Your Willingness to Accept Feedback Will Affect All Areas Of Your Business

Your Willingness to Accept Feedback Will Affect All Areas Of Your Business

Many people make the mistake of assuming that feedback automatically equates to complaining. After all, people tend to not speak up about issues unless the topic reaches a boiling point, right? In reality, feedback doesn’t have to be like this at all. When given properly, feedback is constructive and can help to both reinforce what you’re doing right and pinpoint what you may be doing wrong.

No one is immune from the concept of feedback because no one is perfect. When you learn to accept feedback (regardless of where it is coming from or how positive or negative it may be) it will have a dramatic effect on all areas of your business. 

Accepting Feedback Helps Employees Feel Engaged

A willingness to accept feedback has a direct relationship with something all business leaders should be concerned about: employee engagement. Feedback goes beyond open and honest communication and enters into a realm where employees are free to speak their minds when they feel it is necessary to do so.

If employees don’t feel like they can come to you with issues they see as essential, it can have a negative effect on your entire business. According to one study conducted by Execu-Search, 42 percent of all employees feel like company leadership does NOT contribute to a positive company culture. This goes a long way towards explaining why, according to a Gallup study, 51 percent of the U.S. workforce is not engaged.

The most alarming statistic of all is that these types of disengaged employees cost businesses between $450 billion and $550 billion annually. As a leader, this is the type of situation that you’re creating for yourself by being unwilling to accept feedback from those around you. Even if you don’t agree with something that an employee has to say, just the fact that you’re willing to listen to them goes a long way towards keeping morale (and company culture) as strong as it can be. 

Feedback Acknowledges the Importance of Continued Learning

Feedback is also critical to the modern business for the simple reason that it sets the tone for everything that comes next. It’s less about your willingness to listen and more about showing that you’re always looking for ways to improve, to do better, to make stronger decisions, and to increase your performance. 

Luckily, it isn’t hard to accept feedback at all, and you get can plenty of practice because it’s around us all the time. Every time you’re talking to an employee, or a customer, or a vendor, you’re getting feedback. Going out of your way to hear it can help make employees feel more valued, which in turn motivates them to work harder. It can also make your customers feel more valued, which strengthens your long-term relationships. 

This type of actionable information is crucial for you to make stronger, more informed decisions in your position moving forward. Going out of your way to get constant, honest, and (yes, sometimes) raw feedback helps make sure that your actions are aligned with the goals of your business. 

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Learning to Listen: The Hard Way

Learning to Listen: The Hard Way

In the 70s, Italian aid worker Ernesto Serelli learned to listen to clients the hard way. His amusing tale of how he “helped” a village in Africa grow tomatoes, only to see the harvest consumed in a single night by the local hippos, is a powerful and popular TED talk. While you won’t want to miss this dynamic speaker, some key takeaways are outlined below:

Hippos and Tomatoes 

Italian aid worker Ernesto Serelli tells the tale of one of his first experiences working in famine-plagued Africa in the 1970s. Bustling with good intentions and plenty of energy, he and his team arrived in the village they were to help and promptly began planting familiar varieties of vegetables in the fertile soil.

The local residents watched the process and despite efforts to engage and teach, did not take the aid workers agriculture lessons seriously or commit to growing. As the plants blossomed and bore amazing fruit, the workers celebrated the harvest and looked forward to showing the native people how much agriculture could do for them.

The night before the harvest, a herd of hippos swept ashore and ate every plant that had been so lovingly cultivated. The locals then revealed to the aid team that hippos had always eaten the crops planted in the verdant, riverside soil. When asked why they had not given the aid team this information weeks before, the answer was “No one asked us.”

By rushing ahead and putting a plan in motion that they thought would solve the villager’s problem instead of asking questions and discovering what had been tried in the past, the well-meaning aid workers totally missed the point. They also wasted weeks of time and plenty of resources that could have been dedicated elsewhere.

The Power of Listening

You may not be helping a hungry village in Africa, but the lesson of asking your prospect or clients the right questions to truly meet their needs applies to every interaction you have.  Learning to listen is an important component for anyone in business. Fail to ask the right questions, and you could face a disaster.

Take the time to remember the hippos and tomatoes next time you speak with a new client about their needs, and make sure you take the time to ask the right questions before you charge ahead.

This TED Talk is an enduring favorite and an excellent reminder of why we need to stop and listen to what our clients are saying and why we need to take the time to understand what they’ve tried and what they need. 

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Online Reviews: How to Learn from the Good and the Bad

Online Reviews: How to Learn from the Good and the Bad

Constructive criticism is one of the most powerful tools available to businesses of all types today. After all, who better to tell you how you’re really doing than the people you’re supposed to be pleasing in the first place? Thanks to the Internet and the scores of online review sites that have cropped up over the years, you don’t have to look very far anymore for someone’s honest opinion of a product or service, especially now that everyone has an equal voice in the proceedings.

However, the key word in the phase “constructive criticism” is “constructive.” Online review sites tend to be a collection of overwhelmingly negative reactions, regardless of whether or not they have any basis in fact. As a result, many people tend to immediately discredit them or wash their hands of online reviews altogether. In reality, there’s a huge amount you can learn from both the good and the bad online reviews — provided you know how to wade through the noise and find it.

Overwhelmingly Positive Reviews: Not as Overwhelmingly Helpful As You Might Think

Overwhelmingly positive reviews can be a great boost to your confidence as a business professional. They can be a great indicator that you’re on the right track and that you’re meeting the expectations you set for yourself when you started a business in the first place.

Unfortunately, these overwhelmingly positive reviews that give your business 11 out of 10 stars aren’t telling you anything you can actually use to make your organization better. Make no mistake: you are never as perfect as you think you are. Every business, regardless of industry, always has room for improvement. While a dramatically positive review may be a nice pat on the back, it isn’t something you should necessarily spend too much time thinking about.

Negative Reviews: Finding the Needle in the Haystack

When people are angry, their emotions tend to take over. This is evidenced in just about every one-star review you’ve ever read for a product or service online. They’re usually lengthy diatribes about how “everything was awful” and tend to even mention things that a business can’t necessarily control, like the way the post office handled a delivery.

It can be easy to quickly dismiss these types of reviews, but you really shouldn’t for a simple reason. At the core of the one-star review is still a dissatisfied customer you can learn from to make your business better in the future. Try to go through a negative review and delete all sentences that are pure emotion. A sentence that says “this is the worst company ever” has nothing valuable to tell you. Once emotion is gone, you’ll be left with a much clearer indication of what really happened.

The Math Equation of Constructive Online Criticism

If you want to quickly get to the heart of all reviews and paint the clearest possible image of how you’re doing, you need to approach online criticism like something of a math equation.

Consider three reviews: one overwhelmingly positive, one neutral, and one negative. Compare all three, and look for the common elements. Does the overwhelmingly positive review have something in common with the neutral review, like a positive employee encounter? If it does, you can rest assured the referenced employee is truly doing a great job.

Likewise, does the negative review share something in common with the neutral review? Would the neutral review have been more positive were it not for X, which is also present in that one-star comment by a disgruntled customer? If so, then you’re looking at a genuine point of contention that should be fixed as soon as possible.

Online reviews are inherently valuable thanks to the equal voice they give everyone, from the people who love your business to the people who don’t and everyone in between. People have an instinct to wash their hands of online reviews due to their anonymous nature and the grand emotions that are on display, but this is a mistake. So long as you know exactly what you’re looking for and how to find the grain of truth hidden in that emotion, you come away with valuable, actionable information you can use to make your company better moving forward.

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Take the Time to Get Positive Customer Reviews

Take the Time to Get Positive Customer Reviews

If you’re like most business owners, you love seeing positive reviews come through your virtual door, but you don’t really go out looking for them. After all, how many customers actually respond to solicitations for reviews? Is it really worth the effort?

It actually is.

Consumers are depending more frequently than ever on reviews from people they know and from sources they trust. They don’t put much faith in the write-ups companies develop themselves. They assume the organization will present itself in the best possible light. Customer reviews, however, are seen as more credible.

With that in mind, here are three ways you can use customer reviews to support your business.

Improve customer trust on your website

Place customer reviews and case studies on your product/service pages, at the bottom of your home page, and anywhere else prospects might look on your website. Positive feedback from real, live customers will encourage visitors to take what you have to say seriously and let them know that you already have numerous satisfied customers.

Harness the bandwagon effect

The bandwagon effect describes the natural human desire to try things we see others using. It explains why we instantly want the newest and latest gadget we see our friends or coworkers using. Customer reviews are a fantastic way to tap into this phenomenon.

Use customer reviews to let other people know just how much past customers have enjoyed using your products and services. Invite new prospects to ‘join the club’ of satisfied customers.

Enhance your marketing campaigns

Since customers aren’t all that inclined to believe whatever you claim about your company, don’t use your own words. Instead, use the words of your customers. Add quotes from positive reviews to your direct mail literature, social media posts, and radio ads. Think about the quotes movie producers use to promote their films. Take a similar approach with your advertising campaigns.

Customer reviews might be one of the most valuable tools you have in your arsenal. People want to do business with reputable companies they feel they can trust, and customer reviews help to build that confidence. Take the time and energy to cultivate positive reviews. You’ll be happy you did.

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Top Tips for Generating Customer Reviews

Top Tips for Generating Customer Reviews

If you own a business, you probably know how important great online customer reviews can be to your bottom line. In fact, one 2013 study revealed that eight out of every 10 customers trust online reviews as much as they trust personal recommendations.

So how do you go about generating online feedback? Here are some simple things to get you started:

  • Get social: If you don’t have a Facebook page and Twitter account, now is the time to get one. If you already do have Facebook and Twitter accounts, make sure you’re checking them regularly for comments. You need to keep a close eye on your social pages and respond to customer comments — good and bad — as they arise. And of course, you need to make it easy for people to find your social sites, so include links on your website and in your emails.
  • Make it easy to be nice: Sure, you may like to go on and on about how great your product or service is, but your customers may not be that chatty. For the verbally shy, make reviews easy by adding non-verbal options like multiple choice options or a star-rating system.
  • Get your game on: Ever heard of gamification? Basically, that term refers to websites that incorporate some sort of game play into their design to make it more fun for customers to engage. You can get as complex as you want, but even a simple thing like adding virtual badges or trophies for customers who leave reviews can increase feedback.
  • Be generous: Everyone likes to score something for free, and offering a free sample or free trial period can be really effective at getting customers to leave reviews.
  • Follow up: A customer just made a purchase. Is that the end of the transaction? Not if you want to generate some (generally positive) reviews. Once a purchase is complete, touch base with the customer to discuss both the item they purchased and the purchase experience in general. When you get positive responses, ask if you can share them as testimonials on your site.

OK, so those are just a few ways to generate reviews and feedback, but what should you do if some of that feedback is negative? First, set aside your anger and indignation, and don’t stress: Every business is going to catch a little flak once in a while. Don’t ignore negative reviews; instead, reply politely to deescalate and help soothe the customer. Try not to get into a debate on your social page; instead, invite the customer to contact you by phone or email, or offer to contact them. Be sure to thank them for their feedback and apologize for any inconvenience they’ve felt. And of course, if the feedback is on target, use it to make needed improvements.

Engaging customers and generating positive reviews takes work, but it’s work that can yield big returns. Take a few minutes today to think about how your business can improve feedback and start building its own base of dedicated fans.

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What is Your Customer Hiding From You?

What is Your Customer Hiding From You?

In order to sell any kind of product or service, you first need to know the challenges your prospects face, so you can offer the best solution. On the surface, this seems like an easy problem to resolve. You send out a few surveys and questionnaires. You dig and do your research. You think you’ve found the answers. Yet when you build your pitch or presentation around what you think your prospect wants and needs, it falls flat.

Why? Because the prospect is hiding the truth from you.

It’s not done with malicious intent. They’re not even necessarily lying. They simply want to be liked and don’t want to hurt your feelings by telling you things they think you wouldn’t like to hear. Also some prospects don’t really know what they want. Emailed and online surveys aren’t the best at this type of information gathering.

That’s the reason most surveys don’t reveal many helpful answers. The problem isn’t with the surveys themselves, but with the questions and how they’re presented. Most survey questions don’t get to the heart of the matter in order to pull out the answers you’re looking for.

What can you do about this? Pick up the phone!

The best way to get the answers you’re looking for is to call your prospects and engage them in a conversation. But before you do that (and if you don’t want the phone slammed in your ear), do your homework first.

The responses will only be as good as your questions. Your questions need to be open-ended. You must be able to tap into the emotional and/or logical reasons why a prospect would (or wouldn’t) buy your product or service. The more you’re able to get them to open up and give you honest answers, the closer you’ll get to the heart of what you’re looking for. Keep good notes on the data you gather, and review it so you can make the next call even better at intelligence gathering.

Start your call with a very brief description of why you’re calling, then quickly turn your attention to the prospect. Let them know you’re not trying to sell them anything (so it brings down the wall and barriers they automatically put up). State that you respect and value their opinion, which is why you chose them to call. Make them feel respected and special before you dive into your questions.

Once you have your answers, take the time to carefully review all the information. Look for common themes or threads in the answers. If you don’t find any, go back to your questions and reword them to get better answers. Yes, this takes real work. But the end result will be well worth your time. After you analyze the information, it will make your job of creating an irresistible offer that your prospects can’t refuse much easier.

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Encourage the Customer Voice

Encourage the Customer Voice

One of the best ways to promote your business is to get your customers talking about you, whether on the streets, via social media, or in product reviews. Here are a few ways to encourage customers to voice their opinions:

  • Create a message board, chat forum, or guest book where customers can create an online community and share their opinions and feedback.
  • Ask key customers to participate in a “customer spotlight” section of your newsletter. Use this feature to help customers promote their business and elaborate on their relationship with your company.
  • Add product review capabilities to your website that allow customers to rank and review your products or services. Send customers a link to an online opinion survey they can take shortly after making a purchase.
  • Start a blog and encourage feedback, questions, suggestions, and sharing of your posts.
  • Offer valuable incentives (coupon, discount, free gift, etc.) as a reason to fill out a survey, and keep surveys short and sweet. This will encourage customers to complete your entire survey… and to answer future surveys when you ask them to.
  • Encourage customers to contact you any time they have questions, comments, or suggestions — and make it easy for them to do so. Include your contact details in your email signature, post your phone number prominently on every page of your website, and send a business card with every letter or mailing.
  • Engage with customers every chance you get. Ask them about their experience, seek their opinion on industry-related topics, and garner their feedback and suggestions regarding your business.
  • Don’t discourage negative customer comments. Negative feedback provides credibility and tells customers the business is confident enough to show a range of customer opinions. Honest feedback and suggestions can also help improve your business.
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About Acme Printing

Joe Printer, owner of Acme Printing

Acme Printing has a distinctly human approach to the printing business. We always figured that putting people before profits just made good commonsense.

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