Turn Criticism Into Gold

One of the things I recommend to all advocates is that they survey their clients after their work is complete, and ask them for testimonials to add to their directory listings.

The feedback they receive is gold.   

But gold doesn’t mean it’s all hearts-and-flowers! 

I heard recently from an advocate (I’ll call her Zelda) who has always heard wonderful things from her clients. They most often regale her with positivity, thanks, and a claim that they worship the ground she walks on. It’s one of the things she loves about being an advocate – the appreciation her clients bestow upon her.

… until one didn’t. And that’s the thrust of today’s tip.

The feedback Zelda received was very specific about what her client felt she had, and had not, done right while they worked together. It wasn’t about outcomes – the client was very happy with the eventual outcome. And it wasn’t about Zelda – nothing personal. No name calling! Nothing that could be construed as a personal affront.

Instead it was about the way Zelda had conducted her business; her customer service, in effect.

The tenor of the feedback was actually quite professional; the suggestions quite useful. The client asked Zelda to communicate more frequently, at least once per week. He also asked her to provide a place where he could look up the status of his paid hours (how much time did he still have left on their contract?) and he asked her for an accounting of their time together.

Zelda was floored!  No one had ever criticized her work before!  She was so upset!  She contacted me to ask what she should do. Should she defend herself? Should she write him a letter? How could she convince her client to respond with nicer things to say?

Zelda totally, TOTALLY missed the point of asking for feedback from her clients. What she had received was absolutely GOLD from her client and she didn’t even realize it. Instead of being upset, she should have been dancing!

Of course, it’s lovely to receive praise from clients. We love being loved!  We espcially love to find a testimonial with all those stars to show up on our directory listings.

But receiving what Zelda considered to be “negative” feedback is something we can actually sink our teeth into. It tells us exactly how to improve our service to our clients. It’s a roadmap to perfection!  When viewed with an open and appreciative mind, such feedback provides us with a solid opportunity to make our work product even better than it was before.

What was my advice to Zelda? I explained to her that when we get feedback from ONE person, that one person represents many more who didn’t take the time or make the effort. They simply considered those problems weaknesses – and might even tell others about those weaknesses. Zelda needed to realize that this one client represented many others, and that making changes based on this client’s “to-do” list could only make her practice stronger.

Therefore, I suggested she profusely THANK her client for providing such valuable feedback, either through a handwritten note, or an email.

Zelda should take her former client’s advice to heart and begin looking into ways she could build his suggestions into her work. Certainly she should be providing frequent communication depending on the work taking place at any point in time. Sometimes daily outreach is more appropriate during a very active case. But never should a client be able to claim he or she doesn’t hear from their advocate frequently enough. That piece of advice alone was worth the insult of dealing with useful, if not hearts-and-flowers, feedback.

A good business person, one who can grow a healthy, useful, successful practice, understands how criticism is never a negative and can almost always present an opportunity for improvement.

Embrace all feedback, and give special appreciation to that feedback that will help you build a stronger practice.


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