GPI 172 – Suggestion boxes on the wall at work are worthless to get honest ideas.

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When companies invite suggestions and ideas, some put boxes up on the wall and the comments will start pouring in.  This does not always happen given that the very people who may be the focus of service problems may have access to the contents of the box.

Customers do not want their comments read by just anyone.  They want them kept private yet they write their complaint because they want something to change that is important to them.  This is why public suggestion boxes never draw good honest responses compared to suggestion cards that are postage-paid and directed privately to parties outside the establishment.  Customers may want to complain about the guy who empties the box, so one can imagine how inviting that box on the wall can be in those situations.

Offer ‘suggestion’ or ‘complaint’ cards that are mailed to separate addresses.  Offer customer feedback postage-paid postcards for customers to offer comments, complaints, suggestions or other ideas about the products or services offered.  The postcards are cheap, preprinted and only cost the purchasing company postage expense if returned through the mail.  These blank cards can be left in your offices or stores, included in the packaging of large expensive products or sent to the buyer direct to fish for feedback and customer ideas.  To reassure customers, have the return address forwarded to a separate facility to infer objectivity.

Offer a toll-free number.  You can also invite those customers who bought your product or service through their paid receipt or handout to call a toll-free company number to voice complaints or to further suggestions. Once they voice their concerns, offer them special discounts for additional complementary items or entry into idea or comment contests to further add interest.  You may want feedback from customers once they have bought your product, taken it home and then subsequently have comments or suggestions on how the product does or does not work.  Do they have buyers’ regrets?  Find this out by asking.

Cards are normally completed by angry customers; use them to vent.  Few will respond to these postcards but, the answers, blunt comments and wide-ranging ideas you do finally get are valuable and are provided by intense customers.  These intense people will tell you everything wrong with your product versus that of your competitor, and this is not a bad thing.  These cards tell you what your customers are currently thinking, especially those who are upset with your bad or defective products or perceived lousy service.  Invite this market response and welcome the feedback while you still get.

Blank suggestion boxes on the wall do not work.  Do not mount a suggestion box on the wall only for customers to ignore it and take their complaints home with them.  Encourage them to take these cards home as they exit the door.  Make it easy for them to write what they think and to include further pages if they wish.  If you really want to encourage their participation, open the ideas up to everyone, including employees, and schedule a regular monthly drawing (you pick the time period) to pick out the best ideas submitted during the selected time frame.  Judge the responses once per month, throw some money out there, advertise it throughout your stores and publish the great idea for all to see and say, “I could have thought of that.  Why didn’t I turn that in?”

Plant a question to stir up ideas for your offer of postage-paid cards for customers to take and use.  Make this program easy, safe and apparently valid, and you may be surprised at what ideas you receive.  If you wish, plant a question of the week or month next to the reply cards to provoke ideas or suggestions from the readers.

Suggestion boxes seem unsafe to customers. If the suggestion box is on the wall, does that mean that the employee you do not like will be picking them up after you leave?  Will you complain about an employee and that is the one who takes out the suggestions?  This is what is thought so do not do it.

Make it safe to give feedback.  Some customers do not want to fill it out and hand it to the people they complained about.  Would you fill out a comment card negatively and give it to the person about who you are complaining?  Make submitting your feedback cards as private and as easy as possible to encourage blunt honest comments and for customers to leave suggestions.

Forward your customers’ suggestion cards to an independent team.  Customers want their suggestions and ideas to be read by managers who will act.  They want to reach someone who will do something to resolve a complaint.  Feedback cards submitted to a drop box is not private enough, and defeats the entire purpose.

Buy prepaid cards that can be mailed by the suggesting participant.  Go to the post office and find out how to buy prepaid postage postcards for soliciting comments.  Reassure participating customers that their comments are reviewed by unbiased managers who genuinely want to improve company service and the products offered.

Ask for the person’s identity but do not make it mandatory.  On the cards, ask for a name and telephone number, and allow for the suggestion to be anonymous.  You will not know what you are going to be told, so invite comments and scrutinize accordingly.  The most important thing though is to be unbiased feedback.  You want to know how your firm can improve and grow, so do not hinder great ideas that can come from anywhere and anyone.

Do not worry about getting suggestion cards; worry if you do not get any.  This is what you should fret about.  Worry about many customers that are so fed up with your store that they never say anything because it is thought to be worthless. These are the ones who will each complain to 20 other people, ultimately forget your place, and never return, as you go out of business wondering about the reasons for your quiet failure.

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