Tuesday, June 27, 2006

let's talk

How often do you give feedback to companies or people you do business with? If you’re like most people, it’s usually when you’re frustrated beyond belief.

Two weekends ago I went to a cafe I’d never been to before. I didn’t know what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised by the whole experience. The food was unique and tasted great, the service was friendly and fast, and the environment was relaxing, quiet and clean.

As I was leaving, I noticed they had some comment cards, a pencil and a cardboard box on a small table by the door. I thought for a second about leaving a note, but didn’t feel like standing by the door, filling out the card with the one available pencil while people walked in and out. If I had just had the worst experience of my life I probably would’ve grabbed that pencil and filled the card up one side and down the other with comments.

That’s the challenge! How do you get a customer to talk to you when they’re not irate? How can you elicit constructive feedback and not just emotional responses?

I can think of a bunch of times where I’ve been at a restaurant or store and have wondered why they didn’t offer this or that. But did I say anything? Did I just come out and ask, “Why don’t you carry those raspberry scones anymore?” Actually, I did ask that once and I was told it was because they stopped making them, but I know that’s not true because I can still get them at their other locations. Where was I? Oh yeah, most of the time I don’t say a thing. I just think, “Oh, that’s too bad that they don’t have this bag in brown, because I’d totally buy it right now if they did.”

If someone at the café had asked me on Sunday whether or not I enjoyed my muffin I would’ve said, “Yes. It was awesome. You should make them a little smaller though. It’s hard to eat the whole thing in one setting.” That would’ve been a constructive comment. Or I could’ve told them that they should change their music selection every half hour or so since jazz isn’t really my thing. They might not have agreed with me, but at least it would’ve given them a sense of who I am as a customer. But no one asked. Instead they used the standard comment-in-a-box format, and I just walked on by.

At Verity, we try to get feedback from our members in numerous ways. We do the whole comment card thing, we’ve asked for feedback in our newsletter and on our website, we’ve had focus groups and have plastered our contact information on everything we publish. We will continue to try and find new and improved ways to start dialogues with our members. And if you want to comment on this post, you know what to do.

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