There’s always room for improvement. In order to improve, you need to know what needs improvement.

Constructive feedback is extremely important to your business growth. Honest feedback can be hard to get. We’ve all been there. Someone ends a presentation and asks, “How did I do?” Our response is almost automatic. “Great!”

Was it honestly great? Or were we just being supportive? As business owners, we need to focus on what could be better. We need to phrase our requests for feedback in a manner that makes it obvious that we are looking for positive AND negative feedback. You need to encourage constructive criticism.

Before requesting feedback, make sure your customer is willing to provide feedback. You could say something like, “I really respect your opinion and I’m wondering if you can help me. I’m always looking to improve, so I’d like to get your perspective on how I can do better. Could I ask you a few questions about my product/service?”

Once they’ve agreed, a great way to encourage constructive feedback is by asking extremely specific questions. Those questions will vary for every business. Let’s use an example. Assume you just finished a presentation in front of 100 people in an auditorium. Rather than ask, “How did I do?”, try one of these:

  • How was the sound quality? Could you understand me through the microphone system? Was it too loud or too quiet?
  • Were you able to see the graphics that I used, or should I make them larger next time?
  • Since I’m doing this presentation again, I really need to know how to make it as good as possible. If you don’t mind, tell me honestly if there were any spots that got boring.
  • What did you think of the length? Was it too short or too long? Just right?
  • Sometimes I worry about using industry jargon. Was there any terminology that was confusing?
  • Anything else you can think of that I should change?

Let’s use another example. This time let’s say you are a general contractor who just finished a home remodel. Here are some specific questions you can ask that may help generate constructive feedback:

  • We had a lot of different people here working on your home. Did any of them stand out as excellent? What about any that stood out as not so great?
  • What was the most frustrating part of this process?
  • If we could start over, what about the process do you wish was different?
  • I know we talked about inevitable construction delays at the beginning of the project, but I’m looking for honest feedback – did the actual timeframe of the project meet your expectations?
  • What are your thoughts about my company’s communication? How responsive was the team to your questions during the process?

Another tip – make sure your request for feedback is timely. It needs to be soon enough after they purchased from you to allow them to remember the service provided. However, don’t be too quick. We’ve all received those feedback requests that happen before you’ve even had a chance to use the product or service. Use your judgement. A feedback request for a presentation should be same day or next day (otherwise they will forget all about the sound quality or graphics so the feedback will be pointless). On the other hand, feedback for a construction job should have a little cooling off period. Maybe 1-2 weeks.

Here’s my warning. Once you’ve asked for feedback in this manner, you need to be ready for responses that are brutally honest. Everything might not be as wonderful as you think. That’s ok. That’s how you grow. Don’t get defensive. Don’t argue. Don’t tell the person that they misunderstood. Just stop and listen. Finally, don’t forget to say thank you. They’ve done you a favor by providing a response. Always be appreciative.

4 Oranges is committed to bringing you weekly tips in the form of To-Do List items that you can complete in an hour or less. Tips will be published weekly during 2019. These tips were generated from reviewing best practices from the hundreds of businesses I’ve worked with over the past 15 years. I expect you’re already doing some (but not all) of them. Improve your business by making quick fixes that have long-lasting results.

© 2019 4 Oranges