Ask The Mompreneur: Negative Online Review? Advice From The Trenches

By Jennie Wong
The Charlotte Observer.

This week’s column features an interview with Christina Britt Lewis of The Redesign Company, a Davidson, N.C. home design firm.

Q: Getting a bad online review can feel devastating. I know you recently went through this experience and came through it in one piece. Can you share your story?

A: Entrepreneurs are artists. And artists take it personally. That is why receiving a scathing review hurts so much. We pour our hearts and souls into our work. Our work is a gift we feel compelled to give back to the world. When somebody criticizes our gift we question the worthiness of our gift and we question the worthiness of ourselves. It hurts. I launched The Redesign Company with my therapist husband in 2004. Together, we help people love what they already have all over again, and we are not just talking about the sofa.

As all entrepreneurs know or will know soon enough, we can’t please all of the people all of the time. We just can’t. When we found ourselves unable to please a new client not too long ago, I called to apologize, gave her a full refund, and sent a handwritten note wishing her well and apologizing once again.

And we all lived happily ever after.

I mean, and then she left us a scathing review on Houzz. Houzz is our most important online presence. More new clients find us there than anywhere else. Houzz reviews are a big deal for us.

My reaction was to:

I cried and sang “Shake it Off” into a spatula in my kitchen. More than once.

I wrote to the powers that be at Houzz and asked them to remove the review. I explained that we refused to take on her project and fully refunded her deposit. They explained that anybody you even talk to about a project is free to leave a review. I explained that by their policy my mother, the lady in line behind me at Trader Joe’s, and my hairdresser are free to leave a review. I have not heard back from them and the review still stands.

The shadow proves the sunshine. I found the beauty in the story. It’s always there if you look hard enough. When I finally found it, I wrote a blog post about the whole thing that became our most viral post ever and resulted in more new clients than any Houzz review ever.

Crying helps. Sometimes you just need to let yourself lose it.
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As business owners and mothers, we hold it all together for everyone else. We are the soother of souls and the solver of problems. We do this for the people we work with and the people we live with. When your soul needs soothing and your problems need fixing it helps to cry all of that hurt and anger and sadness out of you. Cry until you are empty. Focus on the solution, not the problem. Fighting Houzz got me nothing but frustrated. Repeat after me, “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Use your power for good.
This is when all of that time you have spent building your platform pays off. Use your blog or your public response to make a little lemonade. Your tribe will have your back. Admit your mistake and apologize. We all make mistakes. There is no shame in mistake making. The truth is, you did let somebody down. Say so. Own it. Take responsibility. The details don’t matter.

Resist the urge to defend yourself.
Responding well is not about telling your side of the story, it’s about showing your tribe that they are smart to trust you. This is an opportunity to show them that you will tell the truth and work hard to right wrongs, no matter what.

Keep on daring greatly.
In the words of Theodore Roosevelt, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena … who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”

And remember, we are powerful when we talk about what we love. Love wins.
Jennie Wong is an executive coach, author of the e-book “Ask the Mompreneur” and the creator of the product quiz website

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