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Feedback That's Really Heard

  |  March 14, 2002   |  Comments

When companies don't listen to customers, copywriters' jobs are much tougher. Here's a Web-based company that literally hears what visitors think of their site.

I've been writing about the importance of feedback online for a long time. Web sites, email, and newsletters provide an incredible opportunity for marketers and writers to actually pause and listen to their customers and prospects.

Every page of your site could and should encourage feedback from your users. It makes sense to hear what people have to say. The more you listen, the sooner you can create a user experience that really connects.

Feedback is particularly important for copywriters. Copywriters need to listen carefully to their audience. They need to understand what their readers want, and they need to understand what upsets their readers and what pleases them.

After all, if you don't know whom you are talking to, how on earth do you know what to say?

Thus, it's strange so many Web-based companies pay such little attention to collecting feedback from their visitors.

The tools are certainly available. The biggest player in this area, as far as I know, is OpinionLab. This is the company behind those little, floating plus and minus signs you'll find on sites such as Chiquita, dice.com, and MyPoints.

OpinionLab and others provide tools to collect customer feedback online. Unfortunately, such tools are powerless if companies don't have the will to use them and act on the results collected.

Apathy toward feedback is disheartening. Which is why it was such a huge pleasure for me to find a company that goes way beyond anything I have come across.

PerfectAgent provides a broad range of services to anyone who wants to get more from her work life. What I love most about its site is the feedback system it built in-house. Many pages carry a graphic with a happy face and a sad face -- and an invitation to click.

Click on the happy face if you like what you're reading or the unhappy face if you are dissatisfied. Whichever face you click, you're invited to type in some comments and send them to PerfectAgent.

Here's the very, very, very cool part of all this:

Whenever someone clicks on the happy face, the sound of cheering is broadcast through the PA system at the company's Knoxville, TN, office. If someone clicks the sad face, every employee in the company hears a groan.

Hour by hour, day after day, everyone who works for PerfectAgent gets direct feedback on how well he is doing his job. He can open a folder on his desktop and read the comments associated with that feedback at any time.

I think that's a wonderful thing.

The Web can create real distance between companies and their customers. There are no stores to visit, no interaction between company employees and the people they serve.

PerfectAgent found a way to break down that barrier. It listens to its customers every day. That's great for the company and very valuable for its writers.

A writer who really listens is much more likely to write copy that really connects.

If you know of other companies that really work hard at collecting user feedback, please let me know via email... or feedback!

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Nick Usborne

Nick Usborne speaks, writes, and consults on strategic copy issues for business online. For Web sites, e-mails and newsletters, he crafts messages that drive results. He is the author of the critically acclaimed bookNet Words - Creating High-Impact Online Copy.

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