Where is your Suggestion Box?

By, Gabriela Vega

This week, my husband, stepson and I took a small vacation to Colorado where we took my stepson on his first whitewater rafting adventure. The company we worked with for the expedition really focused on preparing its guests for the adventure that included rafting with a seven-year-old child (don’t worry folks, it was a beginner’s course and perfectly safe), a few treacherous spots and thirty-eight degree water. The company provided its guests with all the necessities to withstand the rocky waters: helmets, water jackets, wetsuits and neoprene booties (available for a small rental fee.)

Upon our return to the company’s headquarters I found myself ill prepared to return to my street clothing.  You see, although I am sure that the company does everything possible to clean its equipment it is pretty much in the water all day.  When I removed all of the equipment I smelled like an old, mildewy washcloth.  And, although they had showers for their guests, I had forgotten to bring toiletries.

When I returned to the front desk, I suggested to the staff that they should selling travel toiletries.  I stated that it would be beneficial to their guests and could become another stream of revenue.  Because they already sold hot drinks, logo’d loungewear and small snacks, I felt that they could easily integrate it into their store.

They thanked me, stated that it was a great suggestion and that they had never contemplated it before.  As my husband drove back to Denver from Idaho Springs, I began to wonder how many opportunities for improvements small companies miss out on because they do not offer their guests, clients, or customers to provide feedback.

I began to wonder about how many opportunities my firm was missing out on because I have failed to provide clients the chance to give us feedback. Although, I send clients a survey after we have completed their case (for those of you that don’t know a lot about me, I own a law firm in Manhattan, Kansas that focuses on family law- i.e. divorce, child custody & support, etc.)  However, for every one case that we accept, we have at least ten potential client meetings.  What about the input of these individuals?  What valuable information and chances for improvement has my firm lost out on simply because we have not obtained feedback from all potential clients?  So here are a few ideas that I had about how to capture feedback from clients; if you have other ideas or please let me know, I would love to hear from you.

How to Get Professional Feedback

Suggestion Box

Yes, an actual suggestion box may be a little cheesy and campy.  However, there is no better way to gather feedback than to do it when the client is actually in your business.  Once gone, the client’s mind is on things other than the service it received from your business (unless it was bad service then their goal is to tell everyone they know how awful you were.)

Snail mail survey

Assuming you captured necessary information, send your client a survey to their home or business address after they have been at your place of business.  If you decide to do this, keep in mind that your return on investment (i.e. the time preparing the survey, stuffing envelopes and getting it to the post office vs. actual surveys received) will be relatively low.  If you decide to use this method, please consider including a self-addressed stamped envelope to increase your chances of success.  If you do not, be prepared to receive 10% or less of your surveys back.

Online survey

With the advent of online services like Survey Monkey, preparing an online survey is relatively easy.  Additionally, as our world has moved to a digital, constantly connected medium, I believe that the chances for feedback from an online survey are greater than the snail mail option.  After carefully contemplating the options, I have decided to give this option a try.

Email message

Another option that may prove beneficial is to send an individual email message to each client that comes into your business.  Although this may sound cumbersome, if you create a template that allows you to change the client name and add personalized information this can be feasible.  I may also try this option to increase our chances of success.

Additional hints and tips

1.  Try the belts and suspenders approach. In other words don’t be afraid to layer a couple of these hints.  Remember that all of your clients are different and trying more than one option increases your chances of reaching clients in a manner they like.

2.  Create a timeline and measures for success. Determine how long you will try your approaches and what success will look like.  If you do not have an idea of how many responses or how long you will give yourself to receive said responses then how will you know whether or not your plan is working?

3.  Don’t be afraid to change your approach. If the options that you have selected are not working do not be afraid to try different options.  Do not feel as though you have failed if your approach is not working; realize that you have yet to find a way to reach your clients.

4.  Consider adding incentives. You may be able to increase your chances of receiving valuable feedback by adding incentives. Utilize your incentives as a way to both capture the information that you need to do obtain your suggestions and as a way to get people to respond. For example, if you own a beauty salon, you may ask do a monthly drawing for a service.  Those clients that give you their contact information have one chance to win and if they respond to your survey they receive another entry in your drawing.

5.  Don’t get offended. If you ask for it, be prepared to hear all types of information, both good and bad.  You will not or should not want to only receive positive feedback about your company.  Remember improvement comes from receiving suggestions about way to improve or change your business.

6.  Talk to a professional. If your company can afford it, you may find great benefit from talking to a marketing professional.  They will provide invaluable information.

Bonus Tip from Nicole:

7. Create a Google doc. If you’re looking for internal feedback create a “Virtual” Suggestion box which is a Google doc your team is shared on.  This works well for people like me: a Marketing Manager whose co-workers always have the next best idea while I pass them in the hallway.   The Google doc is also a great way to open the door to improved processes and it builds bridges between departments.  Encourage people to write their suggestions, concerns and questions in the Google doc, then address all items monthly at a team meeting.  It’s important to show your team members they are being heard and that you value continuous improvement.

Gabriela Vega

Gabriela Vega is an entrepreneur and attorney residing in Manhattan, Kansas. She is recently married and, through the marriage, has become the step-mother of a wonderful seven year old boy. Her blog, SimplyGabriela.com, shares her attempts and experiences trying to balance her professional and personal endeavors.