Christina Kittelstad is a tutor of QC Design School and an accomplished color consultant, home stager and painter whose work has been featured on HGTV’s show House Hunters. She is the owner and lead color consultant for Spiral Design Color Consulting. She’s best known for creating beautiful, functional spaces through the use of color and creating a sense of style and personality that’s as unique as each of her clients.

Nothing beats the high of receiving a stellar review from a client and having them tell the world how amazing you are and how much they absolutely love their newly designed space. And nothing makes a designer want to crawl in a hole faster than receiving an awful review from an unhappy client. Am I right? Have you had this experience? How did you handle it? What steps did you take?

Here are 6 Action Steps you can take if you receive negative criticism or a bad review. These steps will help you turn your not-so-fun experience into an opportunity for positive professional and personal growth. Read on!

Step 1. Be Pro-Active

You can’t respond to a negative review if you’re not paying attention. Monitor your social media accounts and reviews on a regular basis so if a negative review pops up, you can respond in a timely manner. Staying on top of reviews is key to managing your business reputation.

young professional designer on her phone checking social media

Step 2. Be Professional

When we receive a less-than-wonderful review, our first instinct is to react, get angry, take it personally, and respond in a defensive way. This is the last thing you want to do.

Whether you’re an interior decorator, home stager, professional organizer, color consultant, or feng shui designer, you have an amazing and creative skill set. Your response should reflect this. Take the high road and remain positive. Knowing how to be professional, even when a client is not, is a HUGE skill that will carry you through many years of successful business.

Step 3. Politely Respond & Apologize

Calm down and go over the review with a critical eye. Research and gather all the facts. Talk to your staff or any contractors involved. Get the whole story.

Did the client receive what was promised? Did you provide everything your contract stated? Is there any merit to their criticism? If yes, then own up to where you fell short. Politely apologize, be specific, be genuine, and, if appropriate, offer a resolution.

Thank your client for their feedback even when it’s tough to hear. Believe me, this won’t be the most enjoyable conversation you’ll ever have, but it can save a project and sometimes gain a client for life. Showing that you are willing to listen and take responsibility (even when it might not be your fault) demonstrates enormous integrity and people WILL notice! Even if you lose a client in the end, you can move forward knowing you did the right thing and handled yourself and your business in the most professional way possible.

interior decorating and home staging

Step 4. Reflect & Learn

When you’re just starting out, you want to take on the world. Receiving a bad review can feel like the sky is falling. I promise it’s not, and time and experience will teach you otherwise. It never feels good to receive negative criticism or deal with a “mean client” but it’s important to remember that you cannot please everyone all the time.

Not every client will be your target client or your ideal project. There will be challenges that come with the territory, and how you choose to face those challenges are what matter most. Take time to reflect when necessary, and take on the next project only when you feel ready.

Self-care should be a staple in your designer toolbox, which allows you to offer your best self and your very best services. Remember you are a professional, and you deserve to be treated with respect like anyone else. If a client is toxic or ruining your reputation with bad reviews, you have every right to walk away from that project.

Step 5. Adjust Your Practices

Nothing helps you strengthen your business more than a difficult client or negative review. Consider it a huge opportunity to review how you do business. Find the loopholes and weak points, and strengthen your communication skills.

client communication between professional designer and clients

As a color consulting expert who offers virtual design and works with large communities, I must have air-tight contracts and top notch communication skills. I learned the hard way that contracts must be very specific and include exactly what services you are offering. This shows your client exactly what you are promising, and leaves little room for miscommunication or unrealistic expectations.

Consider if there are better ways to handle the next project differently. Can you adjust your process in a way that is more streamlined or customer-friendly? Improving how you do business is an ongoing process and will only bring you more positive reviews in the future.

Step 6. Review Your Online Reputation

As we discussed, being pro-active in monitoring your online reputation and social media accounts is probably the biggest thing you can do to manage a bad review. Every social media and design platform such as Google, Facebook, and Houzz have different ways of handling and managing bad reviews.

For example, on Google you can respond to a negative review, but you can also flag it or report it as fraudulent. Sometimes reviews may not even be real and it’s important to fact check! Houzz only allows those with accounts to leave reviews, and negative reviews can be updated when appropriate.

happy home designer with coffee

One final way to combat a negative review is to pro-actively request positive reviews after each successful project. Make it convenient for your clients by including a clickable link in your correspondence and on all your social media sites. Happy clients love to share your work with others and this will only benefit your business!

In my opinion, being a home designer is one of the most amazing careers there are. There will always be clients that challenge us. Remember, using the steps above and responding in a calm and professional way, no matter how bad the review is, will show clients that you are a true professional who does excellent work and is motivated to find resolution when a challenge arises. You got this!

Have you ever had a bad review? How did you deal with it? Let us know!

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