Tom Mazza, 1998
It’s one of my biggest problems. I fight it all the time. Hopefully, as I get older, I will get better. It’s my inability to accept constructive criticism. I sometimes take the criticism as a personal attack and react emotionally. A writer gets criticism from management or a reader. An entrepreneur gets criticism from an unhappy client. Being receptive to constructive critical comments from your clients, as well as from your employees, can help your company grow.
First, create an atmosphere and a management style that will encourage your clients to be honest with you. Most clients are not confrontational. They would rather use a different limousine service than have to call you and complain. However, if you consistently solicit feedback from your clients either at the time they make a reservation or via a post-trip survey, they are more likely to provide feedback when there is a problem.
When you do receive a critical call from a client, carefully follow up and document your response. “October 2, 1998: Mr. Jones said there was a full ashtray in the back of Car 21 on an airport transfer. Investigated the problem and breakdown in the cleaning procedures. October 5, 1998: Mr. Jones received a letter of apology and a complimentary upgrade certificate.”
It’s important that Mr. Jones was comfortable enough to call you and elaborate on a problem. Remember, he is doing you a favor.
Second, understand that a criticism of a specific conduct or course of action is not a personal attack. Answer criticism initially by listening carefully and taking notes. Do not make rash statements or promises. Thank the client for calling. Provide the client with a specific call back time. Also, detail to the client how the problem will be resolved. If you are already aware of the problem, such as a client being stranded at the airport, be proactive and call immediately.
Finally, understand that there are two types of employee criticisms. One is a well thought out, reasonable complaint about how things are done at your company. Your employees are entitled to question you. They invest their time and have the right to seek the best possible working conditions. Be patient, unemotional, and provide answers.
The second type of criticism stems from employees who are critical of the industry, not necessarily your company. “I never get a tip from our corporate clients” or, “I hate the fact we are so busy on the weekends.” In these types of scenarios all you can do is listen and be supportive. The hours are dictated by the paying customers.
Consistently delivering quality service is a daily challenge. Successful entrepreneurs use constructive criticism as one tool to help them deliver a high level of service.