Dealing With Customer Feedback

One of the most interesting parts of having an audience of any kind of size is the feedback that you get from people.  There isn’t a day goes by where I don’t get some kind of feedback from someone on my list, a customer or a person who’s in a Facebook group or a community with me.

When you produce regular, largely opinion based content like I do that feedback is even more noticeable.

Before 2016 when I would produce the occasional video, write the odd blog post or send out an email once in a blue moon, the feedback was always somewhat benign.  People would ask me what I was up to and why I wasn’t creating more stuff.  Most of it was rather encouraging and was along the lines of, “Man, you should make something that I can buy from you.”

Since February 1st, 2016 and I have not missed sending an email every single day.  For those of you counting at home that’s 263 consecutive days and while I don’t have an accurate count to hand, I think I’ve published on my own platforms over 300,000 words so far this year.  That’s a lot of stuff for people to comment on.

Feedback comes in four flavours: gratitude and encouragement, thoughtful commentary, vitriolic anger and unsolicited advice.

Let’s go through those in no particular order.

The one I enjoy getting the most is thoughtful commentary.  At least once or twice a day someone who gets these emails will reply back and share some kind of thought or perspective with something I’ve written.  In some instances, they convey a personal experience that agrees with what I was saying in an email or they just disagree with whatever I’ve said.

Those emails are awesome because it’s a conversation that I’m having with someone who has digested what I’ve said and taken the time to respond thoughtfully.  I really respect that a great deal and I always respond with a well-articulated response to express my appreciation for them taking the time to hear what I’m saying.

The one I enjoy getting the least is the unsolicited advice.  For some reason, there is an element of the population who feel that they have some kind of right or duty to tell you what you’re doing wrong.  They analyze my business from the lofty position of their Gmail inbox and start explaining to me how I could be doing better.

In almost every single instance, those people don’t have a real business of their own – they are “expert” armchair quarterbacks.  I just immediately delete those emails without a response.

Interestingly, smart people that have experience and knowledge never just lob random thoughts at you over the fence.  They engage you in a conversation, they lead you to a position where they can validate their thoughts before shifting the conversation to a place where offering the advice or thought is appropriate.  That kind of feedback is gold if you can find someone you respect to engage in that kind of conversation with you.

On the other hand, Bob The Pumpkin Head can keep his free advice because it’s worth less than what you paid for it.

The groups are often slightly related, the people who send you outright vitriolic comments out of the blue.  I had someone a few weeks ago reply to an email I’d written a few months back and call me a scammer.  She said I was always bombarding her with emails trying to sell her crappy internet marketing software.  More importantly, she was going to take this straight to the FTC to get the government to crack down on people like me.

I get about one of those emails every few months and I normally just laugh them off and move on.  People ask me why I don’t go into my list and delete those people, well the answer is rather mercenary – they are still opening, reading and responding to the emails, so they are doing their job.

I responded to that lady the next day and thanked her for taking the time to let me know about her frustrations.  I asked the simple, “Aside from my email obviously bothering you, how are you doing?”

That question opened the floodgates.  Basically, she’d just lost her job, the business she was trying to start was struggling and she’d spent $2000 the previous month on an info product from someone that she didn’t think was going to work for her but was too proud to ask for a refund.  She felt stupid for trying to build an online business because she’d been working at it for three years and had spent over twenty grand on coaching, courses and tools, but had nothing to show for it.

She then apologized and said that her email was out of line, she looked back and realized I hadn’t tried to sell her a single thing besides having a single link to my newsletter.

I sent her back a further email, the contents of which will stay private, but the gist was that she should, if possible, get back into the workforce so that she has a stable base to work from in her life.  Then I suggested she simplify what she’s doing and focus on doing less, but doing it better.  I also suggested she tune out to all the marketing noise (including mine if it wasn’t helping her) because most of that stuff is about the person sending it, not about the person receiving it.  Finally, I suggested she take a deep breath and just do one thing at a time and do it really well.

The point I’m making is, sometimes those really horrible, nasty emails you get from people have nothing to do with you.  They are more often than not a cry for help.

And finally, we come to the gratitude and encouragement emails.  These are the ones where people thank me for sharing stuff or comment positively on what I doing just because they appreciate it.  The people who write these are just good humans.  They were raised properly by their parents to say thank you for something that they know took effort and they appreciate receiving.

I can tell you, when you’re having a bad day and you go into your email to find someone having thanked you for something you wrote last week, that’s really nice.  I had a response like that yesterday where someone said that they’d read my email last week about being mentally tired and needing some time to shut down and recover and at the time, they’d not personalized it.  However, a couple day later they’d thought about that email and realized they needed a proper break to shut down the brain.

That’s the part I like about those responses because people have taken the time to read and sometimes re-read what I’ve written and then personalized the narrative.  That’s a pretty good feeling as a content creator, let me tell you.

The thing is that in your business, when you have an audience, you have to prepare yourself for the fact that they’re going to want a piece of you.  How you handle and structure that feedback is what will determine whether the feedback helps build you up to greater heights in your business or if it will bury you outright.

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