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A bit about customer feedback

. Mark G

Recently. I’ve been reading through a lot of customer feedback for a project I’m working on. Naturally, not all of it is positive – which is actually helpful, because I can’t figure out how to improve the experience if I don’t know what’s wrong with it. But what I find interesting is that every now and then, I see a comment suggesting that Sears should fire their webmaster - implying a single person who is in complete control of the entire website - and hire a high school or college student to make a better site.

I have to say that at first blush, this idea seems ludicrous to me. I don’t think I could pick a single person who would actually qualify as our “webmaster”, considering how many people actually work on it. The website was built by over a hundred product managers, IAs, designers, coders, and engineers, and maintained by an army of taxonomists and merchants, not to mention the management to make sure the whole organization doesn’t just implode under its own weight. I don’t know any single person out there who is capable of handling all that! I also find it just as unrealistic, if not even more so, that a student could effectively create a site to handle all the complexities of e-commerce at such a large scale as Sears needs it. Most of my coworkers bring years of industry experience doing exactly that; many (myself included) also have a graduate education directly related to their job. I’ve known many incredibly bright students, and I also recognize that sometimes what you need is a perspective outside of the industry, but at the same time I know I’ve personally benefited enormously from having had the opportunity to practice my learnings both in higher education and in industry.

So how do I handle comments like these? It’d be easy to just write them off and say that these customers don’t know what they’re talking about if they think that our website could possibly be built by just one person. But I try to look past that. In fact, I think it actually helps me recognize who I’m designing for. I try to know as much as I can about the nitty-gritty details of what goes on to keep Sears.com up and running and keep customers happy, but most of our customers don’t. And you know what? They don’t have to, and they shouldn’t have to. So even if these comments don’t accurately represent the structure of our organization, they are still from real people with real, honest complaints about the experience we’ve delivered. Trying to brush their feedback off with a defense like “You don’t know anything about our business, we have so much going on that you couldn’t know about” is just an excuse that doesn’t help them. It’s our duty to address their feedback as best we can - even if they see us as just one superhuman!



At 10/05/2010 01:12:00 PM, Blogger Iga said...

I hear your frustration! When was the last time you saw a VP or any of the business decision makers (including IT) sitting in any of the usability studies? Has anybody above the manager lever ever read these reports? Business is looking to make money, not to make a good user experience. Sadly.


At 10/07/2010 08:16:00 AM, Blogger Mark G said...

Actually Iga, I'm presenting my results to the VPs today!


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