Yep, it happened. The dreaded bad review for all the world to see. After having my sewing studio this long with nothing but stellar reviews (and my working my butt off to get them) it was bound to happen. And I've lived to tell the story. So here's the review and here's my response. Even today it stings to read this a little and my response is far from perfect, but i wanted to share this and the things I've learned because of this experience in my Sewing Teacher Blog.
Here's a bit of backstory. A woman wanted to sign up for an adult sewing class. I would guess it's our most intermediate class that we offer. She had emailed me to inquire about this particular class. I wrote back letting her know that it was intermediate, but it was not in any way advanced. She had specifically inquired about tailoring, but didn't really indicate she had a lot of experience. So I mentioned in in this response email that this particular class was the closest we had to a class that had tailoring techniques in it.
So she DID NOT sign up for the class prior to it starting and I didn't really think about it again. But apparently the night of the first session of this 6 week class, she showed up for the class. I guess she was still trying to determine if this was the right class for her. She showed up a little early and the instructor showed her around the studio, she had ample time to walk around and see the tools we use in the class. She was even able to chat with the teacher about the class prior to it starting. It was only because the class wasn't completely full that she could consider joining the class at this time. If it had been full, there would have been no option to sign up.
So after checking things out first hand, she decides that she does want to take the class. She pays the instructor the fee for the class and the first session happens. According to my teacher that night, she said nothing out of the ordinary happened during the class. She even thought this person seemed to be enjoying the class.
That night or the next day, low and behold I got an email from this student requesting a refund. I said no. This is not our policy and I referenced where this was stated on our website. I did however agree to private lessons or another class as credit for the one that she's not enjoying. This was not what she wanted. I stuck to my boundaries and she gave me the above bad review on facebook and google.
At first, I was devastated!
So I sat on it for a couple of days, consulted some friends & colleagues, consulted google and just let it simmer a little.
I didn't want to wait too long to respond, but I wanted to wait long so my anger towards this person would go away a little.
Well it worked, spending a couple days doing nothing about the situation was just what I needed. I knew this review was a bit of a misunderstanding. It felt like her anger towards me for sticking to my guns and not giving her money back was a direct attack on me and my business. But it was out of my control and this experience proved to be a great lesson for me. Which is why i'm sharing it here.
Here are some of my most important lessons that came about from this experience:
- A bad review is not a personal attack on me or my beloved studio. When you work for yourself it's hard to separate the person from the business. Someone saying anything bad about me, my classes, my instructors, my teaching methods, my return policy, etc. can sometimes sting as if someone told you to your face "You're a terrible person". This is NOT the case and I know this. But getting the bad review had me questioning it, even for just a few minutes. This experience reminded me that this was in no way an attack on my. In fact, iit really didn't have anything to do with me. It had to do with this person, her experience and her need to express herself. Which leads me to my next learning.
- You cannot and will not even please everyone. I have some STRONG people pleasing tendencies. I think most women do. And having your own business does not help this at all. You want to make your customer experience as good as you possibly can. I don't know about you, but especially when I was first starting out, I was willing to do just about anything to make sure my customer had a wonderful experience. I gave money back PLENTY of times when I was first starting my business. And I still do when I feel it's needed. But in this case, I didn't feel it was the right thing to do considering this person showed up 20 minutes before the class to check the things she had problems with and STILL signed up.
- Boundaries are there for a reason. I have developed my class registration policies over the years based on much thought and consideration. They've come from different experiences I've had and I post them publicly so people can see what they're getting into BEFORE they sign up. There are many times when I take things into consideration before just blindly following my policies, but I did not feel this was one of those times.
- Always respond, but take some time if needed to take away the sting. Taking some time after the review to think about what I wanted to say and how I wanted to respond was a life saver for me! I tend to be the type of person who wants to respond immediately and I'm slowly learning to think before I react directly!
- One bad review in a sea of good reviews is hardly a blip on the sewing studio radar. I have one had a review, but mostly I have great reviews from pleased students and customers. Yes, this 1 star (or whatever system they use) brought my overall average down, but I can't sweat it. I know that my business offers exemplary service and for the most part, this is evident in my reviews.