than it matters to me. There are a million reasons to give a bad review, and some of them are just unfair and out of your control. A system in which so much depends on reviews by customers/clients is unfair indeed.
All the more reason not to take it personally. And yes, it can harm your business. But so can many other things: the weather if you have an outdoor business. The exchange rate if you have international clients. The budget if you work for the government. The mysterious algorithms that put you higher or lower on a website listing.

How do I overcome the 'negative bias'?

Yes, all these things matter, but we do not get upset by all of them. Maybe you can mitigate the upsetting a little and ask yourself: Why do I let it get to me? Why do I identify as a person with this one review? Why can I not be happy with the one hundred positive reviews? How do I overcome the 'negative bias'?

Remember: it is simply not realistic to expect to get good reviews only. You can please some people some of the time. You can please most of the people most of the time. But you cannot please all of the people all of the time. If the service you provide was alright for everybody, it would be excellent for nobody. If you provide something special, there must be some people out there that do not particularly like it. If you provide a cozy homestay, you can not please the person that wanted a five star hotel. If you run an excellent five star hotel, you cannot please the person that wanted to meet other travelers.

Take positive action

That brings us to one thing that you can do something about: expectation management. Be sure that your customers know, or at least could have known, what to expect. If you run a cozy cafĂ©, make sure customers don’t expect white table linen.

And then there is the possibility that there is a grain of truth in that bad review. Once you are over the initial shock of the bad review, consider whether - however excellent the service you provide -  there may be a reason the customer didn't quite experience it that way. Was something not up to standard? Did the customer overlook something? The old saying goes 'a complaint is free advice'.

Don't be tempted to get into long discussions on public forums. Acknowledge they had a bad experience. Correct if they got a fact wrong. Say how you saw it. Say what you'll do about it (if anything).

Sometimes you get a "score" through a channel you don't control. Do not always trust the system behing making up the score. You'd be surprised to know how many flaws creep into the maths and stats that are between the client's remarks and that one-digit-score you get to see. Finding all that out is usually not worth the trouble, but if the score is totally at odds with your own feeling, you may do just that.

To conclude: 

Yes, reviews matter. No, reviews are not about you as a person. The occasional bad review is inevitable. Maybe you can learn something from it. If not, shrug your shoulders and carry on.

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