missing suggestion boxWe’ve all said it. “Thanks for the suggestion, I’ll pass your feedback along.”

Like most companies, you probably get a lot of feature requests and feedback. Tweeted at you, emailed to your support address, maybe even over the phone.

Even for customer-centric companies, this can be overwhelming. You might take the big gripes to your boss, but for little things (“it’s hard to read the text in the advanced settings section”) you may nod and say “thank you, we’ll pass this feedback on”…and then it disappears. Maybe you just don’t think it’s valuable enough to bug staff about it, or maybe you just forget about it after answering the bazillion other support tickets you have to answer. For you, it’s a tiny drop in a bucket and it doesn’t seem like a huge deal if you let it go.

But this adds up. It snowballs. 6 months later that user is suspicious that you didn’t listen. A year later they know you didn’t. Two years later, any user that’s been through the “we’ll pass your feedback along” rigamarole stops trusting you altogether, even when you’re telling the truth. Want to know how that feels? Go to the DMV. Most of the people who work there are probably doing their job correctly and telling the truth, but over the years they’ve generated such ill will that we don’t believe a word out of their mouths.

(Even worse, you’re ruining it for other companies. Because of this white lie of “we’ll pass your feedback along”, that phrase no longer means anything except “please go away and stop talking to me”. Companies who DO actually pass that feedback along now have to work harder to convince their users of this.)

Want to keep your users’ trust? You have to work harder when they give you feedback.

  • Set up an easy way to log their feedback so you can keep track of it and get back to them when a decision is made. Voting systems are great (though we’re biased, since we build a customer feedback tool) because you don’t have to manually keep track of all feedback, you can reply to everyone who voted for an idea at once, and you can dig into the data around whom is interested in this feature and how much they want it.
  • Be specific about what you’re doing with their feedback. Since “we’ll pass your feedback along” has been sullied, tell them exactly what you’re doing with it.

feedback response danny bloomfield


  • Be brutal about actually going through feedback. It’s hard to find the time and it’s hard to make these big decisions. We struggle with it too. But you have to grit your teeth, schedule regular time to review it, and start the process of making decisions. You can find some helpful practices here.
  • Tell people no. I’ve gone over this before. People would rather hear no than hear nothing. Know something won’t ever be built? Don’t leave them hanging. Say no. See something smart that you know won’t get done anytime soon? Don’t leave it open…try something like “deferred” (which we’ll be rolling out to UserVoice customers soon).
  • Figure out how to communicate this customer feedback to your product team (without pissing them off).<

Nobody ever said this was easy. But if you can follow through, your customers will be much more likely to stick around. After all, it’s very easy for them to switch to a competitor.

Colorful suggestion box photo courtesy of Lindsay Bremner.

Suggestion box photo courtesy of Ariel Dovas.