If something like this happens to your business (and it will), you have a decision to make.
Anyone in user centred design or even product management may suggest you ask the customer what you should change to make your business website more their thing. Query them on how you can improve their experience, how you can change it so it is more appealing.
The customer service style thing to do would be to listen to the customers complaints under the LAER model (listen, acknowledge, explore, respond) and take that feedback in.
Even the manager will see if there is a change of policy to be learnt and make contact.
So what did I do? I ignored them.
This may make me sound like the worst customer service person ever, or the most arrogant marketer. It may make me sound terribly protective of my work. Am I missing a golden opportunity to gain feedback on my business from someone who wants to give it?
I don’t think so because I don’t think the feedback is valuable.
Choosing when to listen is half the battle
I’m a copywriter, a content creator and a marketer. They found me through my marketing efforts on social media. They said they loved my content.
What they don’t like is the design.
Should I really run around furiously trying to fix that? Change my business model? Teach myself an entirely new skill? Or should I focus on what I do supply, which is writing, social media and marketing?
Frankly, I think I should focus on the words and the marketing. It is what I am good at- and what I am selling after all. And practicality plays a part in this- I doubt very much there’s much of a freelance market for a designer who is colour blind.
The truth of the matter is I could listen.
I could go hunting for a new template. I could invite them into a process of a new design that pleases their eye. And while I do that, take the time that should be invested in my core business and its promotion away to service one complaint. I could change with the feedback as it comes in. I could change what I write, too, when anyone else thinks it’s not to their taste.
I’d be choosing to focus on “nice to have” elements that are outside my skill set.
And before you know it, I’ll be chasing every little piece of advice and move further away from what I want my business to be.
That doesn’t sound that intelligent to me.
Build a wall around what you do – and look at it every so often
The point basically is this: My content is free for everyone to read, and it’s clear to all and sundry that people don’t choose my site for its design.
I get roughly 2000 hits per month with less than 15% abandon rate. People chill out and check out 4 or more articles at a time. I have a nice little return following. I’m pleased with that result. For the most part, the consumers seem to be, too.
My site is easy for me to maintain with minimal support. I really don’t have the brain space for working on complex websites. So my site needs to be easier for me to work on so I don’t make excuses not to update it on a regular basis, or pay bucket loads to shift as the technology does.
Moreover, blogging and sharing content is for my audiences benefit. It’s also here to let potential clients know the kinds of things I write, the sorts of things I think about, and where my skills lie. I use it to promote my business.
However, my main focus has to be on servicing my clients and doing their work.
When I am busy, I am extremely busy. So sometimes, it’s easier to update a site you know and love and keep working on your clients work than it is to start moving things one pixel to the left.
It’s a case of looking down a list of priorities that positively and negatively impacts my business. It’s about looking at what brings me more leads, my design, or my ability to shift content. And it’s also about realising that the person offering the feedback is extremely unlikely to convert to a paying customer.
Look at it this way:
If someone walks into your fish and chip shop, and asks you to paint the walls pink, how many meals would they need to buy for you to take them seriously? If they are a regular, maybe you’d consider it- though it’s doubtful, right?
Now imagine it’s the guy who comes in to the same fish and chip shop who takes your free sample each week and hasn’t purchased so much as a packet of 20 cent sauce the entire 2 years they’ve been coming. You’re probably going to ignore them (or beef up security).
So why wouldn’t you treat a startup, online business or freelance endeavour the same way?
Your business your way
Any kind of business – freelance, startup, micro or behemoth – has to make decisions each day about what works. We have to look at the industry, keep an eye out of changes that may change or influence what we do.
And yes, we have to listen to our fans, our influencers and our customers. And of course we have to get the basics right and take advice from people who may have something to add.
However, looking outward for answers must always be tempered with an understanding of what we want to achieve with the business we do.
It has to be underpinned by goals, planning and vision. It cannot be a search for feedback in isolation of what you want to achieve.
I’ve seen what happens when a startup is eagerly harvesting everyone else’s advice on how to do things. I’ve seen what happens when every single meeting is an idea that needs to be added, that every notebook is full of wonderful suggestions based on an introduction.
If you spend your time capturing everyone else’s ideas and opinions and shifting to match them the entire time, wheels start spinning and work doesn’t get done.
Things that you should be completing shuffle down the “to do list” in preference for the latest popular idea. Talk turns into action as opposed to action being taken.
Things start to fall apart.
So despite even wanting the same things a customer or influencer or peer may suggest, you have to keep what your goals are in the forefront of your mind.
Plus, you also need to know whose opinion actually matters enough to build around it.
Customers versus fans versus the guy who walks past
We need to remember to listen to people we trust, or the people who are passionate about their position for reasons that help, not hinder, your business.
Understand that some people will offer an opinion without considering all the facts, or maybe any of the facts. They may not even know what the facts are!
There will be people who may share an opinion based only on a gut reaction or rejection of something a lot deeper than your project. Who may have had different expectations than what were delivered, or make a habit of always looking for the negative in a given situation.
Are they even your intended customer? Or would following their advice alienate the people who will be paying the bills?
No one person will always agree with you 100% and that’s fine. Hell, some people are your critics and what they do say you need to do, you should take seriously.
But you do need to choose who you listen to.
The people who book my services get a lot of brain space. The potential customers do, too. Peers help support me with advice and make sense of certain situations. Experience has taught me more than all of these things combined.
My followers show me what works and what doesn’t, and add to this process.
But as I explained in climb out of my ear I’m doing stuff, with some people, it’s not in your best interests to listen to what they have to say. What they add to the process is based on their own negativity and fear, jealously and cynicism, or basic lack of knowledge.
Some people are angry and it won’t change.
Some people like to give an opinion after 5 minutes without any kind of factual basis.
Or some people are enamoured with aspects of your business that in the short or long term, add little to no value to your process or ability to make money overall.
And that’s why you can’t please everyone in business, so you shouldn’t try to.
Focus on the people who matter in terms of spreading the word and the bottom line.
Don’t you agree?