Handling Criticism in Business

I like criticism. It makes you strong”.LeBron James

We have discussed this before and anyone running a business knows that doing so is no cakewalk. In fact, running a business is probably one of the hardest things and can often be hugely unrewarding and frustrating given the many challenges, including criticism. However, it is vital to know how to handle criticism in business because as the quote above says – it will make you stronger and serve as stepping stones to success if handled well. Very often people running the business are used as ‘punching bags’ or made scapegoats by customers seeking to vent their frustration. The slightest instant could be a trigger for someone to post a nasty comment on a social media site or even openly criticize your business and its people.

These unpleasant instances can be unnerving but they must be seen as a given if you wish to successfully handle criticism in business. Such nastiness is part of everyday life too! The unfortunate part of criticism in business is that hits you when you least expect it – comes at you even when you believe that you have done everything possible to keep your customers and other partners happy. The criticism in business that appears unrelated to anything is probably the toughest to handle and accept. However, responding in the same way or tone could only lead to a more serious and real problem. It is crucial to handle negativity and criticism in business with a cool and composed mind-set and possibly employ the service of a professional in case the criticism has taken on a more serious (read malicious) tone.

Ups and downs are part of business – the better you get and the more success your company and business seems to be having, it is to be expected that detractors and others will pick on you, attack you and criticize you for anything and everything. Handling criticism in business is probably easier said than done – despite the hard work, persistence and toil – it’s hard to be told that you are doing it wrong or that what you do is just not good enough. Handling criticism in business means using these nasty comments to gain a competitive advantage and quickly remove all the flaws your detractors have drawn your attention to. Isn’t that great – valuable feedback without any extra effort or cost!

So how can criticism in business, be used to gain leverage and also give that extra edge that is so vital for any business? The fact is that if someone is taking time out even to criticize what you are doing, means that you are doing something worth being noticed. These ‘critics’ are actually providing you with feedback and communicating vital information to you which you could have probably missed out on. If the criticism is from a customer or prospective one, take time to think about what is said. They could be giving you an opportunity to improve your processes, services, relationships and also get first-hand information of what the target customers and existing customers want and expect.

One of the major weaknesses of companies is in believing that they are doing everything right. The fact is that even though you may perceive all that you do as suitable, the customer or other ‘onlookers’ may not think so. Your product, for example, is probably not meeting the requirements of the customers in the way that was anticipated and first created. So when the criticism does happened, it is best to listen to them as views and opinions and measure your product in line with these views. Handling criticism in business is about turning the negative feedback to an asset and harnessing the discomfort of the harsh words to get better at what you do and sell. Criticism is sometimes the much needed ‘shove’ – that pushes your business towards improvement and moving away from ways that could be still followed because they ‘have worked’ in the past. Handling criticism in business is also about taking a good hard look at your processes and strategies. The fact is since you are always so ‘close’ and deeply rooted in what you do, it does blur the vision at times. Even if the words criticism seems harsh and unjust, wise and smart businesses always analyse it to see how improvements can be made and any business that is focused on results would need to consistently make changes and improvements.

Consider yourself lucky that a customer chose your business to give feedback even if as criticism. The customer is directly telling you – letting you in on what they want – this is the best kind of feedback and puts you on the fast path of success. This is an advantage that any business would be lucky to have. When a customer tells you exactly what they want, you have the ‘ammunition’ to defeat your competition, if you use the information correctly.

The manner in which one handles criticism in business or in any other area of life, makes all the difference. It is easy to get sucked into heated arguments and controversies but these never prove advantageous. Instead of an argument, use the opportunity to discuss what best can be done to do away with a problem. This way you protect your reputation and also save time on unnecessary heated exchanges that would not lead to any resolution. It is vital for your business, that you can prove to the person criticizing that you want to do a good job and that you are open to feedback and opinions.

We have discussed previously that customers know that they are important to a business and are entitled to have an opinion and provide feedback. The fact is the comments may not always come out right and could take the form of criticism. The customer will not and does not need to agree with you and will at times be harsh. However, even if the criticism seems unfair it would be imprudent to react immediately and harshly. You could lose out on the customer’s business and also gain an ‘enemy’ who could cause some serious damage to your business and reputation. One of the most crucial mistakes in handling criticism in business is believing that the ‘critic’ is launching a personal attack or has some personal grudge that he or she is trying to settle. Even if the criticism is personal, it is best to thank the person for their time and express your desire to leave the relationship – this is a lot better than getting into an argument which could have other serious repercussions.

We have in an earlier exposition, discussed how it is always better to respond than react.  While handling criticism in business too this holds true. When criticism is being hurled at you, it is best to step away from it. Take some time even before responding else the negative emotions that you feel for being criticized could get the better of you. Make criticism work for your business – it is another viewpoint that could help your business to get better and become even more competent in a volatile and highly cut-throat environment.

While handling criticism in business it must be remembered that customers usually do not take time to provide feedback unless coaxed. However, if they are giving feedback, even as criticism it must be understood that your business has probably given them reason – something very wrong must have happened. View the issue from the side of the customer – extend an apology and then go about sincerely understanding what is that went wrong and how it can be rectified soon and also preventive measures to ensure that it does not reoccur.

Criticism in business is inevitable – there would be times when the business is ‘rocking’ and doing really well. In the next instance, something happens that turns this happiness on its head and you find your business being subject to some serious negative feedback enough to shake the confidence of even the most successful company.  When you accept that criticism cannot be avoided, you would stop seeing it as a threat and instead use it for the development and growth of your company.

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