Soliciting feedback, the old school way
Sometimes, when we talk with developers about Apptentive and our philosophy, they ask, “How many people really give feedback?”
It’s a great question, because it opens up a conversation that we like to have around why feedback volume isn’t just the customer’s responsibility. If you’re developing an app that doesn’t get much in the way of feedback, maybe you’re not soliciting it enough.
Great companies actively solicit feedback.
I like to think about some of the companies here in Seattle who are known for their customer service: Nordstrom, REI, Costco, Amazon and Starbucks. Those companies are always soliciting feedback from their customers in a variety of ways. From the barista behind the counter to the feedback surveys that come after an interaction with an Amazon support rep, I take it for granted that these companies want to know my opinion.
What’s important to note is that most companies DON’T make me feel this way. The hallmark of great customer service is often the implicit assessment that we make while wearing our consumer hats: if I think that your company cares about what I have to say, I’m already bought into the idea that you truly care about me and the service you’ve provided. This is why when I saw this note on the wall at Bedlam Coffee I was taken aback and impressed. They explicitly reached out and asked me to raise my hand if I had a problem. Nice work Bedlam! Oh and by the way, they make a pretty great espresso, I’ve never had a complaint .
It’s not just about complaints.
Soliciting feedback from customers isn’t just about getting people who had problems to raise their hands, however. Just the simple act of asking for comments and thoughts can be a huge differentiator. Another real-world example comes by way of Golden Beetle, in Ballard. At the end of your meal, the server always drops off the bill with a comment card that solicits some thoughts from you about your experience. Take a look at the card – it’s fairly simple and doesn’t require much of you. A cursory look around the restaurant gave me the impression that probably 20% of people were taking the time to write something down. Not too shabby.
Solicit feedback, then create a relationship.
The Golden Beetle didn’t stop with just soliciting some thoughts from their customer, however. If you took a moment to flip the card over, you found an invitation to be kept apprised of upcoming events and to even subscribe to the mailing list. For many, this might be a bit too much, but the nature of this comment card is such that you can take it or leave it.
Suppose that you had just given feedback to the effect of, “the twice-baked fava beans were delightful” (they are) and were thinking pretty positively. When you flip the card over, you’re more likely to be open to keeping in touch with the restaurant. Awesome outcome for both the customer and the restaurant.
By contrast, if you were commenting about an unpleasant experience and dissatisfaction, you’re not very likely to sign up for the mailing list, at this point in time. But, the act of venting and letting them know about your problem might be enough to get you to give the place a second try, which is exactly what Golden Beetle needs. If they’re serving up good experiences on a regular basis and learning from their mistakes, thanks to your feedback, that second chance might be all they need to make you a happy and impressed customer.
If they can do it, so can you.
These are examples of offline businesses doing some impressive things to solicit feedback from their customers. What they do takes a decent amount of time and effort and it’s excellent to see that they’re committed to doing so. Golden Beetle has to regularly print out their feedback cards, read them, categorize them and follow-up. Not exactly a low-maintenance task, but they’ve come to the conclusion that it’s worth it.
The good news is that this task is much easier with software. With network connectivity, we can do a lot more of this work in a consistent and efficient manner. In addition, experiments are cheaper, so you can routinely work to make it easier for the consumer to give you feedback. Be inspired by these real-world examples – they clearly have a benefit and are worth doing. Build off of their implementations to make your life even easier and, most importantly, to make your apps even better.