Feedback, Manure and a Book

Each week a copy of the forkinthehead newsletter goes out with an introduction, an article and a short survey. At Forkinthehead.com we’ve done it this way every week for the last eighteen months or so. And the best part of the whole deal – for me – is reading the survey results.

A couple of weeks back we asked some simple questions about how webmasters and site owners – our audience – deal with feedback. In a nutshell, over 80 percent of respondents told us that feedback from their sites was directed to one designated individual who read it and then either filed or deleted it.

I think we’ll go back with some more questions that dig a little deeper into this question. But the idea of feedback being filed or deleted is troubling.

Why?

Because feedback about your site is a key component in building a relationship with your customers. The feedback button – or whatever you call it – is the equivalent of having ears in a personal relationship. And in any relationship, online or offline, listening is a good thing.

So, to the five percent in our survey who said, “We don’t need no stinking feedback,” I have a word of warning: Beware.

Beware, because the Internet is to feedback what manure is to mushrooms: a very fertile growing environment. The fact is, visitors to your site will have an opinion about the experience they have there – and many will want to share that opinion. So you have a choice.

Either open up a wide and welcoming feedback pipe within your own site, or leave your visitors to vent through feedback options provided by folks outside of your control.

For instance, if I didn’t like your site, service or products for some reason, I might let the world know of my displeasure through sites like epinions.com, consumerreview.com, ugripe.com or thirdvoice.com.

My point?

My point is that if you want ongoing relationships with your customers, you have to let them know that you are willing and able to listen. Make it easy for them to make their voices heard.

And when that feedback gets to you, treat it with the attention it deserves. Don’t “file or delete it.”

For instance, you might get a message like this…

“Your site sucks. I was looking for Tomb Raider 4. It took forever to find it. It’s an ‘Action’ game – not an ‘Adventure’ game. Morons! And how come you don’t accept checks? And after two weeks of waiting I still didn’t get it and I emailed you and still haven’t got a reply! I want my money back. You suck, suck, suck!!!!!”

Well, a number of people should be reading such a message.

Because it flags a number of issues. Navigation and usability issues. A basic question about payment options. Some customer service issues. And maybe some technical issues as well.

One person reading this and then filing it won’t help much. Which is why I favor the idea of creating a Feedback Book.

Capture all of your feedback and put it into the Book. Do it in Excel, in Word – whatever suits. Make it available to everyone who is responsible for any aspect of the site and customer experience. Share it through a network. Print it out. Highlight every point that requires action. Check off points that have been dealt with. Circle those that haven’t. Watch out for issues that come up time and again. Prioritize.

But don’t file or delete it. Keep it all together so you get a sense of continuity, a feel for areas that are improving and a sense of areas where more problems are arising.

Take it seriously.

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