Listen. Feedback matters.

I feel like I’m becoming the curmudgeonly old guy who just complains about stuff. And, maybe I am, but I remember when things just worked. Don’t you? Maybe it’s just me showing my age. Perhaps we all have a bit of the curmudgeon within each of us. It’s not a bad thing. When I order a pizza without anchovies and I get extra anchovies, it’s right to speak up. It’s the correct thing to do. That doesn’t give me a license to be an ass, but just to bring up the subject that a mistake was made and that I’d like it corrected, please. A mistake, that anyone can make. An honest mistake.

Not your beta tester.

However, when I buy a technology of some kind, a phone, some software, an app, I expect it to work. I expect it to be secure, tested, and beta tested. Beta testers, if you’re unfamiliar with the term, are people who are prescribed by the company as sample end users that will verify that the software works as expected without errors, before the product is sold. They are not paying customers who expect a finished, working product.

Just a few weeks ago, I had some thoroughly frustrating customer experiences with three companies’ technologies; Chase Bank, Jimmy John’s, and Amazon’s Seller Central. In all three of these cases, the common thread was an inability to get feedback to the company about the problem I was experiencing. Each case, a different technical problem and the same common obstacle trying to get the problem resolved—giving feedback.

In each of these cases, it was an inability to give feedback to the company whose app/website was failing. It wasn’t that they didn’t have a feedback system, it was that with each one of them, their feedback systems were broken too!

‘Hey! Your website or app isn’t working as expected and I’m trying to tell you about the error that you may not know about, but your system to contact you is broken too!’ So, after making several attempts to contact customer service at each company, failing completely each and every time, trying several different methods, I resorted to tweeting to them. Only after tweeting publicly to the three companies, did I ever get any kind of contact to help address the problem. And in each of the three instances, they never corrected the problem, they just apologized and said that my business was important to them and that I’m a valued customer. But none of them got the message back to the people that could actually address the problem and make a meaningful change.

The problem with so many companies today is that they’re not focused on the customer experience. They say they are and they think they’re making every attempt to put out great products and services. But unless they put in the feedback mechanisms to learn if their customers are having great experiences, they’re not getting the whole picture. It’s an incomplete portrait.

At one time Guy Kawasaki wrote in the Art of Innovation; “Don’t worry, be crappy.” I have a love/hate relationship with this expression. I think some innovators take it too far and just ship product for the sake of shipping, thinking their product is just too cool and too novel not to ship and everyone will love it anyway because it’s so disruptive. It’s time to humble up and realize that you don’t know everything and you need to listen to your customers. You have no idea how people are going to be using your product and what their experiences are going to be until they start using it.

Most customers don’t complain. Maybe they think it’s impolite. They just ignore the problem, and either live with it and the poor feelings that go along with it, or move on to a different company that might have a better product. If they do complain, or just want to give feedback about their experiences, the company needs to listen and provide a workable way for their customers to contact them, to hear them, and make them feel like they’ve been heard and are valuable.

If nothing else, the most important part of the product needs to be a way to get feedback from the customer; about their experiences, good and bad. In addition, companies need to empower their employees to address the problems as directly as possible. Employees need to be able to communicate with the customer and ensure them that they have been heard and are working to fix the problem directly. If they can’t fix the problem directly, then they need a mechanism to get the feedback to someone in the company who can fix it. Then follow up with the customer thanking them for their loyalty, alerting you to the issue, and what you’re doing to address it. A little bit goes a long way in gaining new customers and retaining existing ones. They all share their stories with others, good and bad.

Look, I don’t want to be a beta tester, but if I must, because you’re unable to create a reliable product on your own, then you better put in a working feedback mechanism.

Listen to your customers. They’re the best feedback you’ll ever have. Ever. They’re also the best marketers for your products, good or bad. They might even blog about it.

Do you feel like you’ve been a beta tester with buggy software other technology. Do you feel as though you’re being ignored by the company? Let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear from you.

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© Brian Greenberg and briangreenberg.net 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Brian Greenberg and briangreenberg.net with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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About Brian Greenberg

Brian Greenberg is a senior strategy consultant specializing in whole systems design and leveraging technologies to advance the goals of organizations in the public, private, academic and not-for-profit sectors. An information systems and technology leader, Brian has 20 years experience in information systems design, architecture and business operations.  Brian holds a B.S. in Philosophy & Applied Computer Science and a M.A. in Whole Systems Design – Systems Theory. As a frequent industry speaker, Mr. Greenberg addresses how organizations can better align legal and business requirements with IT and has presented several papers and participated at conferences. Brian also sits on the Board of Directors of EcoMyths Alliance, a consortium of environmental education partners.