The suggestion box has been around for over 40 years. It is widely used as a method to deliver ideas and gauge customer or employee satisfaction. The employee version of the same thing has been around even longer. Notwithstanding this – a long shelf is not guide to value. In fact we argue you must replace the suggestion box with an update. We like this summary as it seems to sum up their questionable value.
Sure, they can be helpful when someone really wants something that I (and other people in management) can grant them. Sometimes a person really wants recognition for their good work or creative ideas. But, for the most part, suggestion boxes are a way for people to put out their grievances or complaints. God forbid they talk to the person involved because that takes away the mystery of the secret, safe, suggestion box.
The suggestion box is familiar, has some value but now hopelessly out of date. As with comment cards, a replacement with something more effective overcomes the main issues. We will explore some digital solution options in this blog for BOTH customers and employees:
In this article we will look at:
- Benefits of the Traditional Suggestion Box
- Disadvantages of the Suggestion Box
- Social Media as a Replacement to the Suggestion Box
- What to use Instead of a Suggestion Box
Benefits of the Traditional Suggestion Box
The following are the top 5 alleged benefits – we are not convinced.
- Everyone knows what to do – its not rocket science, The business is asking for suggestions from customer or input from employees – and provides the place to submit them
- Safe and anonymous – communicate any message that people didn’t want to pass on in person. No identity means no recrimination or retribution. A big benefit when the feedback was negative
- Cost effective (yes…we mean cheap) – Just a physical suggestion box and some paper with the potential to reap the innovative ideas of staff and customers.
- Morale booster – the business improves the engagement with the customer or staff, who now believe they will make a real difference to that business. Morale and satisfaction increase.
- Powerful ideas arise from those that matter – where customer and employee suggestions deliver the incite and wisdom to improve the business on a regular basis
So these are the theoretical reasons to have a physical or digital company suggestion box…but do they really work? Are they used? And what are the disadvantages?
Disadvantages of the Traditional Suggestion Box
Unfortunately these are many and serious. Consider the following:
- Badly implemented – means few responses and an unfavorable view of the business. Have you noticed that in almost every office in the world there is a little box at the end of the hallway? Or that the suggestion box in a store is dog eared and out of the way, usually located right by the trash can and maybe without paper or pens. This means no suggestions and a negative perception – maybe resulting in a Yelp complaint
- Just Poor Ideas – who says this mechanism drives great ideas? Maybe it just delivers frivolous suggestions? If the business is using this to nudge them into something new – this is likely the wrong way to do it. Moreover those received will likely be tactical – not strategic
- Costly – much more expensive than you think – particularly if the ideas are poor. In fact, this is exactly the same problem that comment cards have. A business thinks its cheap relative to others but turns out to be costly and ineffective.
- Lack of Ownership – means nothing gets done, businesses process and results do not improve…and this is the biggest issue.
- Nothing actually gets done – the biggest problem. No action plan – no change.
What does the data say:
The latter point about inactivity is serious. Specifically consider this for employee suggestions:
- A Giftogram survey stated: In a world where 70 of business have employee suggestion programs and 93% of employees make regular suggestions to their managers and only 39% of companies have a reported plan to address suggestions like these, something needs to change.
- Reverscore went even further: Yet only 10% of those approved company feedback ideas actually sees the light of day. So after all these suggestions, the company may be implementing a grand total of 1%. Put this another way – this rejection committee is likely to turn down 99% of the employee ideas that come their way
On the customer side we have equally damning data: Specifically we know that:
- 95% of all US businesses collect feedback, yet only 10% of these businesses do anything with the data – a killer statistic from Gartner.
So it seems that in an effort to deliver suggestions does not lead to change, OR the suggestion / feedback program lacks transparency, or the change process is too long – No wonder staff and the average customer is skeptical and refuse to use the suggestion program
Is Social Media for Feedback the Answer? OR, Put Another Way – The Suggestion Box vs. Social Media!
So far we have said that the traditional suggestion box has a long history – but no longer effective for staff or customers to deliver ideas to improve the business. So what is a better way? Suggestion box modernization or transformation?
We will come back to these questions but remember that some say that Social media is an improvement over the wooden suggestion box – or maybe it just can’t hurt. In our view they are equally poor mechanisms. In fact feedback by social media is ineffective. A business should not contemplate this method at all….EVER!
So What to Use Instead of a Suggestion Box?
So we have advocated that business should kill of their customer or staff suggestion box – so what should they use instead? – A digital feedback tool.
A digital feedback tool or comment card is a more effective way to deliver the same theoretical benefits as the old fashioned suggestion scheme – like anonymity, but now overcome the disadvantages as well. Rather than have a physical or online solution box – the customer or staff member delivers feedback via the cell phone, web site or common mobile devices.
A Digital Feedback and Suggestion Tool
Let us review how we enable the benefits for businesses:
- Easy to implement – just use signage and / or place in an online portal. Simple calls for ideas.
- Anonymous feedback is present – so employee input can be protected, unless they wish contact and follow up
- As it is easy to use and anonymous – the quality of ideas is usually much better
- Very inexpensive – all the data collection, analysis, alert management and tracking is automatic.
- Accountability is present. Ownership is usually allocated to the Operations or HR team – who get access to the tool, monitor the data and any actions taken by the business. This means fewer business resources, nothing lost and accountability enforced because all actions are tracked. Company culture is now centered around the data and people suggestions.
- Actions deliver change and business improvement is almost guaranteed. The entire feedback process is simple as it incorporates an efficient feedback loop to track those valuable ideas.
- Customer loyalty is improved and employee satisfaction increased when the feedback experience is simple and delivers business change.
The classic suggestion box is dead and must be replaced. Moreover, the online suggestion box is not enough. Options exist – but a digital suggestion box for both staff and customers is the best way to go – specifically if located at the point of experience. Maybe a rebrand as well – try ‘Idea Box’ or ‘Solution Box’