heads in the sand

One of the wonderful things about our line of business is that so many of our clients are happy to share their experiences with us in public. A lot of them send us emails, blog about us, twitter or post on forums and mailing lists.

Of course not all of their comments and feedback are going to be positive, but if we listen to what they are saying we may be in a position to capitalise on the feedback.

While we can’t work miracles many of the issues people encounter while interacting with us can be easily rectified. It can be a simple matter of changing the wording in an email slightly or moving a link.

Unfortunately there will always be things that we cannot change or where we have to take the feedback, accept that is valid, but still aren’t in a position to do anything about it in the short term.

In some cases it’s simply because the technology or process is beyond our control (think EPP keys for domains). Other times it’s because we made a decision to do things in a particular way and the underlying reasons for this may not be accepted by all our clients as readily as we might like (not allowing ssh access to our new hosting platform for example).

It’s really encouraging to read people talking about their positive experiences and what they’ve learnt along the way.

Hugh, for example, did an interesting post yesterday on how upgrading his VPS led to an improve not only in his site’s responsiveness, but also in its Google ranking. It’s the kind of story that great case studies are made of.

We didn’t ask Hugh to write about his experiences and he’s not always going to say 100% positive things about us. His feedback is genuine.

Dealing with really negative feedback is awkward at the best of times.

Over the past few years we, as a company, have changed quite a bit.

When I came back to Ireland from Milan in 2003 there were 1.5 people working for the company. Five years later we have 16 fulltime staff in our offices and several contractors working for us on a fairly regular basis.

We’ve gone from having so few servers that I could actually count them, to a number that I don’t even want to look at.

With the changes have come many improvements. We’re offering a lot more services and at a lower price than previously, but in order to do that we have had to remove some of the “personal touch” and to standardise a lot of things. When you have to deal with some of the backlash that comes with these changes it can be quite traumatising. Business is business, but it’s hard not be personally invested in your own company. I can feel great pride in the kind words, but I will, naturally, take the negative as closely to heart.

So how can you deal with these changes?

I honestly don’t know the answer!

What I have found helpful, however, is some of the lessons in “Crossing the Chasm“. Ross Cooney suggested I grab a copy a few years ago and it has helped make sense of some of the chaos!

It still won’t make dealing with the extremely irate clients any easier of course, but I’m not 100% sure if anything truly can. What it has taught me, however, is that not all customers are going to have the same expectations and that we need to learn how to deal with the different ones as best we can.

While it would be lovely to be able to please everyone it simply isn’t possible.
Take the negative feedback onboard.
Don’t ignore it.
Maybe you can change something for the better.
Maybe you can take a customer’s bad experience and put it to good use.
Maybe you can’t.
Try to keep an open mind.

Just don’t stick your head in the sand.

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