…big brain drain of emotion. I know what you think I was going to say, and it can be that too. After my daughter’s wedding recently I had a couple of incidents where I felt it was important to give feedback for service providers who had not quite hit the mark. There were many others we worked with who got rave reviews and the appropriate accolades when service was delivered. That’s the easy, fun stuff.
The harder feedback is the stuff of disappointment and failed service. The experience got me thinking about how giving feedback is one of the key skills in life that we are constantly developing and improving. While there are certainly some keys to delivering feedback well, each situation is unique and requires adjustment.
The first incident (that didn’t go so well) wreaked of arrogance on the part of the provider. He was a pastry chef, and when I told him he disappointed us, his response was to lecture me on proper European pastry techniques. Ouch! He made me immediately think of a great mentor who gave me some very wise advice about what to do when you disappoint someone. There are three phrases to utter: “I’m sorry. I’ll take care of it. It won’t happen again.”
My mentor astutely advised me that it doesn’t matter if you weren’t even the person at fault. The issue is one of disappointment, lack of attention, or a perceived target missed. The first step is to restore confidence. In subsequent steps you can determine what really happened and how to prevent it from happening again.
I know this may sound like you’re eating your hat, giving in, appeasing. But the theory here is that once confidence is restored, you can move forward to improve, and to serve and please your customer. And isn’t this a good lesson in any relationship? At some point we are all each other’s customers. My pastry chef failed on all three counts. It was a sad, emotional encounter that left me feeling empty.
The second incident went beautifully. What’s funny is I had a spa service that left some scabs on my face, so this was even more personal than pastry. But the provider uttered all those magical phrases, while still managing to explain how something like this might happen – without devaluing my feedback! Magic indeed. She has a customer for life now.
Feedback is hard. I think it’s something we should continue to talk about. As I started thinking about this post, I was curious what kind of research was out there about giving feedback. There are two major camps that I can see so far — one management and business focused, the other interpersonal communications focused.
To give you another perspective (more business based) check out this interesting blog post I found about the subject. I’ll keep researching this as we talk more about it. For now, check out http://blogs.hbr.org/hmu/2009/04/feedback-that-works.html by Cynthia Phoel. In the meantime, don’t forget those three magical phrases: I’m sorry. I’ll take care of it. It won’t happen again.