How to Respond to Feedback

The first thing to say is you are lucky if you receive feedback, really lucky!  Most people don’t care enough about what you are doing, to offer even negative feedback.  Those offering malicious feedback will think twice because if they are right you are doomed anyway and if wrong, it could be embarrassing!

So, welcome feedback and be gracious about it.  Even if the feedback is negative, chances are it is well-intentioned and if the word gets out you jump down peoples’ throats when unhappy with their feedback, the chances are you’ll soon never receive any.

Express Gratitude

Be grateful for the feedback, whether positive or negative.  Express your gratitude and ask if you can quote it as a testimonial in whole or in part.  Can you attribute it, mentioning their name and business name?  You can ask for a photo or even a video of their comments.  In other words, treat it as you would a testimonial, until you know otherwise.

You can find more information about how to manage testimonials  elsewhere in this blog.  You need a strategy to gather them and they will not always be positive or even well-written but the chances are even the most negative will include something positive.  If someone has taken the trouble to write something negative, the chances are they think you’re worth the comment.

Address the Feedback

Let’s assume the feedback is negative.  Much of what follows can be similar if the feedback is positive.

Read the comments and make sure you understand them.  Make yourself read them carefully.  I often find my first impression is far worse than the feedback really is.  What are they actually saying?  Often there is something constructive and valuable in what they have written.

Ask yourself, whether the comments are valid and if so what action you can take.  Remember, sometimes people offer you a solution.  Approach this with caution.  They may say something like, “I don’t find your website helpful, why don’t you do this instead  …”

It is really important to work out what the problem is first.  Don’t assume their solution is the right one.  Even if it is the right solution, the chances are once you understand the problem, you can improve on it.

Sometimes, you may need a conversation to check out your interpretation of their comments.  If so, you may not need to respond further because you have shown you have taken their intervention seriously.

If you make changes, reply to the person who provided the feedback.  Tell them what you have done in response to it.

If they find you take a positive approach, they are likely to feel able to provide future feedback and may recommend you to others.

Finally, don’t overdo it.  Be professional about your response and once you have replied, drop it and move on.

Going Public

Sometimes you will receive feedback in a public arena.  This is very common on social media.  Let’s leave aside vexatious comments (don’t feed the trolls) and consider sincere comments that invite a response.

The difference here is people may have already seen the comment and so you need to respond in a way that shows publicly you have taken it seriously.

Thank the commenter in public.  Ask questions of clarification if you need to and then deal with the comment.  Be brief, professional and prompt.

Sometimes people have a legitimate concern although it is peripheral to your business.  Simply, apologise and promise to bear their concern in mind in the future.  If you sound sincere, the chances are you will hear no more about it.

Have you any examples of responses to feedback that backfired?  What happened and how did you deal with it?

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About the Author

I've been a community development worker since the early 1980s in Tyneside, Teesside and South Yorkshire. I've also worked nationally for the Methodist Church for eight years supporting community projects through the church's grants programme. These days I am developing an online community development practice combining non-directive consultancy, strategic management, participatory methods and development work online and offline. If you're interested contact me for a free consultation.

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