When a client buys your product or service, they obviously like it at some level, right?
So why is it so very hard to get feedback? The answer may not lie in the act of feedback itself, but instead in trust factors, formats and follow up .Find out how the simple act of feedback is quite a bit more complex than it seems. And how to make it easier to get the response you need to grow your business.
I used to have about 8-10 pen pals when I was in university.
You may or may not be aware of what pen pals happen to be, but back when I was in university, the Internet as we know it simply didn’t exist. And yet, growing up in Mumbai, I was curious to know more about the world. Hence, when a colleague of mine handed me a brightly coloured form, I was instantly hooked.
The form would enable me to join a pen pal service, based somewhere in Greece.
These Greek entrepreneurs would then put your details in their database and link you to people—kids like you—all across the world. In a short while, I was writing to HongKong, Italy, the U.K, Germany and the United States.
I was hooked. I could write to a complete stranger across the planet, and incredibly, they would write back. Unfortunately, that’s not the way it works when it comes to the business world. You may write to a paying client asking for feedback about your product or service and get no response at all. You may even follow up, but still find yourself getting no reply.
Is it you? Is it because of the quality of your questions? Or is it something else?
There are many reasons why no one responds.
1- They don't trust you to do anything with their response.
2- Your question format is much too complex or time-consuming.
3- They intend to get to it, but other issues are more urgent.
And now for an answer in the form of an article. 😉
Have you ever had restaurant staff ask you: How's the food?
Yesterday we went for dinner at our now favourite Indian restaurant. We've been going to dinner to their place almost since the day they started and sometimes even twice a week. With so much frequency, comes a factor of familiarity. It means we know the staff well, and they in turn know us. As always, we had our meal and the inevitable question hit us as we paid our bill.
“How was the food?”
“Frankly, it was disappointing”, I answered. And I knew I'd made a mistake the moment I responded, because there's something weird about restaurants. They expect you to become an instant critic; they expect you to explain exactly what's off, or what's not right. I'm pretty polished with my Indian food, because I cook Indian food frequently. Therefore, I could give more than a coherent response. Even so, the reaction I got from the staff member was “tepid”.
“I'll tell the chefs”, he said.
You see the problem, don't you? They're going to tell the chefs. Right! But how does that change my situation? I don't go out to dinner to eat. I go out for an experience. I can cook just as well, if not better food, at home. What would telling the chefs do for me? How would it change my experience either right away or in the future?
When we ask for feedback, our audience are a lot like dinner guests
You've asked for the feedback, but they believe you're going to do diddly squat with the information. They trust you, even like you, but they don't think you're going to do much.
Which is why the default response mechanism is to completely ignore your request for any sort of feedback. Plus the audience knows that you're not asking for praise or testimonials. That audience knows they have to say “not so kind” things to you. When has that feedback turned out well for them in the past? All you seem to get after giving feedback is this instant defensiveness from the person asking the question.
But there's a way to make clients eager to give feedback
If you look at the Psychotactics site, or the membership site at 5000bc, you'll notice something quite interesting. There's a bug on the site that not only asks for feedback, but also gives a reward.
In the past we've offered an $50 “voucher” for the best bug of the month, but in recent months we've taken it out as we transition to the new site. That reward will change over time, and now it's a series of postcards (and possibly a bar of chocolate from New Zealand). However, it's not the reward but rather what the reward suggests.
You know what it suggests, right?
It's saying almost instantly: we're happy to receive feedback, and we're so happy that we'll respond to your feedback with a reward. And that's one level of feedback for anything that's wrong with the site, or anything that needs our attention.
Which is why clients use that bug. In the earlier years at Psychotactics, we'd get also one bug a day, sometimes two. Do the multiplication and that works out to about 700 pieces of feedback, and not all of them were tiny changes.
Some involve a decent bit of pain on our part, but it's feedback and some of it has been extremely worth it. Sometimes we've had the wrong price on the site, losing us thousands of dollars.
That gap got fixed. At other times, clients haven't liked the way something was written, or they find things that obstruct their view. However, they're encouraged to write in and that's exactly what they do. At all times, we have a potential army of clients combing through the site, helping us out—at no charge, I might add.
However, it doesn't stop there
We make a note of the bug; fix it, and then respond. Just the other day, a member of 5000bc wrote in with a series of fixes needed in one of my articles. I'd not proof read the article, but hey, that was my fault. She wrote in with at least ten fixes and said “no response required”.
However, we always respond, even when they say “no response required”. We thank them, for their feedback, we fix it and then we send the client to see the fix. You see what's happening, right? The client doesn't think to themselves, “this is a waste of my time”.
They don't think, “he's going to tell the “chef”, but how does that improve my experience?” They know that the reason we ask, is because we'll fix and yes, reward too, wherever possible. Often just the fix is the reward, but there's not a reason in world why you can't do a bit more.
The same concept applies in the Article Writing Course or any other courses
At all times, clients know there's the ability to give feedback. The daily assignment is already a means for us to go back and forth, but even with over 10,000-15,000 interactions (yes, we have at least 10,000 posts for every course, with just about 25 people doing the course) there are still things to fix. We've been conducting the Article Writing Course since 2006.
We've had an average of 25 people on every course because more than that is pointless, as you can't give individual attention. You can safely say that about 250 clients have done this course.
Right through the course they have every right to stop, or slow down the course because we keep buffer weeks, just in case clients need more time to work on a project. In almost every course, clients suggest we make a change, or extend a concept over two weeks, instead of one. This might sound like a nightmare to you, but usually everyone struggles at approximately the same point, so the extra week isn't too much of drama.
Even so, when was the last time you could change the direction or duration of a course online or offline?
As if that were not enough, every week there's a Friday roundup, where clients get to give formal feedback as part of their assignment. And if that's not still enough, at the end of the entire course, they're expected to write 800-1000 words on what they would fix and how they could possibly fix it. Take 250 clients and multiply that by 1000 words and you have 250,000 words of feedback for a single course.
While all of these numbers are impressive, notice the underlying concept
Whether you're in 5000bc, or doing a course, or at a Psychotactics workshop or just on the site browsing, you're being hit with many, many reasons to write in and give your opinion.
Compare this with so many other sites and you'll find that people have literally been hiding their e-mail addresses because they want no contact from you. And if you happen to have contact, like my friend at the Indian restaurant, we get zero-benefit and no reward and just this sad, puppy face look.
1) Clients need to trust you'll do something with their feedback
If they don't get constant signals, there's no way they're going to respond. They have tried before; wait, you've tried before. All you and I get when give feedback is an idiotic mumble or even anger and frustration from the other side.
We've learned to keep our opinions to ourselves. However, you can get your clients to give you feedback and give it frequently.
You might think you're going to be awash in complaints, but that's hardly the case. Instead, what you do is get to fix the issues on your site, in your book, in your course and make it better. You connect with the client and they love your proactive behaviour.
What did it cost you?
Your time, a bar of chocolate and a few postcards.
And a lot of signage on your site that says: Give me feedback and I'll send you chocolate.
However, that's only the first problem with feedback. There's also the format and that can drive people crazy almost instantly.
Why do formats matter? Let's find out.
2) The format matters
When we struggle to get feedback, it's usually because we're not pedantic with our questioning
It's easy enough to say: how was your meal? What did you think of the software? Did you like the course? When faced with having to compress the entire experience into a single thought, most clients just give up.
However, the moment you get a bit fussy with your questioning, you get a completely different experience.
Let's look at an example
Let's say we need feedback on a website. Maybe you've just completed your sales page for a product or service and need friends or even clients to take a look and let you know what's wrong. Almost immediately you've set up a situation for overwhelm. A single sales page has dozens of elements.
The brave ones will rip through the page with their critiques, but most people will just avoid the task at hand. If on the other hand, you ask for feedback on only the headline, ah, now you're asking for something small and manageable.
Once they're done with that first step, you can ask for the second and the third.
You'll be pleasantly surprised at how much feedback you'll get if you break up the feedback into easy steps, and then into compartments.
And there you have it—two reasons, but there's a third. And it's called follow up. You know what follow up is, right?
3) Follow up: The secret sauce when all else fails
Ever noticed how some people seem to knock on your door when they're trying to get you to join some religion? Well, they do so here, anyway. And that level of knocking is clearly over the top. However, when it comes to getting feedback, a simple follow up, and then even a few more might be needed.
Often it's not that people don't want to give you feedback
It's just that they're not overly upset with your product or service. It's often not enough to warrant a full blown reply, and so they wait or just put off the feedback for later. A “later” that never really shows up. Well then, it's up to you. Follow up and then follow up at least a few times and you'll get your response.
If not, maybe there's something wrong with the system of getting feedback and if you're not getting feedback, you may as well use the opportunity to ask what's wrong with the feedback method itself.
Too long a form, not trusting you to do stuff—other reasons may play their role and that's why people aren't responding. It's a good time to clean up your act and ensure feedback in the future.
And that's pretty much it.
That's how feedback works. It's a lot of follow up, design and timing. Did I say timing? Yup, timing. Feedback works best right after the event, or even before people say goodbye (e.g. on a course).
Once the days slip into weeks and weeks into months, even the most diligent of clients aren't likely to give you feedback. You'll need to prepare yourself in advance so that your product, service or event has the feedback portion all ready to go, the moment it's needed.
Next Up: Why Negative Feedback Is A Gift