Spin Complaints Into Site Improvements

Remember “Field of Dreams”? “If you build it, they will come.” Yeah, sure! In the past six months, lots of dot-coms found out that’s not true not for investors and certainly not for customers. Try this instead: Ownership equals commitment. If you build it, they may or may not come. If they help build it, they’re already there.

Your VC investors get rewarded for their contribution, and all they give you is a finite amount of money. A customer who invests the time to make a suggestion, even a nasty complaint, is giving you leverage for increased revenue limited only by your own ingenuity.

Embrace critics and complainers use their comments to improve your site’s usability and its services. The third article in this series touched on that strategy. Your email responding to criticism may be the most important one you send.

The actual improvement in your site or service is an event you should announce to your customers, with a “thank you” to those who suggested it. Just the words may be enough. An e-coupon for a discount on their next purchase sweetens the deal and demonstrates the sincerity of your customer care. It says, “We’re serious about continual improvement. We listen to your comments and act on them. This business is all about YOU.”

Why bother? The general wisdom is that such people complain widely and praise only narrowly if at all. That was before email.

A training tactic can change the “whine loudly, praise softly” pattern. That tactic relies on the energy necessary to fuel action. Fuel, energy, and action operate in the human mind about the same as they work in physics. How far, how fast, and where a missile goes depends on the kind and quantity of fuel and the angle of trajectory you set. Tactic: Use engagement to fuel and direct ego, which fuels action.

The ego is the source of energy operating here. Something about your site, your product, or your service triggered anger energy coming from their ego. They felt insulted, stupid, deceived severely disrespected in some way. They had to “show you a thing or two.” That anger energy powered their fingers to complain to you and probably to their entire email list of friends.

Cherish that! For every person who acted on that energy by writing, hundreds left in silence. The loudmouth gives energy back to you, and you can use it to launch his or her next volley in the direction you want it to travel.

You thank these people in word, deed, and value. That shot of ego-enhancing energy can motivate action even more strongly than the anger energy that prompted the complaint in the first place. People like to brag that they’ve made an impact on somebody else’s behavior. “I am powerful!”

Here’s where email changes the old wisdom. Now, it’s just as easy for these people to email their entire list of friends, telling their friends that you thanked them and actually changed something based on their comments. If your thanks included a goodie, these people are more likely to spread the news of their own success. If that goodie involves a further discount for purchases made by the friends these people refer to your site, they’ll definitely use the opportunity. What has your investment of your own time, energy, and money bought you? Viral marketing!

Treat your own ego kindly, too. There’s nothing sweeter than an enemy converted into an ally. Enjoy your achievement. Take it to the bank.

Homework: How can you pump up people’s egos in your banner ads? Next week we’ll think about tactics for training tidbits to get the most value from rich media ads. Meanwhile, if you need coaching, you know where to find me.

Recess: If it’s later than 10 a.m., you need to take a break. Try the aquarium stress-relief page.

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