Time for a review. Overcome your fear of criticism

 

Fear of criticism

Maybe our fear of criticism goes back to our school days. Spending hours writing essays only to have them marked and returned with lots of red lines and teacher’s comments.

I’ve also been subjected to a wide variety of appraisals and work reviews in the different organisations I have worked for. Most of them provided encouraging, constructive criticism and feedback, especially in my early years in the Civil Service. And yet I still used to dread the annual Performance Appraisal Reviews and the fear of criticism. I imagine we are all the same. We think – hope! – we are doing a good job, but when there’s a review on the horizon we start to worry about getting negative feedback.

I was very lucky to be assigned to experienced managers who understood the difference between constructive and destructive criticism and how it can affect a person’s self-esteem. Their feedback encouraged my personal development and gave me the confidence to take on new challenges throughout my career and in my personal life.

Humiliation

However, there is one incident which stands out in my mind more than any other because of the way it made me feel. Little did I realise that how I felt at that moment was going to influence how I treated people I worked with in the future.

In my first contract as a freelance Test Consultant I was working for a very large corporate company. The job meant I was working away from home, with people I didn’t know and learning a new complex system. Everything was different, I was way out of my comfort zone but wanted to make a good impression because this was the career I loved. 

What I didn’t bank on was being assigned to a manager who let her personal life interfere with her professional life, to the extent that on her bad days, she publicly criticised and humiliated people. Less than a week into my new role, I was verbally attacked in a room full of people – because I had saved a file in the wrong place. She should have quietly point out the correct folder structure, but instead she shouted, finger-pointed and called me an ‘over-paid simpleton’. 

Embarrassment

I sat there open-mouthed and fighting back the tears. People were staring at me. I felt embarrassed and physically sick. I couldn’t even manage an easy escape because the door was the other side of the room. Instead I bit my lip, walked over to her desk, and I asked her quietly and apologetically if she could show me where the file should be. After correcting my mistake I walked down to the Ladies loo on the floor below and cried my eyes out. I had never felt so humiliated in all my life and convinced myself I was going to get sacked. I left work that day ready to pack my bags and even started looking for a new contract!

The next day she acted as if nothing had happened. No apology was ever forthcoming but it occurred so frequently, with different people, that eventually she was reported and moved to another area. Under a new, encouraging, more professional manager I became a team leader and stayed with that company for two years. I learnt new skills and gained knowledge and experience using new testing tools, but the most important thing I learnt was how to give feedback. 

Negative Feedback

If you have single-handedly set up your own business, set up Social Media accounts, manage the financial affairs and created your own website, hats off to you. You deserve a massive pat on the back. It doesn’t matter what line of business you are in (unless you are a web designer!) or how well you are doing. You have successfully done something a lot of people can’t or won’t do for various reasons, and one of those reasons is fear of criticism.

When you’re starting out, you know a business website is an essential marketing tool, but a good web designer costs money – even bad web designers cost money! And although it’s a recognisable investment, if you can’t afford it, your only option is to go it alone.

There are lots of sites, like Wix and WordPress, which can help you create a simple, straight-forward website. Don’t let them fool you into thinking it’s an easy task. You still have to think about what pages you need, getting the right template, writing the content, uploading images, etc. Maybe that doesn’t sound too difficult, but if your website is going to stand out from your competitors then it needs to be aesthetically pleasing and easy to use. 

So, now we’ve added a couple of plug-ins and widgets to improve the website ‘look and feel’ and it’s ready for publishing. Who are the first people we ask for feedback? Our friends and family of course. Because of our fear of criticism we can rely on them to be positive – and even if they are really honest, we know it will be in a nice, positive way. But does that mean we are already worrying too much about what other people think and, more importantly, what our customers think? 

What is Criticism?

Negative criticism from an unqualified, uninformed source is of so little value that it’s meaningless. It makes zero sense to pay it any of your valuable attention.

Extract credit – Jim Connolly 

As a small business owner we have to learn to deal with these fears, because as soon as your business is online it’s visible and open to criticism. So to survive it’s essential that you stop negative criticism from affecting you.

Jigsaw puzzle showing the words constructive criticism - fear of criticism

To do this try to understand more about the critic than the criticism. If they are an expert in their field then, even if their comment is negative, it might be something worth taking onboard. The key difference between criticism and feedback is our perception of it.

Criticism is often taken to mean that we are being judged by another person in a condescending manner. So when people are criticised by others it can be a fairly unpleasant experience for the receiver.

Destructive criticism doesn’t help anyone. In fact it can lower a person’s self-esteem and make them feel like a failure. Constructive criticism, on the other hand can help to develop the abilities of that person, and create a positive change.

What is Feedback?

Feedback is generally understood to be information that can improve the performance or development of a product or a person. For example, a company has released a new product on the market and wants to evaluate the public’s response. There are different ways to go about this. They might hold a small event where samples of the product are given to members of the public and they have to provide feedback. The company can then understand how well the product has been received and act on this feedback. 

For people,  a manager might give feedback in a personal appraisal, or to a group of employees when they complete a new project. A lot of companies hold one-off, end of project ‘Lessons Learned’ sessions.  Key stakeholders are asked to provide feedback for the project as a whole – what went well or not so well and what can be improved. 

Lessons Learned

Lessons learned is all about understanding what you all did right and what you all could have done better. It’s not about finger pointing. It’s about learning. And this is why, when I perform my business website reviews, my feedback report isn’t all about what is wrong with the website. It’s about pointing out what works really well and what can be improved. 

I always ask for feedback and, from what I’ve received, the majority of my clients generally agree with my comments. Issues are fixed, suggestions for re-wording are applied, website layout and functionality is improved. A lot of the changes are quick, easy, inexpensive and effective. 

Very occasionally they don’t want to make any changes, which is fine. I’m not going to force my opinions on anybody. However I will point out that if one of the issues is that your website is not legally compliant, then that is not just my opinion. It’s the law! 

Be Kind

One of the reasons behind this post is a conversation I had recently with a new client. She admits she’s not technically minded but has still managed to build her own website. However, when she saw that someone on Facebook had left a rather derogatory comment, she was understandably upset and demoralised. Personally, having just started my review of the site, she has done a bloody good job and we’ll work together to make it even better! 

If you’ve never received bad feedback maybe you don’t have a fear of criticism, and you’re incredibly lucky. Your parents and teachers must have been a lot nicer than mine. But next time you leave a review or a comment, if you know it’s a small business, try and be a bit more considerate. Your criticisms can be hurtful and demoralising. I appreciate it’s not always easy, especially if you’ve had bad customer service, but imagine how you would feel if you were being publicly humiliated. 

I know how I felt and it’s not something I would even wish on my worst enemy. 

 

SAA I.T Test Consultant

 

‘Sharing is Caring’

If you like this article let me know – and let your friends know!

 

 

Location

Shirley Atkinson

SAA IT Test Consultant

79120, Sainte Soline, France

SIRET – 835 373 515 00013

©2020 SAA-IT-Test.com

Contact

Need some help? Please contact us:

saa.it.testing@gmail.com

FR: +33 (0)7 83 16 61 11

UK: +44 (0)7940 435970

Hours

Mon: 10:00 AM – 4:30 PM
Tue: 10:00 AM – 4:30 PM
Wed: 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM
Thu: 10:00 AM – 4:30 PM
Fri: 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM
Sat: Closed
Sun: Closed

 

Responsive Website Design - SAA IT Test Consultant

A poor customer experience will impact sales

When you first published your business website who did you ask to check it out for you? In the majority of cases, if you are a small business owner it would probably have been close friends or family. And I don’t blame you, because I did the same. But unless they have website user testing experience then their feedback is likely to have been clouded by loyalty and emotion. 

They’re your friends and if you were just starting out, they’re not going to say anything negative to dampen your enthusiasm.

Same with me – to a certain extent. As an experienced user tester I always provide honest, constructive feedback. But whether it’s as a friend or a paid test analyst, I try to do it without sounding too critical. And I don’t just give negative feedback. I always report back on the positive aspects too.

Get an unbiased view

Having a fresh and impartial pair of eyes assessing your website will find issues that could affect your customer’s experience. A poor customer experience will generate bad reviews and it will impact your sales. Outsourcing the validation of your website to an independent user testing expert will give you an unbiased, unambiguous view of your business website, its strengths and its weaknesses.

 

“According to research by McKinsey, an incredible 35 per cent of Amazon’s sales come from recommendations.

More and more e-commerce businesses, small and large, are outsourcing their user experience (UX) testing to third-party testing service providers and business website user testing is one of the services that I provide. 

Initially I will look at your website and comment on my first impressions and then I will consider the most important factors for a well-designed business website. 

  • Can I tell in a few seconds what it is your business provides?
  • Are there any customer reviews?
  • Can I find what I’m looking for quickly and easily?

I’ll check whether the site is secure, if there is a data protection policy and, if it’s a commercial site, that all your general terms and conditions of sale are prominently displayed – payment options, refunds and exchanges, cost of delivery, after-sales service, etc.

What do you want your customers to do? 

User testing helps you understand how a customer might interact with your site. It covers the main steps a customer might go through such as selecting one or more items, choosing sizes, adding them to the shopping cart and going to the payment process.

The user journeys can be different every time. If there are different paths through the process, then there will be multiple user tests. And if there is an issue at any point this will be brought to your attention in the feedback report.

A bad customer experience will result in lost sales, bad reviews and more revenue for your competitors. Is that what you want? Or would you prefer to have an increase in sales, good reviews and recommendations, and a loyal customer base that trusts you to provide a secure, reliable service? 

Find out how my user testing experience can help you improve your customer’s experience.

FIND OUT MORE

 

Location

Shirley Atkinson

SAA IT Test Consultant

79120, Sainte Soline, France

SIRET – 835 373 515 00013

©2020 SAA-IT-Test.com

Contact

Need some help? Please contact us:

saa.it.testing@gmail.com

FR: +33 (0)7 83 16 61 11

UK: +44 (0)7940 435970

Hours

Mon: 10:00 AM – 4:30 PM
Tue: 10:00 AM – 4:30 PM
Wed: 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM
Thu: 10:00 AM – 4:30 PM
Fri: 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM
Sat: Closed
Sun: Closed

 

RESULTS: Good Quality Images Will Capture Their Attention

A picture paints a thousand words

After 18 months of testing, 56% of usability testers said that it was good quality product images that captured their attention first, and then they read the description. 

Although the Hotel News article’s user testing results are based on a booking system, the No.1 response can be applied to practically any enterprise that sells products – quality photos matter.

People remember 80% of what they see

Let’s stick with hotels for the time being and imagine you want to book a romantic weekend for 2 in or around Dublin, Ireland.

In Google Search for ‘romantic weekend Dublin room service’. Click on TripAdvisor’s ‘Ten Best Romantic Hotels in Dublin‘. 

I pick one from the list ‘The Marker Hotel’. It’s a bit out of my price range but the room photo has piqued my interest. There are over 1000 photos, but check out the Room/Suite ones and tell me which ones you prefer. Scroll through them and it’s pretty obvious which are professional and which are guests photos.

If you’re looking  for a hotel you don’t just want to see a hotel room. You want to see the bathroom, the dining room, the pool and spa facilities. But they have to be captivating, good quality images in order to entice you in, like The Marker Hotel. 

Now apply that principle and search for your product. Better still get someone else to search for your product and give you their honest feedback.

Regardless of what you are ‘selling’, good quality images are going to catch the shopper’s attention before they read the description. You need to showcase the whole product, from different angles, and in different settings if possible. Think about what you would want to see as a potential buyer. 

 

“We are highly visual creatures and repeatedly buy with our eyes. This is especially true when it’s time to book a hotel room. Potential guests want to see where they will be staying”. 

Read the full article: Creating a picture perfect booking experience Secondary Link

Hiring a professional photographer might sound like an unnecessary expense but, if you want to boost your sales, your photos need to be good quality images. High resolution digital photos will give sharper results, and hiring a professional photographer may turn out to be the best business investment you ever made. Ask for recommendations, check out their website portfolio and chat with them about your product requirements.

If you want to boost your sales, think like your customer or ask someone else to. Then act on their feedback.

Most buyers are looking for inspiration so good quality images will capture their attention and help to create a picture perfect ordering experience! 

 

I hope you found this article useful.

If you think there is anything that could have been better, let me know.

 

Location

Shirley Atkinson

SAA IT Test Consultant

79120, Sainte Soline, France

SIRET – 835 373 515 00013

©2020 SAA-IT-Test.com

Contact

Need some help? Please contact us:

saa.it.testing@gmail.com

FR: +33 (0)7 83 16 61 11

UK: +44 (0)7940 435970

Hours

Mon: 10:00 AM – 4:30 PM
Tue: 10:00 AM – 4:30 PM
Wed: 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM
Thu: 10:00 AM – 4:30 PM
Fri: 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM
Sat: Closed
Sun: Closed

User Testing Experience

From 1982 until 1997 I worked for the civil service in local benefit office on the North Wales coast and also on a 2 year secondment to the Regional Implementation Team based in Cardiff, for the roll out of the Income Support system.

In 1997, still working for the civil service, I took on my first testing role with DWP at their I.T. headquarters in Lancashire initially testing enhancements to the Income Support benefit system, but I also worked on the test teams for Social Fund, Jobseeker’s Allowance and Child Support. I left the civil service in 2000 and joined an I.T company in Manchester as a Test Consultant, I also worked briefly for EDS (now Hewlett Packard) and eventually set up my own Test Consultancy business in 2001.

Just a few of the companies I have worked for: 

BT – Home Office – DWP – GE – HSBC – AutoTrader – e-VMT – BJSS – IBM (Curam) – HSBC

Until we moved permanently to France in 2017 I worked across the full complement of testing phases throughout the complete end-to-end testing life-cycle including : integration, functional, non-functional, regression, performance and user testing. Now my focus is User Testing and putting my testing experience and attention to detail to good use, helping business owners create a great customer experience and improve their business online presence. 

I always ask my clients to provide feedback, because if they are not satisfied with the services I have provided then I make every possible effort to improve them.

My aim is to help you improve the quality of your customer’s experience and increase the visibility of your business by providing expert advice and offering a range of affordable solutions and services.

Feel free to read some of these reviews on my Facebook Business page, LinkedIn profile  orGoogle My Business!

TESTIMONIALS

Location

Shirley Atkinson

SAA IT Test Consultant

79120, Sainte Soline, France

SIRET – 835 373 515 00013

©2020 SAA-IT-Test.com

Contact

Need additional assistance? Please contact us:

saa.it.testing@gmail.com

FR: +33 (0)7 83 16 61 11

UK: +44 (0)7940 435970

Hours

Mon: 10:00 AM – 4:30 PM
Tue: 10:00 AM – 4:30 PM
Wed: 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM
Thu: 10:00 AM – 4:30 PM
Fri: 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM
Sat: Closed
Sun: Closed