I want to tell you about the first couple times my online biz actually made me cry!
I will never forget my first negative review on Etsy. I’d been in business for about a year and sales were really starting to pick up. New orders were coming in pretty steadily, and I couldn’t have been happier. I absolutely loved creating pretty things to help women stay organized.
Etsy allows purchasers to leave public reviews. I found that roughly 20% of my buyers did take the time to leave a review, and they were always positive. Then one day I log into Etsy and see this:
This was a printable set I had worked really hard creating, and it really hurt to see someone leave a one star review. I cried. I contacted her and offered her a refund, but she still didn’t change the review. I thought everyone would see that review on Etsy and never buy a product from me again.
A couple weeks later someone left me an even worse one star review:
What? The worst customer service they’ve ever received? From me? I’m the biggest people pleaser you’ll ever meet and worked super hard to check my Etsy messages all the time including nights and weekends. (Sidenote: I no longer feel pressure to answer people on evenings and weekends. I’ve learned a lot since this review was left 3 years ago. I think you can still have healthy boundaries AND great customer service.)
I remember vividly that I was sitting on the guest bed in my parent’s house the morning after Christmas when I logged into Etsy and saw this. The customer had sent me one message the previous day (which was Christmas day) asking where their package was. I had mailed it a couple weeks prior shortly after they ordered it, and USPS was just a little backed up for the holidays. Tracking showed that it was delivered just hours after they left that review. I, of course, responded immediately. When I saw that it was delivered, I asked her to update her review, but she didn’t.
This review bothered me so much because it simply wasn’t true and it was so extremely negative. Again, I thought no one would ever buy from me again and my reputation was just ruined! I obsessively checked for reviews waiting for this one to at least be pushed off the first page.
Truthfully, I honestly questioned whether I should even be trying to run a business.
If a couple negative reviews affected me so much, how was I ever going to survive all the future negative things that might come as the business grew bigger and bigger? I’m an extreme people pleaser by nature, and I couldn’t handle letting anyone down – even complete strangers who bought a $7.50 product from me.
Fortunately, I didn’t give up, and I’ve grown much thicker skin. As the tears ran down my face after reading these reviews, I never imagined I’d be sitting here 3 years later openly highlighting those negative reviews on my blog!
Many of you have probably already dealt with this. If you haven’t gotten some sort of negative review or response from your work yet at some point you probably will. It’s just inevitable, but I don’t want you to let it steal all your enthusiasm. I certainly don’t want you to give up just because of one or two naysayers! But what do you do? You can’t just flip a switch that will magically allow all those negative comments to roll off your back. They sting, don’t they?
The thing that helped me to overcome the negativity: telling myself the truth.
Here are the truths that I tell myself.
- The negative comments are only a very tiny percentage of feedback that I receive. I have over 400 reviews on Etsy, and out of those probably only 10 or so are negative. It’s unwise and unfair to hear the voice of just a few people who say something negative over the voices of so many more who love what you’re doing. I bet that if you get 99 positive comments from people who love your product, and 1 negative comment, you spend way more time thinking about that one negative comment. Make sure you listen to everyone.
- Often, the negative comments have more to do with the person leaving them than they do with you and your work. Especially when comments are extremely harsh, it’s probably because that person is dealing with a lot of problems of their own and has nothing to do with you.
- A tiny percentage of negative comments will not destroy your whole business. Yes, I suppose it’s possible that a negative comment or review will persuade a person or two not to buy your product. However, most people are reasonable and know how to filter reviews. Our minds often jump to some absurd worse case scenario.
- We do make mistakes and do have genuine areas we could improve. There are probably things about our products or customer service that genuinely could use improvement. If someone points this out in a nice way, accept their comment graciously. When you do make a mistake admit it, genuinely apologize, do what you can to fix it, and move on. I’ll be honest and say that this is the hardest for me, even now.
What about you? How do you handle negative feedback?