What's Feedback Worth?

Summer School, The MovieYou may find it hard to believe, but the teen movie Summer School from 23 years ago has at least one valuable lesson I was reminded of recently.

For those who haven't seen the flick, I'll recap briefly.

Eclectic group of "bad students" (aka, future entrepreneurs) has to go to Summer School because of their grades during the regular school year. Fun and meaningful life lessons are learned--even though their grades improve.

I'll wait while you absorb the pure depth, originality and bravado... Really, I will... [twiddles thumbs]

In the movie, "Chainsaw" (Dean Cameron) and Dave (Gary Riley) have a problem with some cheap sunglasses that break too easily. They complain to the teacher, and he suggests as part of the class homework, that they write to the company to tell them about their problem. Surprise, surprise! A few weeks later, they get a box full of sunglasses, and a nice note thanking them for their feedback. Everyone gets a pair, and capitalism is shown at its best.

Lest you think this is some movie bullshit, let me tell you a few real word stories that back up the story.

Milo KittyRecently I started feeding our handsome and debonair kitty Milo some *very* high end cat food. He certainly prefers this over his typical high end food, and we'll give it to him a few times a week because, well because he's old, part of our family, and cuter than heck. The only problem with this food is that it's a pain in the ass to open. I don't know if it's altitude (we're at 5000 ft above sea level), or just technique, but it's virtually impossible to open a container without squirting a good amount of fish or chicken flavored juice all over the place. We've gotten used to it, and open in the sink, but it's still a pain.

For months, every time I open a container of this food, I swore that I'd write the company and tell them what's up. Finally a few weeks ago I did. These days you can actually fill out a customer service form, and send your feedback instantly, and without a written letter.

So, I go to the company site, fill out the form, and tell them that I'm not sure if I'm the only one, but I'm frustrated with how the juice squirts out when opening the container. Maybe it's altitude that causes the packaging to expand and spray fluid, maybe it's just poor packaging, but it's frustrating, and I was hoping they could do something about it.

About a week later (maybe they print and mail the form to someone?) I got an email back thanking me for my feedback, and telling me that new packaging was in the works for the new year (note to self: look for sales on this food with current packaging). They also said that they'd be sending some coupons for future purchases. A couple of weeks later (still much better than the response time from Bing Local*) we got coupons in the mail worth about $9.50 retail. These weren't for a discount, these were for free products (almost refrained from adding a 4th parenthesis from this paragraph, but was hoping for a laugh),

Clearly, feedback was worth a great deal to the company. How else can you explain almost $10 for 2 minutes of work? $300/hr?! Are you kidding me?

Lest you think this is a fluke, I can first hand confirm similar responses from a wide variety of companies:

1) Free chicken (!) from a common supermarket chicken brand.
2) Free replacement parts for personal head flashlights from a Mountaineering Company.
3) Big discounts or free access to various online products.

My question to you is, if these big companies can reward their customers for unsolicited feedback, what is similar feedback worth to you?  What do you do to reward feedback?

I have some ideas of my own, and I look forward to your thoughts via comments below. I'll run a follow up post on the subject soon.

Can't wait to hear your thoughts!

P.S. I hope the Nigerian Spam Scam Scam comes back! It was awesome to meet Chainsaw, and laugh til it hurt during the performance in Reno a couple of years ago.

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