Turn Feedback, Complaints and Objections into Opportunities – Using the Same Approach
Taking feedback is an essential skill for leaders, as it allows them to continuously improve and grow. Similarly, handling objections and complaints is a valuable competence that successful salespeople possess. Through my experience in consulting and coaching in both areas, I have come to realize that employing similar approaches can effectively transform potentially unpleasant situations into opportunities for growth and positive outcome provided they are handled appropriately.
This article presents insights from both disciplines, insights which help getting that positive outcome: It describes specifically what to do how in the 2 key areas for success.
1. Adopt the right attitude: It is crucial to approach feedback and complaints with an open mind and a willingness to learn. By maintaining a positive and receptive mindset, we can effectively navigate our emotions and extract valuable insights from the criticism we receive.
2. Employ the right process: Implementing a structured process can help us effectively manage our emotions when faced with criticism. By focusing on desired outcomes and maintaining a solution-oriented mindset, we can address the issues at hand in a constructive manner.
By incorporating these principles into our approach, we can transform feedback and complaints into catalysts for personal and professional growth.
The right attitude
When faced with criticism, it is common to feel surprised and become emotional, leading us to rationalize our actions. It’s natural to have a defensive reaction when we feel attacked. Another instinctive response might be to flee: to listen briefly, make promises to address the issue, and then forget about it. However, both approaches can have negative consequences. The feedback giver may stop providing feedback altogether, and the dissatisfied customer may choose to take their business elsewhere in the future.
To overcome these challenges, it requires a conscious effort to shift our mindset from a defensive or avoidance mode to a focus on improvement and resolution. Here are three key steps to achieve this:
- Acknowledge that those who take the time to communicate with us are not our enemies but rather allies offering valuable opportunities for improvement. Embrace the idea that their feedback can help us grow and enhance our performance.
- Adopt a mindset of curiosity to genuinely understand the concerns and perspectives of others. By actively listening and seeking to comprehend their point of view, we can gain valuable insights and identify areas for improvement.
- Shift our attention towards the future rather than dwelling on the past. While it’s important to learn from past experiences, we must recognize that we can only influence and shape the future. By focusing on how we can improve moving forward, we can proactively address issues and prevent similar situations from occurring again.By implementing these steps, we can transform criticism and complaints into opportunities for growth, fostering stronger relationships with feedback providers, objectors and customers alike.
Be mindful of your non-verbal communication. It determines significantly how your attitude is perceived:
- Minimize distractions: Switch your smartphone off or put it on flight mode and keep it out of sight. This demonstrates your focus and attentiveness to the person you are communicating with.
- Maintain eye contact: Whether you are communicating remotely or face to face, make an effort to look directly into the camera or the person’s eyes. This conveys sincerity and engagement in the conversation.
- Project a friendly and interested demeanour: Practice and experiment with your facial expressions in front of a mirror. Pay attention to how your mouth and eyes convey different emotions. Strive to maintain a friendly and interested expression throughout the interaction.
- Keep your body language open: Avoid crossing your arms or hiding your hands behind your body. Instead, keep your hands visible and relaxed. This signals openness and approachability.
- Orient your body towards the person: Rather than just turning your head, turn your entire body towards the person you are communicating with. This demonstrates active involvement and shows that you are fully engaged in the conversation.
- Use non-verbal cues like nodding: Nodding occasionally during the conversation indicates that you are actively listening and understanding the points being made.
- Consider taking notes: Depending on the situation, taking notes can show that you value the information being shared and are committed to remembering important details.
By being mindful of these non-verbal communication techniques, you can effectively convey a positive attitude and create a more engaging and productive interaction.
The right process: The 6 steps
Understanding is a dynamic process that involves both listening and asking questions.
Listening takes precedence as it serves as the foundation for comprehension. Why is listening so crucial? Listening is not only a means to understand, but it also demonstrates respect. When we actively listen, we show that we value the other person’s perspective, which fosters positive emotions. These positive emotions, in turn, create an atmosphere of collaboration, enabling us to work together to improve the situation at hand.On the contrary, assuming we know better without truly understanding the other side can lead to conflict, erode trust, and negatively impact business relationships.
Active listening goes beyond passive acknowledgment, such as saying “yes” or “I see,” which can be done while engaging in other activities like reading a newspaper. Instead, active listening involves:
1. Absorbing the information being conveyed and asking questions related to what had been said. This demonstrates your interest and proves that you have genuinely listened.
2. Allowing the other person to express their thoughts without interrupting, while still asking questions that contribute to the conversation. This requires finding a delicate balance and staying focused on what is being said.
3. Avoiding formulating a response or question while the other person is speaking, as this indicates a lack of attention and active listening.
The primary objective is to gain a comprehensive understanding of the situation, including its impact and the individuals affected by it.
To enhance understanding, it is valuable to ask thoughtful questions. Here are some examples:
- Acknowledge the importance: When someone makes a significant point, it can be helpful to express its significance and request further elaboration. For instance, you can say, “That’s an important point. Could you please provide more details?” or “Could you please expand on it further?”
- Seek examples: Requesting examples can provide clarity and help solidify understanding. You can ask, “Could you provide an example to illustrate your point?”
- Clarify meanings: If there is any ambiguity or confusion, it is essential to seek clarification. You can ask, “What do you mean by…?” to ensure a clear understanding of the intended message.
- Understand the impact: To grasp the implications of a particular topic, it can be beneficial to ask, “Help me understand the impact this has.” This allows for a deeper comprehension of the consequences or effects involved.
- Identify affected parties: Understanding who is impacted and how they are affected is crucial. You can inquire, “Who is affected in what way?” to gain insights into the various stakeholders involved.
Additionally, taking notes can be advantageous, especially during lengthy conversations that cover multiple aspects. It helps in retaining information and referencing it later. Lastly, remember to actively listen throughout the conversation to ensure a comprehensive understanding.
2. Conclude with the past
Research on the human side of change management shows that we first need to let go the past before we can embrace the future. Apply this insight to this process:
- Summarize and confirm understanding: After receiving feedback, complaints, or objections, summarize the key points and ask, “Did I understand correctly?” This allows for clarification and ensures that you have accurately grasped the message being conveyed.
- Assess the impact: It is essential to consider the impact that the feedback or complaint has had or could potentially have. By acknowledging the consequences, you can demonstrate empathy and understanding. For example, you can say, “If I understood correctly, this situation led to [specific impact] or could potentially lead to [potential impact], affecting [relevant factors].”
- When the person complaining or objecting continues to speak, let the person speak. Having the opportunity to release steam is a prerequisite to conclude with the past, However, it is also crucial to transition to the next phase at an appropriate moment, keeping this phase as concise as possible
- Apologize if appropriate
3. Orient the Conversation Towards the Future: Explore Solutions / Approaches
When faced with a situation that requires action, it is important to consider different approaches based on the urgency and complexity of the issue. Done the right way it involves other people, leads to better solutions and creates ownership for sustainable improvement.
- Immediate action or reflection: Depending on the circumstances, you may need to act promptly, especially in emergencies or when a solution is evident. Alternatively, taking a pause to reflect or brainstorm can provide valuable insights. You can involve the person who provided feedback or complained, as well as others, and take some time for personal reflection.
- Offer alternatives and involve stakeholders: Whenever possible, present multiple options for consideration. Engage the person who provided feedback, complained, or objected by asking for their input. For example, you can say, “Based on my understanding, we have two possible courses of action: a) … or b) … Which one do you prefer?” ” Do you have any other alternatives in mind?” This approach encourages collaboration and empowers stakeholders to contribute to the decision-making process.
- Seek guidance on priorities: To ensure alignment and focus, ask for the key points or priorities from the person involved. For instance, you can ask, “In order to succeed/overcome this hurdle/improve, what are the two most important aspects in your opinion?” This helps to clarify objectives and facilitates a more targeted discussion.
- Jointly evaluate pros and cons of the different options.
4. Agree on a Decision, Communicate
- Decide which way to go based on your evaluation of pros and cons of alternatives
- In a best case you can ensure that all parties involved agree.
- Else make sure that the decision and the considerations behind the decision are understood. Consider the long term impact of going with an approach certain stakeholders don’t agree with.
- Express gratitude for the assistance provided in the improvement process
- Communicate the chosen approach and the resulting conclusion to all relevant stakeholders. Increased awareness among individuals involved or impacted will enhance the likelihood of gaining support and minimizing misunderstandings
- If a shortcoming is rooted in systemic issues, engage in communication with the relevant parties and work together to find a solution that addresses the underlying cause
- Plan for execution. Use task planning/tracking software such as Microsoft Planner for own tasks and tasks of others. Use it also to remind you of what you intend to do differently.
- Then execute your plan diligently, step by step.
- Ask others to let you know should they feel what was decided is not implemented appropriately. Example: You decide to have an objective and an agenda for each meeting. If you forget it, have somebody tell you to prevent you from falling back into old habits
Go back to the feedback giver/complainer the person having objected. Find out how they perceive the changes that you had implemented and the impact these changes have had. Ask if they are satisfied with the outcome and if there is anything else that can be done to further improve their experience. This proactive approach demonstrates a commitment to addressing concerns and ensures that the individual feels heard and valued.
A combination of the right attitude and a process turns feedback, complaints and objections into opportunities. Get into the habit of applying one set of specific, actionable steps to cover all 3 situations successfully. This article describes these steps, on the attitude as well as on the approach side.
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