Why you should embrace criticism to improve your business

19 August 2018 Category :

As the saying goes, ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.’ And that applies to criticism too. It can be hard to take, but if you listen to it and act on it – it will make you and your business stronger.

Leading entrepreneurs know that, and take a positive approach to criticism. They use it to boost the success of their company and enhance their own leadership style. We’ll discuss in this article why criticism is so important, and how you can harness it to make significant improvements.

Here are five ways to help you do that.

1. Criticism forces you to think about how your company works

The most successful entrepreneurs embrace criticism and customer complaints, and use them constructively. They always strive to make things better, and take criticism as a signal that something in their business isn’t working properly.

They use it as an opportunity to fix the problem, and improve upon best practices and day-to-day workflow. You can do this too.

How to achieve that

The key here is to not ignore the criticism, which is often done by growing companies. Instead, set up monthly ‘customer feedback’ sessions with your core team.

At the monthly workshops, go through all the customer criticisms and complaints that the business has received that month. Discuss each one, and identify the underlying issue that led to it. Think about it from your customer’s perception – what went wrong for them?

Then come up with solid solutions to remove the issue from your business processes. For complex issues, you can use techniques such as root cause analysis to identify the underlying problems. It’s not always easy, but it is important to get to the root causes.

For complex issues, you can use techniques such as root cause analysis to identify the underlying problems.

It’s also important to share the criticisms with your staff, and explain what you’re doing about them. Update your procedures and train staff accordingly. And be sure to update each customer who provided criticism – but more on that later.

In this way, you will constantly adapt your business model and improve your ways of working. You’ll turn negative feedback into something productive, and make your business better on an on-going basis.

2. Feedback is good for growth

Any form of feedback – good and bad – is important and you should actively encourage it. Your customers’ opinions and insights are very valuable, and help you to ensure that what you’re providing meets their expectations.

So when you get criticism, it tells you what your customers want and the standards they expect. The key thing is not to be upset or get defensive, but rather to do something about it. As Hendrie Weisinger put it, ‘Criticism is information that will help you grow.’

When you get bad feedback, look upon it as a gift and use the information to grow your business.

How to achieve that

It’s important to recognise that the customer is giving you valuable information. They could just have walked away and never used your product or service again. But by taking the time to give criticism, they’re giving you the chance to fix the problem.

So apologise for the problem and thank them for the feedback. Tell them you appreciate it, and will contact them when you’ve resolved the issued. Provide the exact date that you’ll get back to them. Then, as above, discuss the criticism in the monthly ‘customer feedback’ workshop. Identify a solution, change your model, and update your staff.

Then give the customer an update on what you’ve done, and check that they’re satisfied. If appropriate, you may want to compensate them for their unhappy experience. You could, for example, give them a small discount for the next time they use you.

Using this approach to criticism grows your business in two ways. Firstly, by fixing the underlying issue, the problem won’t come back again. So it won’t be a barrier to getting repeat business, or a reason for losing business.

Secondly, by handling the complaint well, you’re more likely to keep that particular customer. That’s important because according to research by Bain & Company, increasing customer retention by 5% produces more than a 25% increase in profit.

3. Criticism is a form of communication with your market

Receiving criticism can be difficult but it’s actually a form of market feedback – and that can only be good. It provides an opportunity to engage with your customers and learn from them.

How to achieve that

When you get a criticism or complaint, listen very hard to what the customer is saying. They’re criticising you for a reason, and you need to know that reason. So take time to listen, ask questions, and get a good understanding of what the problem is.

SurveyYou can also get their insights on how to resolve the problem, and what would work better. This is very valuable market intelligence because it tells you what the customer’s expectations are, and how to fulfil their needs.

It’s a great opportunity to find out what customers really want, and what the perfect product or service is for them. By opening up the discussion, you can learn how to develop your product or service, and add more value. As Professor Eric von Hippel of MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) has reported, tapping into this ‘customer innovation’ can add tremendous value.

4. Criticism can build loyalty

Numerous surveys have shown that if you manage complaints well, you increase the loyalty of your customers. Loyal customers stay with you, and as we’ve mentioned above – that means more profit.

How to achieve that

As we’ve discussed, listen to the criticism from the customer and apologise for the problem. Tell them you appreciate the feedback and will work to resolve the issue. Get their views on what would work better. Say you will get back to them by a certain date. Then give them an update when you’ve solved the problem, and check that they’re satisfied.

By listening to your customers and acting on what they say, you demonstrate that you respect their views and care about them. Which in turn makes them feel more involved in your business and loyal to you.

Most companies don’t do this well. In the US, for example, the 2015 Customer Rage survey found that 63% of complainants felt they got nothing as a result of complaining. 93% wanted to be treated with dignity, but only 32% say they got that. And 75% wanted an apology, with only 28% actually getting one.

By handling complaints well, you will differentiate yourself in the marketplace, and earn the trust and loyalty of your customers.

5. Criticism doesn’t allow you to become complacent

Tough criticism can feel raw but it will stop you from being complacent. Which is good, because as Andy Grove of Intel once said, ‘Complacency breeds failure.’ You’re an entrepreneur who is more interested in success.

Tough criticism can feel raw but it will stop you from being complacent. Which is good, because as Andy Grove of Intel once said, ‘Complacency breeds failure.’ You’re an entrepreneur who is more interested in success.

How to achieve that

Take the criticism on the chin, feel the pain – and then resolve to fix the problem. Be like LeBron James who said, ‘I like criticism. It makes you strong.’

Summary

Receiving criticism can be hard, but only if you take it personally. A better approach is to use it constructively. By listening to criticism and acting on it, you can improve your business and your own leadership skills.

Unhappy customers who give feedback are providing you with a number of opportunities. You can use their insights to develop your business model, service and overall offering. And by handling complaints well you can retain customers, increase loyalty and grow your business.

All of which makes your business stronger and boosts your profits.

Virtuzone Mainland is dedicated to helping clients open a company on the UAE mainland, providing advice and assistance with every aspect of the company formation. To set up a consultation, please call us on +971 4 457 8200, send an email to Paul.Bryson@vz.ae or click here.

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About the author: Paul Bryson, Director of Domestic Structuring at Virtuzone.
About the author: Paul Bryson, Director of Domestic Structuring at Virtuzone.

Paul Bryson is the Director of Domestic Structuring at Virtuzone, based in Dubai, UAE. He is also a member of the Board of Directors for the British Business Group, Dubai and Northern Emirates. A knowledgeable and active member of the business community in the UAE, Paul advises large multi-nationals and small startup businesses on how to best establish commercial presence in Dubai and across the rest of the UAE and Gulf region. Before embarking on his career in the Emirates, Paul graduated from the University of the West of Scotland with a Diploma in International Business.