Getting (and giving) feedback is a difficult, sometimes emotional process. (Stating the obvious.)

Regardless, I’m a big advocate on getting feedback on any website or web strategy. I see businesses make a few common mistakes when it comes to taking on board feedback. Let me start with a recent personal anecdote.

getting feedback

I was asked to get on a call with a “senior manager” at a startup company that helps people “get things done.” They wanted to talk to me about how I use their product. At one point, I asked the manager if she was open to product feedback – which she enthusiastically responded yes. I explained a problem with the font style/sizing, in my case a real problem given the output would be used in an important presentation.

Promptly, the manager screamed back at me “Oh, NO, you can change the font to whatever you want. You’re wrong.

Ouch. The rest of the conversation was pretty much a blur because I shut down, and I’d certainly never opt-in again for giving feedback.

No, I’m not revealing who it was. The point is that the scenario is pervasive. Let’s talk about some common mistakes that businesses make when going after customer feedback.

Are you making these common feedback-gathering mistakes?

1) You are talking too much.. 99% of the process of getting feedback is listening. If you want some great feedback on your website, shut up and listen.

2) You are getting mad at your customers for feeling one way or another. Customers are allowed to feel the way they feel. My above anecdote is a classic – she got angry for me not liking the font option, instead of making a note to herself “client can’t find the font change option – are other having a hard time finding it?”

I also see companies get hung up on this mistake a lot with pricing. Business: “How much would you pay for this?” Client: “I wouldn’t pay for it but would use it if it was free.” It isn’t their fault that they did not understand the value of paying for it.

3) You are not understanding or caring about the customer’s WHY. You must understand a customer’s WHY. Why do they feel the way they do? A good example with a recent client: the feedback from not one but three testers: “I hate that color purple.”

Ok, so you could take that and change it to orange, but you don’t even know why you are making that change. Instead, I asked why, and got back “because the font is hard to read at the top.” Ok. now we have a readability problem, not a color problem. Much clearer issue to fix.

4) You are asking questions that are not good enough. Asking GREAT questions is hard – you must work on getting better. This is probably the biggest reason to hire someone like me. Good questions draw out a customer’s current behavior and get deep into their thought process, instead of triggering off-base gut reactions.

Here’s a great example: I recently did an interview series with some of my travel magazine readers. Instead of asking them “do you want us to make an iPad app” (which is a weird question when you think about – how would they know if they’d want it without seeing it first?), I asked “tell me about your tablet usage, if you have one. What apps are you using?

Now I have their actual buying behaviour. I looked up those apps to see how much they were, and that’s data I can make good decisions on. You can learn much more from a customer’s ACTUAL behaviour than what they say they would do.

5) You’re (over?)reacting to all customer feedback. Yes, you should acknowledge and thank all feedback, unsolicited or otherwise. But sometimes you have to sometimes agree to disagree. For example, maybe a feature your customer wants is too expensive and your revenue model just can’t justify it. Heck maybe your customer is wrong – it’s happened before. Or maybe that customer is heading in a different direction than you are. Again, that’s ok.

Don’t let these mistakes discourage you, but frankly, bad feedback is just as bad as no feedback. On the flip side, the only way you’re going to get better is with practice. So get out there and get some feedback – and let me know if I can help!

What’s one mistake you often make when getting feedback from your customers?
Share in the comments.