Chocolate Pillow | All Feedback is a Gift
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All Feedback is a Gift


18 Mar All Feedback is a Gift

Hello again readers – it has been a while!

I have written before (many times) about handling feedback on TripAdvisor, but how about dealing with criticism in general?  Someone once said to me that ‘all feedback is a gift, no matter how it is presented’ and I have always thought of this when dealing with any form of feedback received, be it positive or negative.

This article specifically deals with negative feedback (criticism), but does touch on positive feedback as well.  The important thing to remember about criticism is that it involves an evaluation that assumes knowledge and expertise on the part of the person being critical.

There are two types of feedback or criticism we receive throughout our lives:

FFactual Criticism – this is the feedback based on fact such as “My window was smashed” or “Your shirt is creased” – it can be evidenced.

EEvaluative Criticism – this is feedback based on opinion such as “Your staff are rude” or “The food tasted horrible” – it cannot be evidenced and is based on personal values and opinions.

Factual criticism is what most people are trained to deal with – the form of feedback that we can go away and see for ourselves, or that we can take pictures of.  It can be proven without doubt and can be handled as such – if the TV doesn’t work, then it gets fixed; if the bath is dirty it gets cleaned.

The harder criticism to deal with is Evaluative Criticism.  This is because the actual feedback being given is based on personal opinion, values and ethics.  What you perceive to be professional may be seen by some as cold and unwelcoming; what you perceive to be efficient and fast service may be seen by some to be dismissive and abrupt.  The important thing with Evaluative Criticism is that it’s entire basis is founded within opinion and personal preference, not fact.  It also assumes that the person giving the feedback has a certain level of expertise within their field.  You may personally disagree with the person and their opinion, but you must remember that they are (at that moment of giving feedback) classing their values as superior to yours.  The critic, because of this value system and belief, can become challenging as their belief system may cause them to become argumentative or even apportion blame to someone, even you!

Criticism is in fact a bit of a game being played.  It is the provision of (usually negative) feedback in order to assert your status.  You (as the recipient) are cast straight in to a lower position and status in comparison to the person being critical.  You are placed in to a lower social status (even more so in the hospitality industry as the nature of our trade means we are psychologically placed in to a submissive and lower social state by the people we are serving, much as a servant is seen by a master).  On top of this lower social standing, you are usually also seen as wrong even before you have said anything – the person being critical feels something has been done wrong so casts this opinion on to you straight away.

Psychologically, criticism is a bit of a minefield – you are immediately wrong, lower in status and having opinions asserted to you by someone who feels they are socially more grandiose and hold more expertise than you do.

When we are given criticism, be it directed at us or directed towards something we care about, it can be hurtful and feel like an attack – this can create a fight-or-flight response where you dismiss the feedback as irrelevant or you argue back.  Neither is acceptable when dealing with criticism.

So how do you deal with this?

  • Pause before replying.  Think about a response before actually saying it and think honestly
  • Avoid defending unless it is absolutely necessary; it can be more effective to ignore a hurtful jibe or even deflect it.
  • Ask the guest for elaboration (see below)
  • Treat Evaluative Criticism with responses about feelings and experiences such as ‘you felt’ or ‘the experience was’.  Treat Factual Criticism with factual responses such as ‘you had’ or ‘they did’.
  • Take responsibility and accept the criticism. It may not be your fault and it may not be you who was wrong, but if something was wrong, admit it!
  • It is acceptable to offer a counter-argument, but not in a defensive way.
  • Ask the guest what you can do to ensure that these issues do not occur again – make them involved in correcting the issue and ask them how you can correct the issue for them now.
  • Thank them for their feedback and observations and let them know that their critique will be acted upon.  Where you are responsible for the things they are criticising, let them know how things will change.

Stage 3 here is important as it dictates exactly what type of personality you are dealing with:

The guest who elaborates and gives you more information is open to discussion and resolution, whereas the guest who simply retreats or attacks (becomes aggressive or simply asserts the same point repeatedly without further explanation or elaboration) is simply attempting to provoke a reaction and elicit a response that they want (usually they want you to submit and relinquish to their demands).

If you are dealing with an aggressive or angry guest, the simplest response and most defusing response in most instances is to simply ‘kill it with kindness’ – staying calm, being polite and smiling and not allowing their behaviour to be reciprocated by yourself will quickly cause them to calm down at which point you may switch to a more dominant position and take control of the conversation.

For example:

A guest complains that reception were rude and dismissive on check in and that they were sent to a room that already had someone in.  They then had issues with the wrong order being brought to them for room service after a 45 minute wait and had to wait another half an hour for the correct order.

To analyse this:

Factual Criticism – they were sent to a room that had someone in (it can be proven through key records, system records, key cards etc).  The wrong order was brought to them (it can be proven through staff interviews, room service order records etc).  They had to wait 45 minutes for food then another half an hour (if it can be proven through time records and kitchen records)

Evaluative Criticism – Reception were rude and dismissive (its a matter of opinion).  The room service order took 45 minutes then another half an hour (this could be either evaluative or factual – it either did take 45 minutes or the guest perceived it took 45 minutes – time always seems longer when you are waiting for something)

In response:

“I personally apologise for the issues that you experienced.  I agree they are below our usual standard and will do everything I can to ensure they are resolved for you.  In relation to your comments that you felt reception were rude on arrival, I am sure that the whole team will be dismayed that you feel this way.  They are all highly trained in customer service and I shall revisit your experience with the reception manager.  I am sure that the receptionist had no bad intent and I apologise you felt dismissed.  I will speak to the reception manager on your behalf.  As part of this I will also investigate what happened with regards to the room allocation.  This is an highly unusual incident and I will speak to the reception manager about any processes we can put in place to ensure this does not happen again.  In relation to the room service, I will speak to the restaurant manager about the service times to establish why you had such a long wait time for delivery and why the wrong order was brought to your room.  I will also discuss ways we can avoid this happening in future.  Based on these issues, what is there that I can do for you now in order to ensure you feel these matters have been resolved and so that we can avoid them in future?”

Always close the complaint by thanking the guest for their feedback.

All theories and information in this article are used from the following links on the site

I throughly recommend reading these links (and exploring the rest of the site) as it gives a lot of information to help you deal with customer complaints.

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Matt Shiells-Jones

Husband, Author, Hotel Manager and ambitious 'old cat lady'

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