There are many, many times here at Customers Rock! where I highly recommend that companies listen to their customers as often as possible. The best way is to take note of the verbatim words customers use, rather than read from aggregated “survey results”. This becomes even more important as organizations try to decide the best way to implement social media marketing tools.
I had the opportunity to spend some time with BJ Cook, CMO of SuggestionBox.com (they are based very close to where I am!). SuggestionBox.com is a place where customers can easily send ideas, complaints, or feedback to companies via the web. Customers can then sign up to track those ideas, while companies can respond and connect directly with customers. This is a very cool and easy way to not only listen to customers but also show them you are taking action!
I asked BJ to share with my readers a little bit about SuggestionBox and how other companies can improve their customer listening plans. Enjoy!
Interview with BJ Cook of SuggestionBox
Becky: Tell us how the idea for SuggestionBox came about. And why now?
BJ: SuggestionBox is the result of an online search for a place where our founder, Jeff Whitton, could leave feedback for a company he had an experience with. He couldn’t believe that a Google search for “suggestionbox” would take him to a parked domain. So the light bulb went off and he had a vision for the place that you could submit your ideas to any company around the world and then track them. Think of it as your own Idea portfolio and communication tool for all of the companies you interact with each day. For companies it would be a place to capture feedback, connect with customers and build better relationships. Right now as a customer you’re presented with 6 page surveys, URLs’ on receipts, online surveys and other ways that are intrusive and force you into answering questions that may not be relevant to the experience you just had with that company. So enter SuggestionBox. We’ve simplified the feedback process, by focusing on the field in the feedback form that means the most to the customer; the open textbox. This is what can we improve and why? The company wants to know what and the customer may want to give them some of the background on their suggestion. That’s all. This keeps the incoming feedback focused for companies to easily categorize it and open enough for customers to feel like they can share their story.
Becky: The economy right now is difficult for many. How can SuggestionBox help companies weather the storm?
BJ: With the state of customer satisfaction and being in an economic downturn, placing emphasis on your customers is crucial. SuggestionBox is that bridge between a company and its customers. We want to be the tool that helps you Build Better Relationships with ____. The reason there’s a blank is that feedback and ideas go beyond your internal and external customers. The blank can be vendors, partners, investors, friends, family and so on. It’s a relationship building tool that just so happens to be able to make capturing insights simple and responding to those Suggesters efficient. Focusing on your existing community and asking them what you can improve lets them know you’re listening and you care. What’s better than feeling like it’s a two-way street? What’s even better is that you can avoid missed opportunities by having a tool setup to listen and be able to get back in touch to support goals like loyalty, retention and word of mouth. SuggestionBox gives companies, nonprofits and events a way to respond to people, keep them in the loop and directly have a positive effect on multiple areas of their business like sales, marketing, customer service, PR and even HR.
Becky: How would you suggest that a company/organization fit SuggestionBox into their existing customer listening plans?
BJ: Depending on what stage a company is in with their current customer listening plans, SuggestionBox can be a value-add tool if you’re just starting out or are already using forums, online surveys, focus groups or your blog. The thing to keep in mind is the communication benefits of “keeping people in the loop”. I’d like to cite a line from the book Raving Fans:
“Listening to customers is powerful, responding to them is dynamite.”
There are so many tools out there to listen to customers, but how many of those tools are just one-way? If you’re given the ability to let a customer know 1 month, 6 months or 2 years out that their idea was actually implemented, you may have them for life – and their kids and their kids. The relationship and bond that is created at this level can last through generations. By changing the current expectation, that I’m going to submit this piece of paper or email to this company knowing they won’t respond, can be the spark you need to becoming dynamite.
Becky: Are you using social media to help promote SuggestionBox, and if so, how?
BJ: Yes. It’s all top secret. I would say that SuggestionBox falls into the whole social media realm. We’re essentially helping companies and brands create online customer communities that they can then engage and communicate with. We are heavy users of community-based platforms like Twitter, Facebook, 12seconds and others. We’ve found that by really embedding our team in various conversations around customer feedback, customer relationships, social media marketing, we begin to build these relationships and lifelines with real people. By focusing on reaching into these various communities, we’ve met some amazing people who not only share their insights with us, but we’re able to share and add value as well. It’s taking the time to really engage with each community that’s so important about social media. I would say that the community is helping us to shape our company from the product roadmap to our outreach to even our hiring. The idea of being social plays a part in every role in our organization and something that we’re all passionate about. SuggestionBox is being defined by our community of Suggesters and customers.
Becky: Anything else you want to share with the readers of Customers Rock! ?
BJ: With so many great tools out there in this space, you need to start off by asking yourself, “Is our organization customer-centric?” And then evaluate each area of your business to see if that is really being applied from a holistic point of view. Then go out and choose the tool or tools to show customers you’re listening.
Think about all of the businesses you interact with each day and when you have an idea, come see if they are on SuggestionBox. If they are not, you can create their SuggestionBox page simply by being the first to suggest. We also love feedback, so submit away!
Becky: Thanks, BJ!
To my readers – You can set up an account on SuggestionBox.com for free and submit ideas to any company; SuggestionBox will deliver them for you! BJ has also set up a code (twomos) where you can get a complimentary two months of a corporate SuggestionBox. You might want to give it a try and see how you and your customers like it. Here are some companies that are doing it already: TurboTax (part of Intuit), Southwest Airlines, Addison Avenue Credit Union, Trackur, and Zappos (among many others).
Look for one here at Customers Rock! soon, too. I would love to get your suggestions, in addition to your comments!