How to stop criticism from ruining your day
Posted on June 30 2015
"Have you lost your damn mind. [sic] I tried to order products from your website and was never able to do so. You sent a message saying trouble with sight [sic] currently. Get a job." - a real response to our email newsletter
This post is going to be kind of hard to write because it deals with the not-so-glamorous side of running a business: unhappy people.
I will never be good enough to meet everyone's needs.
And the more our business grows, the more "everyones" there are.
The above email was from a customer who wrote me during the holidays. She originally wrote because we were out of Blazing Saddles (as we often are during rush seasons) and I never got back to her to let her know that our stock was, in fact, depleted. This was in response to an email newsletter I sent out a few months later.
People who are not me might say:
But I take it very, very, very personally. I can't not. It's just who I am.
About 2% - 5% of orders go out with some problem. I know. It sucks, but it's the best we can do. Russ and I are just two people, and I am the only person (usually) filling orders. If there's a mistake, 99.99% of the time, I made that mistake.
So when I receive a somewhat accusatory email like this:
"I still haven't received my order. You took my money but I don't have the product." - actual email from a regular customer
I know it was no one's fault but my own.
But I finally found the secret to stop it from ruining my day:
I Own It.
Yeah, I made the mistake. I didn't get back to the lady. I didn't ship that guy's order on time. I didn't pack the second bar of Unicorn Poop because I didn't read the quantity right.
It doesn't mean I'm proud of it, but yeah, I totally fucked it up. So I fix it (to the best of my ability) and move on. And as long as that screw-up rate isn't more than 5%, I figure I'm doing ok.
Sure, sometimes these things keep me up at night (like last night, I remembered a customer had written to change his shipping address, but when Russ had to fill the orders because I was too sick with a cold, and he didn't know to change the address so it's now going to the wrong address... which I'm about to email him about and fix by sending him a new package). I'm not perfect.
But most of the time, the best way I know to handle criticism is to accept it.
We aren't perfect. As a small business owner, people and situations point this out to us constantly, and in ways we never would have expected (like getting an order too big for us to handle and not having enough supplies to fill it, even in 45 days).
Corporate life shields us from the repercussions of our imperfections in many ways. If we screw up 2% - 5% of the time, we might never even hear about it. But here in entrepreneurlandia, we are whipped against the rocks by our insufficiency.
And that's ok. We are human. We make mistakes. And we are also awesome. We make great things. And some days, we hear things like this:
"Hope you have the best... Week... EVER!!! Thanks for working so hard, and for all you do above and beyond." - actual email from an actual customer