Why The Best Kind of Customer Feedback is Negative
Most of us don’t go out looking for problems in business. We do our best to avoid them, and when we are unsuccessful, we might try to navigate the quickest way back to business-as-usual. But what if in our rush to get back on track, we’re missing the most valuable lessons for our company’s growth?
Of course, it’s much easier to embrace conflict and see it as a positive experience when our company culture embraces it as well. We learn what’s acceptable behavior for dealing with an array of issues—whether with clients, employees, product development or otherwise—through the cues from leadership.
While it takes a lot of courage to foster a company culture that is not only accepting of conflict but encourages it, some leaders see it as an essential ingredient for growth.
One such mind is CEO, or Chief Big Ass, Carey Smith, of fan and lighting manufacturer, Big Ass Solutions. Obviously with a name like Big Ass Solutions, he isn’t afraid of zig-ing where others zag—but that’s a whole other article.
Smith attributes part of the company’s success scaling and diversifying its business (they started as an industrial fan manufacturer and now have different product lines for both businesses and consumers, including lighting)
to listening and learning from customer feedback—negative feedback especially.
“The only way to make your product better is through feedback and the best feedback you could get is negative, because that tells you what you need to do,”says Smith.
Smith believes so much in the power to grow from the negative that he has dedicated customer service staff whose sole responsibility is to call up customers and find out what the company is doing wrong; whether related to ordering the product, the installation process, the experience using the product, or otherwise, they want to hear the customer dish.
Growth won’t happen just by your customer service representatives soliciting feedback though. Again, it comes down to company culture—including leadership that is compelled and willing to stay close to feedback, and address it, no matter how busy things get.
To Smith, “when [as a leader] you’re too busy that you’re going to ignore feedback, then you’re too busy and you should have more people help you.”
It may sound very ambitious or even risky to expose the company’s vulnerabilities by seeking negative feedback, and it certainly takes confidence in your product, a willingness to be a partner, and the desire to improve —but you might be surprised at how the effort might source the ideas and inspiration your company needs to fuel growth.
It can take a long time for your brand to gain awareness, and then traction, and only some brands reach the status of being truly valued. But only once your brand is valued do you have the opportunities to venture into new spaces with your customer’s permission.
And only when you’re willing to walk into the fire versus away from it, and make a habit of evolving based on what you learn, do you start to create value.