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The Day I received my first one-star-rating

Last Friday, a corporate customer rated the Silicon Valley Inspiration Tours Program one star. Bummer. I guess, we all one day will have to face the experience of an unhappy customer. Let me share mine with you.


Thumbs up or down – Either way drops its shadow. One is brighter one is wider.



Being a big fan of structuring things, I can tell you that this day, I went through five phases: Phase 1: WTF Phase 2: Disapointment morphs to Anger. How can I shoot back? Phase 3: Self pity Phase 4: Evaluation Phase 5: Thank You, Coach. Does something like that sound familiar to you? Let me take you through these phases with a little more detail.

Phase One. WTF. Until last Friday, everyone who gave a rating, rated the experience 5*. To be honest, I was already quite confused about that one 4* rating, we have received, once. 1*? Seriously? The crazy part is that this customer did not even book a tour but actually two meetings in Dubai. Of which one company was not really interested in meeting with them and finally committed to the meeting after weeks and numerous calls of convincing them. Even more surprising: the rating was posted exactly a month after these two meetings in Dubai. Bad day?

Phase Two. From Disapointment to Anger. You might already feel me getting in heat. Whats happening here? Look in my face, talk to me. Let me eat your argument for breakfast. Just imagine a lot of "Vocabulary II" here. "I would not recommend working with this agency". We are not an agency. (a lot of unspoken swearing, here as well)

Phase Three. Self Pity. For this customer it might be a bad day, for me its a devastating poisoning of the so far great reputation of this program. 7 years of blood sweat and tears down the river in one rating-paragraph on google. I am always thankful for feedback. But 1*? Would not 3* been already enough to express the frustration of this experience? I feel bad. Both personally and from a business perspective. 

Phase Four. Evaluation Why is she so upset? We had a debrief, I took her feedback, tried to response in a way that tells her, I can take the feedback, but also shared my point of view and as a result this public rating? Our program has a focus and reputation on guiding groups of max 10 through a process of inspiring conversations and mentoring, giving insights on exponential organizations and connecting the dots throughout this experience. Being middleman to book two meetings has not been on the menu before, and wont be in future. This seems not to work out for both.

Phase Five. Thank You, Coach In a very inspiring talk, a speaker shared his personal routine of looking at every unpleasant experience as a challenge with a steep learning curve. And he would say to the situation/himself: Thank You, Coach. Ego heals fast. Reputation to your work is build hard and broken instantly. So you have to be supercareful about avoiding disappointment. One very practical way of avoiding is the magical word NO. Its ok to say no, if you don't really feel like you are the best goto for the specific task. Another way - in case there is a good reason for committing - is to be hypercareful in the organization. Projects with semi-good gutfeeling are highly vulnerable to flaws and mistakes. Double-Check everything, secure yourself with backup and don't prepare a second of the whole thing lightly. Critical people can as well turn into the biggest fans. They usually dont give average ratings, 5* or 1* is their name of the game. The choice is yours, actually. I missed mine. 

In the meantime, this customer deleted her rating. Back to a 5.0 rating of the program. Which is great. But probably not 100% accurate, because after 7 years, I left one customer unhappy. I take it as a warning call. Never take it easy on the people trusting on you. Be 150%. Always. Or experience the cold shower, I went through, last Friday. It might drop a longer shadow, though. I was lucky. This time. Best Niki

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Niki Ernst

The Businesstherapist.

Founder and CEO of IACy e.U.
The Innovationagencynetwork

Arnethgasse 44/26

1160 Vienna

Austria