How to Handle Negative Feedback

You’ve poured your heart and soul into a client’s project only to have them send you an email that is less than flattering. Uh oh!

Let me start by saying this: if you never encounter this problem, you are a super human. Because the reality is you probably will have to deal with negative feedback from a client. It’s the nature of the beat. But how you deal with it will make all the difference in your business. So, what do you do?


Take a deep breath. Don’t react immediately.

Your feelings are hurt. Totally get that. But you’re a business person so you want to handle this professionally. After you’ve read the email or had the conversation with the client where they shared their displeasure, take a deep breath. Don’t say the first thing that pops in your head. Remember, remain professional in all of your dealings.

Analyze the client’s claims. Are they valid? If so, own up to it.

After you’ve calmed down a bit, take an honest look at your client’s feedback.  Is your client’s feedback based on fact or opinion? Did they point out grammatical errors on a website you just completed? Well, that could have been avoided by using a tool like Grammarly. There’s not a lot you can say about that other than suck it up and admit to the mistake.

Take a look at your processes. Is there room for improvement? Was there a misunderstanding about your availability? Create a welcome packet, if you haven’t already, spelling out your availability and important information.

Remove your feelings from the situation and look at the feedback objectively. If you’re having trouble with that, ask another virtual professional for their opinion.

Respond to the client.

You’ve got your feelings in check, you’ve studied the client’s feedback - now it’s time to respond.

First off - yes, you need to respond. You can’t and shouldn’t sweep this under the rug. Why?

Not responding is unprofessional. I repeat, you are a business owner and owning a business isn’t always going to be roses. You’re going to have to take on some tough tasks. And do you really want your name to be mud in the virtual world by handling the situation in a less than professional way?

I’ve found that just like we are hurt when a client gives us negative feedback, the client is hurt also. How?

Bringing on a virtual assistant is a huge deal for many business owners. For some, working with a virtual assistant is a new thing and there’s a huge level of trust that has to be established. You are a part of their team. In my experience, most clients can deal with the mistake. It’s how you respond to the mistake and the feedback that determines how the working relationship will move forward - if at all.

If you made the mistake, try responding this way:

“Bart, I want to apologize for the error I made in posting your social media update. These are the steps I will take in the future to avoid this type of mistake: (list how you will make improvements to avoid this type of mistake again). Please let me know if you have any questions and again, my apologies.”

Keep it short and simple but make it clear that you are indeed remorseful and spell out how you’ll fix it.

If the mistake was due to a misunderstanding between you and the client:

“Thanks for your email. I’ve taken into consideration your feedback and I understand how things may have gotten a bit confusing. May I suggest a weekly meeting to discuss project status and any other items? I would be more than happy to set this up as I believe it can help both of us stay on track. Your business is important to me and I want to do anything I can to assist you. Again, thank you for your feedback and I look forward to continuing to work with you.”

One way I stay organized and keep clients in the loop is Trello. I use it to onboard new clients, track projects and a whole lot more.  Give it a try! Sign up for my onboarding Trello board to make sure you don't leave out important steps with your new client.

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Dealing with negative feedback is just part of owning a business. Not a fun part but if you deal with it in a professional way, you’ll come away from it with your head held high.

Have you ever had to deal with this type of situation? I’d love to hear your thoughts so feel free to comment!

Regina Lewis