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Marketing / Customer service

How to learn from your weirdest and worst business feedback

Terrific testimonials, raving reviews and phenomenal feedback can make your day. It’s awesome social proof, and gives the ego a good rub. But what about the business feedback that cuts you to the bone, or is just plain weird?

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From complimentary to cutting, brave soloists share odd and outlandish business feedback, and how it helped shaped them as business warriors.

“Undecipherable. And littered with spelling mistakes.”

This one is all mine. Fairly new to freelance life, but not to writing and communication, this was the first time in a while my writing crown had slipped. It hurt. (And for the record, criticise my writing. But not my spelling!)

As a 17 year old uni student, I’d been baptised by fire in writing workshops where work was openly (and savagely) critiqued. But as an older and wiser writer, I love feedback and reviews – good or bad – to see where I’m hitting the mark and where I could pull my socks up.

I have loads of testimonials and reviews I’m proud of, but memories fade quickly. The bad stuff stays with you, but don’t keep it as an albatross around your neck. Let it make you better at what you do. And learning to laugh at it comes with time, trust me.

"The bad stuff stays with you, but don’t keep it as an albatross around your neck. Let it make you better at what you do. "

“The site design makes us look too professional”

Web dev and designer Liam was proud of the site he created for a tech startup focussed on small business procurement.

“The site looked slick and like a ‘big player’ just as they’d requested. I suspect seeing it was a trigger to realising they were out of their depth. I advised the owners not to go live – they had bigger questions to address about their business than my web design. And they weren’t ones I could answer.”

“You’ve made it too cold. My house is freezing”

When Trevor’s air conditioning business installed a unit for an elderly client on a hot day, they talked her through how to use the remote. She followed up a week later with this feedback online.

“I’m still wondering how someone confused by the remote was savvy enough to add a one star Facebook review,” laughs Trevor.

“We took it as a chance to shine. There was no making fun of the client, our guys went back and colour coded her remote so she could remember what button did what. We didn’t crow about it, but we replied to the review and said what we’d done to fix it. We actually came out of it feeling pretty good.”

“I think you’ve missed the point. I wanted it to sound like Brene Brown’s.”

Copywriter Jay Crisp Crow says it’s one thing to be inspired, but this client feedback was a reminder you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

“Um… but you’re not Brene Brown and no amount of fluffy copy is going to make your qualifications sound like hers.”

“You buy and sell secondhand stuff? What a rip off merchant!”

Second-hand dealer Madelaine Howe says she’s often criticised for her line of work.

“I’ve lost track of the times – despite items being clearly marked as secondhand – that the customer thought it was new, and then wants their money back! I’ve had to learn that it’s the kind of business where people assume they can question your judgement, your products and your ethics.”

“Cliched and jumbled”

Catriona McLeod says this feedback from a client on a first writing draft had her gritting her teeth.

“I politely reminded him that a). It was only a first draft. b). I’d used the phrases HE had insisted were mandatory. c). I used his phrases in the order in which HE had requested they be used. So I guess that feedback was really on his own brief!”

“Why have you installed grass that doesn’t grow? You’ve ruined the garden”

Marty and his landscaping team installed artificial grass in a backyard, with the product supplied by the client.

“A few weeks later they were on the phone, furious. They thought the artificial grass was a kind of turf that needed watering and would grow. I was as sympathetic as I could be, but it was one of those times when the customer wasn’t right. It still makes me shake my head!”

“A waste of time, it’s generic and looks like a stock image”

When designer Tiffany Gouge drew the first draft of a client’s dog for a vanity illustration project, she was looking forward to feedback to get it right. Not so.

“I tried to terminate the agreement, but she wanted me to finish the project because she had ‘faith’ in my skills. I gave her a refund and ran!”

“Disappointing that your PR plan sticks to the brief and budget”

Mary Cassidy was stunned when her PR client’s feedback was that she expected ‘add on’ ideas that went beyond the stated strict budget. Go figure, some clients are desperate for an upsell…

“The worst chicken sandwich some guy on Facebook ever had in his life”

We’ve all seen these pics doing the rounds on social media. In the style of celebrities reading mean tweets about themselves, it puts the power back in your hands. You can’t please everyone all the time. And that’s OK.

Be brave and share the weirdest or worst business feedback or review you’ve ever received!

Amanda Vanelderen

is the author of Write Better: How To Cut The Crap And Say What You Mean, an illustrated guide to everyday writing. Copywriter at WorkWords, she’s a news junkie and music lover. Connect with her on Facebook, Instagram and Linkedin.

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