Q&A :: Dealing With Negative Feedback

The Question:

I’ve been in business on my own for 5 years and I got my first strongly worded negative feedback email.  How do you graciously respond to the negative feedback and deal with the unhappy client in an appropriate manor.
-Andie

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The Answers:

Very high maintenance brides tend to be the ones to write the negative reviews – you usually have a whole list of issues that arose with this person and hopefully you have pictures to back up your product. I have been told that it is important to respond to EVERY review, good or bad, so that it doesn’t look like you respond to only the negative ones. I have had a few negative reviews and it hurts, no doubt about it, especially when you have put your heart and soul into making this day the best it could be within the constraints of requests and budget. Sometimes brides forget that their budget limited what was possible and blame the florist. Take pictures, keep correspondence, and if necessary, give back deposits and walk away from really difficult brides. When the hair rises on my neck, I know this is one from which I should walk away. I have responded simply, with the facts, and sometimes a link to the photos on my web site or Facebook page so that a potential bride can look for herself and decide. Usually the numerous 5 star reviews speak for themselves and make the bad review appear to be someone having a bad day. There are just those people out there that will never be satisfied with anything, so don’t take it personally.
Melody, Fleurish Floral Designs, California

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First, analyze the situation. Then, ask to speak with them on the phone. It’s difficult to dictate tone in an email. If that doesn’t work, ask them to meet you face to face to clarify or rectify the situation. If they weren’t happy with a vase of flowers, offer to replace it. If it’s a wedding they are complaining about, ask them to clearly identify in writing what was wrong or did not meet their expectations. Compare to your work order and contract… And again, ask to meet face to face. I’m convinced a little face time can make a big difference.
Jessica, Blooms ‘n Blossoms, Kentucky

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This one is hard all the way around. It hurts to get those. I suggest responding with a general “thank you for your email I will look into the situation and get back to you” that gives you time to calm down and think about a reply but also lets them know you are going to address the situation.
Buffy, Pink Posey Design, Colorado

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Negative feedback is really hard to take, especially when you are honestly trying to do your very best for everyone! When I get negative feedback, first I reflect on if it’s justified or not. If it is, I do my best to OWN THE MISTAKE- claim it, apologize sincerely for it, do anything possible to rectify it, and use it as a valuable lesson for the future. If you feel the complaint is not justified, sometimes you just have to take it on the chin. In my many jobs in the retail and service industries I’ve realized that no matter how hard you try, you CANNOT make everyone happy every time. The fact that you have only had 1 person leave negative feedback is pretty astonishing, I think! The first time I got really negative feedback I cried and lost sleep over it. The next time I was bummed, but it was easier to take.
Kelsey, Crabapple Floral, North Dakota

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My advice is to first take a moment and acknowledge it hurts. We’ve all been there and it hurts to receive criticism, especially when given in a hurtful manner as this type of email often is. Then you need to step away and look at the points being made. Is it a complaint about something that there was in fact an issue with, such as delivery problems or a mis communication of style or size? These are things that need a prompt apology, an offer to make good in some way and a look at your internal systems to make sure you learn from the experience. If the complaint is that the person simply doesn’t like the very thing that you do, then I feel it really is ok to own up to that. We all have our own style and our own thing we rock, and that isn’t going to fit everyone. If this is the case, you can simply state that, but make sure you do it in a caring and empathetic way. If someone was upset enough to complain to you, sometimes they just want to be heard and acknowledged. Show you’ve heard them by responding to the specific things they talk about, if you were wrong somewhere say so, and figure out what they need to feel better about the exchange. Sometimes this does mean giving money back, or holding a credit, or it could be as simple as saying you are sorry they feel upset. Open dialogue is always the best policy- it will let you sleep at night !
Jessica, Periwinkle Flowers, Ontario, Canada

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For me I see it as constructive. Don’t jump back, take your time and read it a few more times then respond. Always be on the side of the client. (UGH) I know. NEVER come out and say you will refund them, ask them what you can do to make them happy. Most of the time they will meet you half way. Always let them know how sorry you are (even if your not).
Tracy, Park Place Design, Michigan

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I received a report on my wedding wire review that was, I felt a bit negative , but the bride loved the end result…so I bit my tongue and fought back the reply I wanted to give.
I then replied on the page to thank her for her review, congratulated her on her wedding and that I was very happy to be part of the day and pleased that she was beyond pleased with our designs.( Focusing on the end result , not the picking apart of the process, realizing it was just a difference in handling the process and for her letting go of the control was the problem)
Kris of KRISanthemums, Oregon

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Five years and your first negative review?! CONGRATS! If the client is offering real constructive criticism, be gracious and open to it. Thank them for their feedback and the time it took them to write you an email. Thanking people tends to diffuse a tense situation. Let them know you’ve read what they wrote and will be acting on it to improve in the future. If the customer wrote a negative email full of hurtful and untrue criticism, still thank them for their time and insight and move on. You can’t please everyone but there’s no point in making an enemy by getting defensive in your response.
Malori, Hoot and Holler, Arizona

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You can contact them and tell them how sorry you are. You can ask how you can make it up. Explain how some things in the flower business are beyond our control. Let them know that you value them and you put yourself in their situation. Let them talk about themselves. Send them a sympathetic something apologizing. Know that a happy customer is a marketing tool, it can help you or break you. Try to make it up to them so that at least if they talk about the bad experience they continue saying, but they did try to make it up. Or perhaps they will refrain from talking about it at at all and its better not talk than a negative talk.
Suzanne, All Star Orchids & Flowers, Florida

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I had one situation where the client incorrectly held me responsible for the mess the caterers left in their kitchen at their ranch wedding even though we left hours before the catering staff and had cleaned up. My tear down crew even mopped up the floor after the caterers the day after the wedding. He actually reduced my final payment by $200 as a result!

My response was that I could understand his frustration and was very sorry to hear that he was disappointed. I stated that client service and satisfaction was very important to me. I clarified the problem with the caterers and that my crew had cleaned up their mess. I was careful to word it as a communication issue with the event coordinator and not to blame the client in any way.

I think it is important to validate a client’s concerns up front if something went wrong, apologize and explain if there were factors beyond your control. But you want to leave them feeling that they have been heard in case they decide to give a bad review. If something was left out of their order, a refund is in order. However, if someone is very unreasonable or abusive I would keep it short and simple and say that you are very sorry that they were not satisfied.

Most importantly, MOVE ON and don’t dwell on it. Learn from your mistakes, communicate with your crew about avoiding it in the future, but don’t brood on them. As Abe Lincoln once said “You can’t please all of the people all of the time.” We all make mistakes but forgiveness is important. Self forgiveness can be hard but is important!

Madeleine, Fleur de Vie, Texas

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Please share your thoughts with us on this subject in the comments section!!

Do you have a question you’d like to ask for a Q&A session? Email it to me at: info@flirtyfleurs.com

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