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Handling Feedback—The Good and the Bad

When your contact with the outside world is a basic website, you don't often get feedback on your work. It can feel a bit like painting—and writing—in a vacuum. But when you also sell your work on Etsy, you can get feedback very easily through the rating system.

When a customer receives a purchase from the site, they are encouraged to rate that purchase within a five-star system, along with a brief comment and possibly a photo. As you would expect, five stars is grand, and one star is a sad sight to see. With one exception, I have received five stars in all of my years working through Etsy.

Recently, however, I received a two-star rating on one of my paintings, one of my favorites, in fact. I am proud of all of my work that goes on the site, but there are some pieces I am more drawn to than others, and this one particular painting was a charmer. So, when the customer only rated it with two stars and offered no explanation, I was dumbfounded.

I took a breath, and summoning my best communication skills, I contacted the customer through Etsy's private messaging system and calmly, and without defense, asked why she was dissatisfied. I had never received such a low rating and would like to understand in order to remedy the issue. Sincerely...

And then I went about my morning trying not to feel like an absolute failure.

It wasn't long before the customer replied with apology, explaining that it was a mistake which she was not aware had gone public. She was actually very pleased with the painting. Here is an exact quote—"Your piece is hung in my kitchen. I can’t walk by it without stopping to stare & admire. First piece of abstract art I own. You have me hooked now! Will be ordering more as I update my home."

She then revised her rating to five stars, and all was right with the world for both of us. If my customer really had been dissatisfied, I would have worked out an arrangement, a return or something, but I was so relieved it went the other way.

The lesson here is several fold:

  1. Figuratively—or literally if you must—count to ten before reacting to unpleasant feedback.

  2. Contact the customer privately so the two of you can interact without the world in witness.

  3. In this private communication, be respectful even if your brow is furrowed, and your tongue is wrapped around your teeth in puzzlement.

  4. Assume the best from people, because even in this upside-down world we seem to be living in, I have found most people really do not intend harm, especially Etsy customers who are a special kind of wonderful. At least that has been my experience.

A five-star review!

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