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Accepting feedback graciously

Anybody who puts effort into writing good content understands the anxiety that can come when someone else reads those words you worked so hard on.

In fiction or business, writers like to think they are using the best words to suit the need yet have to consider their audience’s tastes and preferences, too.

The old red pen editing style

Hearing feedback

Don’t think for a second that highly respected, top-selling authors don’t get their work reviewed and edited by other people – this is not just a business writing issue.

However, what can be different for any business writing is the range of feedback that may be required – one piece of writing may have to satisfy people from legal, marketing, administration, technical and sales teams.

Some people get uptight about feedback as they see it as criticism. Others hear it but rarely act on any of it, while others take note of all the feedback and lose their own feel for the writing.

How do you cope with feedback on your writing? Do you accept and even ask for feedback?

Getting feedback on technical details (for example a client tells me their product is 25 mm thick not 26mm as I wrote) can be easier to take than other feedback as you aren’t expected to be the technical expert.

Feedback about something you are meant to be good at is harder, but usually still isn’t meant personally and needs to be taken professionally.

Improving your writing

Gathering and assessing feedback is a key to getting the best results out of any writing.

Putting together all the different elements can be challenging but melding it together works mush better than having distinct bits of text from each area.

A good piece of business writing often is the collective wisdom of a team with the writer adjusting all those elements to read well. It isn’t about the writer producing perfect prose on their own.

Believing in the team effort and getting the best results for the business makes it much easier to accept feedback.

Once you can accept feedback and tweak your writing to suit, the better your writing will be and the less stressful you’ll find the corporate process.

How to get your customers to speak up

Here’s an interesting fact: Customers are much more likely to contact you when they don’t like your product than when they do. “Praise” emails are not that common nowadays.

And this has nothing to do with your product being of not such good quality. It’s just the way humans are set up. When we enjoy something, most of the time we like to enjoy it in silence. But when we don’t enjoy something, we want everyone to know.

So how to encourage your customers to speak up, and not only when they have a problem? Here are 5 tips you can use today.

1. Templates for testimonials

Testimonials are great for generating some proof that your products or services work, and that people enjoy using them.

However, most customers will find it hard to write a testimonial on their own. It always requires a while, and everyone wants their testimonial to sound smart, so they need to find a couple of minutes to craft a proper one.

You can make it a lot easier by creating a template and sending it to your customers. Start by writing your own testimonial, and then remove all the facts from it, leaving just the surrounding words, so everyone can fill it with whatever they want to say.

2. Feedback apps

website feedback icon

Sample icon requesting feedback

These are quite popular these days. Some sites have chosen to display a small icon on the left or right-hand side of their sites (see image – User Voice). The icon usually says something like “Send us your opinion,” or “Suggest a ______,” or whatever else feels suitable for the site.

This is run by an external app so you – the website owner – don’t have to focus on managing all the suggestions, you can simply use the provided interface and be done with it in no time.

3. Feedback section on your forum

If you have a forum that goes along with your site, consider creating a feedback section there.

Create some main threads asking some questions that seem the most important to you. Like for example: “What do you enjoy the most about our products?” Of course, I’m sure you can come up with something more creative.

People are really used to forums online, and they understand the way they work. That’s why your customers are very likely to take part in any discussion you start.

4. Email support reminders

Support via email is one of the most common ways of handling customer support. So here’s an idea. Whenever you solve a support ticket send another email asking your customer about their experience. Make the questions concrete, preferably in a form of a survey, so they can easily (and quickly) respond.

Plus, if you also include an open question, you might just be able to receive some great testimonials that way.

5. Incentives

Here’s the main question: Why would anyone even want to contact you? When customers don’t like something about your product they are contacting you to get the thing fixed. But when it’s already working, then there’s really no reason…

This is why you should consider offering some form of an incentive just for submitting some feedback (not just for positive feedback).

Things that work great are bonuses, discount codes, extra features for no charge, some additional content … it all depends on the kind of product or service you’re offering.

No matter which of these ideas you end up implementing you should remember that customer feedback is essential to every business’s development. How else would you be able to provide your customers with exactly what they want if you never asked?

 

Guest blogger details: Karol K. is a writer, and online businessman. You can connect with him at ThemeFuse.com where he publishes weekly articles – also a great place to go for top-notch WordPress themes.

Improving your surveys and questionnaires

Why do you run surveys or feedback questionnaires?

hand holding a pen over a form

By hand or online, make your survey/feedback questions work for your business.

Sometimes, when I read questions in surveys and other forms, I do wonder how important the final data is for the person behind the questions – do they run them for fun rather than as a valid business tool?

Here are two questions I was recently asked to answer – and some tips on how to avoid the same mistakes…

Give everyone a possible answer

“When will you purchase a new car?
within a  month
1 – 2 months
2 – … months
… – 24 months
never – I don’t purchase new cars”

As we purchased a new car a week ago, I couldn’t give an honest answer to that question – we won’t be buying another within 24 months but ‘never’ is wrong, too.

TIP: make sure you provide an answer for all possibilities, even if one is ‘unsure’ or ‘don’t know’. If your format allows, ‘other’ not only gives options but can gain more insight for you.

Write questions to get the data you need

“Can you tell us if you are pregnant? Yes No”

Yes I can tell you but the yes answer may mislead you as I’m not pregnant and I assume that’s what you really want to ask me about… I could get really pedantic here and note that I CAN answer but choose not to ( writing ‘please tell us’ or ‘Will you tell us’ are grammatically better than ‘can you tell us’).

TIP: Make sure the question is asking for the information you actually want. In this case, the much simpler ‘are you pregnant?’ would have done the trick.

Getting meaningful and useful results

If you don’t plan your questions carefully, the results you get can be completely meaningless. For example, if 5% of respondents bought a car recently and answered ‘within a week’ you may mistakenly think the next week is prime time to sell a car. There is no way you can tell that someone gave a false answer to compensate for questions they don’t understand/misunderstand/can’t answer.

Depending on how you intend using the answers, skewing results like this can have serious implications. For example, if you plan a marketing campaign and spends thousands of dollars in April when the real results showed September to be effective, you’ve wasted money (in the survey and the marketing). What if you base a new product or pricing structure on the answers collected?

Checking, editing, proof reading and rechecking your questions may seem tedious. The details in faulty questions that I occassionally point out may seem trivial.

The bottom line, however, is that good survey and feedback questions are more fun to answer, give accurate and useful results, and build your credibility (through attention to detail and simplicity for respondents).

I suggest you always get someone else to read your questions before you finalise any form or survey. And, yes, this is a service Word Constructions provides…

Where blogging can lead you…

When writing a blog, you know that anyone could be reading it – in fact, you hope someone important (important to you and your business) will come across it and bring you some tangible results. But it is easy to forget how public our blogs are and how what you write can count.

Kylie of Tilda Virtual got some great feedback from her blogin February – she gave a genuine review of QuickBooks and they surprised her by reading the post and calling her to thank her.

That’s not to say anyone should write posts to attract attention instead of giving good information and/or opinions (as that can backfire as it is less interesting to read.) It does mean that each post should be relevant, accurate and written honestly – this builds your credibility and is more appealing to read, plus it may just bring in some unexpected results like Kylie’s.

Managing feedback

When I’m writing for some of my corporate clients, a number of people need to be involved in the document – usually a mix of technical experts and legal advisers, along with a manager or two. If you have ever had to deal with a committee consensus, you’ll know that this process can be frustrating and time-consuming.

The best results arise when everyone has the appropriate input with one or two people having responsibility for the final result – usually the writer and a senior manager.

Here are some of my tips to keep this process under control:

  • have all feedback come into a central place so it can be collated – and if a technical expert can collate it for you, even better!
  • as much as possible, get everyone involved to review the same draft by a specific deadline. This way, you can blend all of the feedback into the document in one go rather than having many drafts and missing details in the confusion. Most stakeholders then do not get another review – legal, management and you get to do final checks.
  • get the document as accurate as possible with one or two client representatives before it goes to the group
  • explain any potential issues before they start the review. For example, I often write ‘refer to page xx’ in a draft document rather than ‘refer to page 10’ to allow for layout changes. I warn clients of this when I give them the draft to save them and me dealing with page numbers unnecessarily
  • understand as much as possible who is who amongst the stakeholders. If Jane and Mary give opposing feedback – which should you rely on as technically correct and which is an opinion?
  • be willing to give way on some points if they aren’t important so that you can stand your ground on points where it is important – remember that the same information can be written in multiple correct ways, and it can be personal choice as to which is ‘better’

As a writer, it is my job to take their technical knowledge, legal requirements and document intentions and provide them with a clear, easy to read document. So sometimes I do exactly as their feedback requests (e.g. changing a measurement from 5mm to 5cm) and at other times I adjust their feedback for clarity.

Use your words wisely!

Running effective surveys

FIlling in a form by handAside from the content of the survey itself, it is very important that any surveys or feedback forms are well prepared in other ways.

I just answered a survey that included at least three of the following mistakes and it has left with me with the impression that those business owners don’t care about details or consistency – so why would I trust them with promoting my business (their apparent service)?

So before you make a survey available to your customers, check how it presents and do a test run to see it really does work – better yet, get someone else to do the test run for you.

  1. Be careful of what you make a compulsory questions/answer. If a compulsory response isn’t included, the person can’t submit their survey and may get frustrated and move on which means you don’t get their feedback. And most people won’t tell you they had this problem, either.
    So if you do make a question compulsory to answer, ensure there is an answer for everyone so all can answer – even if one answer is “don’t know”, “prefer not to answer”, “none of the above” or similar.
    And if you give a range of answers including ‘other’, make sure that ‘other’ is an acceptable answer. I have done surveys where I can’t submit unless I choose a response instead of ‘other’ – forcing me to choose an inaccurate answer as well as my true comments.
  2. Most small (and even larger) businesses use a third party to run surveys. This generally means the survey appears more professional and can be easier to use – for example, not many businesses can afford the programming to do an online survey each time. While this is a valid practice, minimise the third party as much as possible.
    For example, if you complete this business branding survey, which is run on a third party survey site, you will be directed to the host business’s website once you click on ‘submit’. This way, the business itself is being promoted and gains more traffic from people doing the survey. The other option is to let people go to the third party’s homepage once the survey is complete.
  3. Brand the survey as much as possible. If the survey is a serious part of your business, it should continue your brand. That means add a logo, use your corporate colours, use the same style of writing, use your corporate fonts and use relevant images as applicable. You may not be able to make it match your web template or change fonts, for instance, but brand it as much as possible.
  4. Keep it as short as possible – you probably want responses from a range of people, not just the bored and those who love surveys, and busy people don’t have time for long surveys unless they see a potential benefit from it.
    Be careful with the number of questions – if one more question or comment will create a new page, review it. Someone scanning a survey will see there is another page and decide it is too long which would be a pity if the next page was only one question – or worse, if the next page is simply a “thanks for doing our survey” message.
  5. Look at the presentation – is there too much text so it looks complicated or time consuming? Does it look professional or just thrown together? Is there a nice mix of multiple choice answers and written responses, or just written responses? Does it look easy to complete?

Once you are confident you have good questions and a well prepared survey/questionnaire, the next step is to announce and promote it appropriately. Remember that many people won’t fill in the survey just because you want them to – you have to give them a reason to want to do it themselves.

And then make sure you make use of your survey results!

Use your words wisely!

Survey/feedback questions

Pointing out clear choicesIt’s unlikely that you have never done a survey or filled in a feedback form about a seminar or such. Unfortunately, it is also unlikely that everyone of those questions you answered was clearly written or easy to understand.

If you are involved in preparing any surveys/feedback forms, it is important to think carefully about how you ask questions. Obviously, the first step is to know what answers you need – do you really want to know how old people are or just the difference between adults and teenagers?

Here are three recent examples I have come across where the question is not going to get the right responses:

“1. Please list as many soft drink flavours you can think of”
“2. For each flavour, please select A, B or C where A is ‘yes, I knew it was a flavour but forgot it’, B is ‘I didn’t realise it was a flavour’ and C is ‘I’ve never heard of it’. {and then list every flavour whether or not the person listed it in question 1}”

So if you had written orange as a flavour in question 1, how can you select A, B or C for orange in question 2? As it was an online survey and answering was necessary, people would guess an answer so the final results mean nothing.

“Were you satisfied with the course handbook?

  • excellent
  • very good
  • good
  • ok
  • poor”

The options do not answer the question – was I satisfied can only be answered with yes/no/partially. To offer those choices, the appropriate question would be ‘How would you describe the course handbook?’

“Which of the following have you ever given your child?

  • brand X vitamins
  • brand Y multi-vitamins
  • brand Z mulitvitamins
  • brand XY kids calcium”

Personally, I hadn’t given any of them to my child but there was no option to say ‘none of the above’ or even ‘other vitamins’.

So once you have written any questions, go back and read them in order to see if they make sense and are complete. One way to check multiple choice answers make sense it to add each one to the question so “were you satisfied with the course handbook? excellent” quickly shows an issue.

I’ll go through some tips on writing useful questions soon! In the meantime, what poor survey questions have you noticed or had trouble answering?

Negative feedback in your newsletter?

If you write a newsletter, or even a blog or magazine, and you include a feedback or testimonials section, do you censor them? You have more control over newsletter content and testimonials than over comments posted in your blog, but how do you best use that control?

If you get a lot of feedback, then it is likely you will only add some of it to your newsletter each time or it would be overwhelming for your readers.

However, if you generally add all feedback into your newsletter or present it in your blog, what do you do with negative feedback?

Negative feedback responses

feedback may be negative

Choosing how to deal with negative feedback

If the feedback is inappropriate, nasty or irrelevant (e.g. feedback from someone who isn’t even a customer or newsletter subscriber), delete it and forget it.

On the other hand, if it is constructive criticism (or at least true information, even if it isn’t presented constructively!) include it in your newsletter with your response – making sure your response shows how you are improving your service/product.

Including and responding to negative feedback (assuming it isn’t the majority of the feedback you publish!) builds trust in your readers as you are being honest – they will trust the positive feedback more, too. It also gives a balanced view to your newsletter.

You may find that the negative comments you include will be small issues that people can happily accept, so you can gain the above advantages without damaging your name at all.

Regardless of the content of the feedback, remember to thank people in your newsletter to encourage further comments and feedback – the more feedback you get, the more opportunity you have for improvement in your business. Feedback can also build a feeling of community and belonging amongst your readers.