The Suggestion Box – Old Idea for New Ideas

in General Business Marketing

The suggestion box has been around forever.  Many companies used to have a physical box with available comment cards placed in lobbies, employee lunchrooms, factory floors and other areas to encourage employees, customers and visitors to submit suggestions and ideas.  While the physical suggestion box is becoming extinct, there are many online options that make it easier and more effective to solicit, discuss and share suggestions.

Suggestions from employees, customers and prospective buyers are still a powerful way to get ideas for improving business processes and new or improved products/service/solutions.

Here are some examples of customer suggestion approaches other companies are using:

  • Starbucks has the My Starbucks Idea to get suggestions from customers and employees.  There’s a link on the Starbucks home page to the suggestion site which is separate from the main website.
  • Best Buy has IdeaX for customers to share, vote on, and discuss ideas.  There’s a link on the Best Buy home page to the IdeaX site which is separate from the main website.
  • Dell has Ideastorm for submitting ideas, suggestions and feedback.  Although it is not intended to be a support forum, some of the posts deal with regular product issues.

Trying to find good examples of customer suggestion boxes was an interesting exercise.  The first thing that struck me was how many major companies had no suggestion box capabilities.  Most companies have online contact forms which may be okay for small companies with a small customer base, but it’s not an alternative for an online suggestion box.

Some companies use support forums for submitting suggestions, but the suggestions seem to get lost amongst the volume of support issues.  If you’re serious about listening to your customer suggestions, provide a specific and appropriate forum.

Some companies have an online suggestion submission process with usage legalize and other obstacles you have to accept and click through and accept before being able to submit your suggestion.  Seems these companies think they’re doing you a favor by allowing you to send them suggestions.  Why bother trying to help them.

Most companies require some type of registration before you can post suggestions – some more intrusive than others.  I think simply providing a name and email address as part of the suggestion submission process should be sufficient rather than discouraging input with a requirement to first register, create an account or join a community.

Some online suggestion boxes mix employee and customer suggestions.  Employees may have different issues about internal processes, non-public information, future projects and other internal information that you don’t want customers to know about.  Consider having a separate online suggestion box for employees that only employees can access, from the publicly accessible online suggestion box for customers and prospective buyers.

How to use this information to benefit your business

  • An online suggestion box can be an excellent source of ideas for your business.  Only consider having one if you have the processes to do something with the input.
  • It will require someone assigned to administer it – either part-time of full-time depending on the volume of activity.  Make sure you have the resources to make a commitment to doing it.
  • Customers are doing you a favor by offering suggestions.  A courteous acknowledgment for the suggestion and any subsequent feedback should be provided.
  • Consider offering a reward to encourage suggestions.  Maybe a monthly drawing for a gift or discount voucher.  Maybe a more substantial reward for really good suggestions that produce significant value for your business.
  • There are many software and service solutions available to implement an online suggestion box – just search for “online suggestion box software” in your favorite search engine.  There are many options available to suit any budget including no cost solutions.

Copyright © 2009 Ingistics LLC and Marketance™

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