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It's not always bad to receive a bad review!

Updated: Sep 22, 2023

It might help you. The thing that I have learned the hard way is to own my mistakes. Yes, it makes you vulnerable. Sometimes it also makes you feel like your not as smart as you think you are, but I have become a firm believer that owning mistakes is the only way to grow and win.

We recently received a bad review. Like most companies, we have our breakdowns and have had a handful of bad reviews. Something about this review was different. The review simply sounded to accurate. First, the timeline was not recent, and this review was not an emotional reaction to something gone wrong. The reviewer waited almost 7 months to post the review. This was not a Karen (or Kevin) moment. This was a carefully thought-out complaint that seemed like something I would say. The review was professional, as professional as a bad review can be. It immediately had my attention.

I had a decision to make, every leader has a decision to make when this happens. Own it, ignore it (don't ever do this), or deflect it. One rule I adopted a few years ago was to attempt to reply to complaints directly myself, and not outsource this effort within our organization. I always respond publicly and professionally, regardless of the complaint. However, first you must investigate. I don't mean look in the file, I mean have conversations.

My first call was to the agent that handled the account. I wanted to hear their side and share, unfiltered, the complaint/review that had been made. My second call was to the client/individual that made the complaint. Yes, that's correct, I called the person, like on the phone, and we talked. I didn't email. I didn't text. We talked.

The complaint was the result of our lack of communication, and that created a problem that could have been avoided. We found an opportunity to get better, to learn, to improve. We paid for a refund that I could have argued against, using some technical jargon, and our now former client would have likely accepted the excuse and gone away. But that is not how you win!

Sometimes winning doesn't happen today. Sometimes the win is later, from a referral, or winning back a client in the future. Sometimes, nothing comes from your effort other than a public thank you, and the wonderful feeling of sleeping well at night. Interested in how this story ends? Tonya Lied and I talk about Creating Five-Star Solutions After a Negative Review in Episode 133 of the IA Forward podcast.

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