Delivering feedback to a company is like landing an airplane on an old runway—it can be bumpy or smooth depending on how much work has been put into maintaining the area. Without the proper approach, asking a company if you can give some feedback can prompt a defensiveness that redirects your desired change into the weeds.
Unfortunately, some people’s definition of “feedback” is simply venting without consideration of the receiver’s good intentions. On the other hand, accurate and timely consumer feedback can be a company’s free ticket to a competitive advantage in the market. Here are some tips for ensuring the feedback you provide for a company reflects your desire to be a valuable consumer.
Make sure your feedback is timely. Timeliness communicates two things: the intention to avoid a widening conflict and an emphasis on factual information while it’s still fresh in everybody’s minds.
Focus on the problem, not the person. Instead of speaking about the intentions of the other person, address the problem factually and objectively.
Bad example: “The sliding door was installed wrong because you were in a hurry to get to another job!”
Good example: “Since you installed my sliding door, rain has been trickling in so much that it fills a cake pan every two hours. I’ve had to set my alarm every two hours to empty the pans in an effort to save my carpet. This door requires your immediate attention.”
Be “pos-effective.” Clearly picture your perfect outcome and put it in writing. Here’s an example: “Currently, my furnace is running short cycles. I would like the air to flow and then turn off for a period of time. What is causing short cycles and how can it be adjusted?” This way, the service provider will gain technical information about the problem and won’t think you doubt his or her competence.
If the problem is behavioral, you can address it within the boundaries of your own experiences. For example, instead of saying the painter you hired to refinish your home’s exterior is a slob, you can say, “The current end-of-day protocol isn’t meeting my organizational needs. I also want to be considerate of my neighbors who are showing their home to prospective buyers across the street. Would you be willing to consolidate your supplies in a designated area at the end of each day? Or can we discuss ways to reduce the visual impact of this project on me and my neighbors?”
Be respectful. Feedback should be delivered respectfully, but don’t feel like you’re doing the receiver a great favor. In order to deliver feedback so it doesn’t sound like a personal attack, try controlling your body language and the tone and pitch of your voice, maintaining eye contact, and slowing down your speech to allow time for reflection. You can also ask if you can personally contribute to the situation by helping the receiver brainstorm or find secondary sources of information.
More and more consumers are learning how to provide feedback in constructive, rational ways. If both the feedback provider and receiver learn the markers of good feedback, they’re more likely to engage effectively with each other.