An article in the most recent edition of Fast Company got me thinking about the rarely used power all consumers have to influence businesses: praise. The article, from Dan and Chip Heath's regular feature Made to Stick, is called Why Companies Should Pave the Way to Praise. An excerpt:
Your frustrations feed a lot of families. In America alone, there are about 2.7 million call-center employees who are standing by ready to soothe you. That's roughly the population of Kansas. But what if you've got joy in your heart? Good luck finding someone who cares. In essence, there's a state full of people who exist to handle our complaints and, at best, a canoe full of people to handle our compliments. Why do companies make it so hard for us to say thank you?
Is it really companies' fault that more thank-yous aren't in the pipeline? Yes and no. If a business puts an online feedback system in place - the article mentions GetSatisfaction ... others would be SuggestionBox.com, UserVoice and IdeaScale - then it's embracing and implementing technology necessary to enable a transparent flow of feedback and communication with consumers. If a business makes it difficult for consumers to share feedback - good or bad - then it shoulders much of the blame. But consumers aren't off the hook either.
It's part of our DNA to gripe and complain. We're quick to go on the attack when a business offers lousy service or a defective product. But we can be slow to offer 'thanks' for a job well done ... for a product or feature that hits a home run and makes our lives a bit easier each day. The Fast Company piece cites studies that show we are happier when we hit the praise button. So not only does a compliment go a long way with the employee you just praised, but it can go a long way to putting you in a better mood as well, creating "a radiating halo of happiness" according to the Heath brothers.
I'm as frustrated as the next person when interacting with Main Street each day. It seems harder and harder to discover truly exceptional - even above average - customer service these days. But when I do find myself in a situation where I feel like I've been the recipient of top notch service, I like to return the favor. One of my favorite things to do at restaurants is to ask the waiter or waitress to call a manager over. They usually turn sheet white, thinking there's a big problem. But I tell them "don't worry, it's all good". And when the manager comes over, and I introduce myself, I go to great lengths to compliment the extraordinary service I just received, and praise the quality of the food and atmosphere as well. Yes, I'm leaving a bigger tip in these cases. But I think the end result goes far beyond the extra dollars in a person's pocket from that one transaction. When you single out an employee with praise, you're telling managment that they have an exceptional person on their staff. And the more this happens, that exceptional person will find him/herself promoted one day, or at minimum have a resume with a great recommendation on it.
Many moons ago, when I was a waiter, it made my day when a customer would do this. Not only did I get a big pat on the back from my boss, but it lifted my mood, which in turn made me more upbeat and service oriented, and the end result of that was I made more in tips by the end of my shift. I tell young people who think they're just biding their time working some 'dead end starter job' that each job is important, and how you do it, your attitude, etc. is a building block in your career. Each block is important.
Critical feedback has its place, but I believe praise can a powerful tool to improve business and the quality of life we all live each day. It's up to companies to open up channels so we can have a place to funnel our happy experiences. And of course it's up to companies to offer products and customer service that are worthy of praise. But it's also up to consumers to take a few moments out of a day to send along positive feedback and a heartfelt 'thanks' for a job well-done. So when you go to SuggestionBox.com or another feedback platform, why not send some praise down the pipeline today?
When I began this blog, I had in mind a place that spotlighted the passion we have for brands that 'get it'. If you want to gripe, there are places like the Consumerist to join a festering group of gripers on any given day. Heck, I go there to gripe sometimes. And tapping into the angst we all experience dealing with companies is a great way to drive traffic. But how about taking a moment out of your day to share a positive experiences you've had on Main Street? If you have one to share, please do so in the comment section. Who knows, we might just start a 'radiating halo of happiness' today. :-)