The Art of Collecting Customer Feedback

2 May

As I get further and further into my research project (finally), I have more and more thoughts about aspects that I think play a role in facilitating a community for the purpose of collecting customer feedback. Things like the psychology of volunteering, the history of participatory design, approaches to usability, social identity theories and so much more have been circling through my head lately, so I thought I’d start to attempt to develop some of these thoughts a bit more here.

One more aspect that is ringing alarm bells in my head lately is the idea of a customer proactively offering feedback vs. being solicited for that feedback. For instance, in an idea generation community, a customer actively visits the community, potentially joins, and then has the ability to offer feedback directly to an organization. Now, in this instance, it’s about choice. The customer has made a decision to take time out of their busy day to visit this community and offer their thoughts. There’s some level of investment, which in turn, I believe would result in better or more valuable contributions.

On the flip side, I think of telemarketers. Yes, I know it’s someones job and it feeds their family etc. but let’s be honest, the sheer existence of them is annoying. They call you (often uninvited) to answer customer feedback questions around something you may or may not have any interest in, let alone a specific investment. What kind of feedback are you likely to collect from this type of customer engagement if any? Well, probably not anything of much value.

To demonstrate this, I offer a little tale from my misguided teen years:  I may have actually decided to indulge in one of these telemarketer surveys. They had called multiple times and I was annoyed, so I figured I’d see how long this survey might actually take. I won’t say who it was exactly, but I’ll tell you it was a sports drink. They consistently asked the same question 8 different ways regarding their product, a competitor product and a relatively free alternative that you can get straight from a sink in your own home. As I said, I was annoyed and misguided…so I answered these questions with untrue answers, meanwhile having started an egg timer to see how long they would go. I hung up before they were done.

Morale(s) of the Story:

1) Customers don’t like to be solicited in a way that feels invasive

2) Customers will likely offer more valuable feedback if they’re invested

3) Customers may relate solicitation to a negative experience with the overall brand

So what do we do with to make customers want to invest their time to offer their feedback? We engage, empower and encourage. But more on that later…

PS: If you’re interested in ‘investing’ 20 minutes of your time to talk about your experiences in submitting feedback to organizations, drop me an email at mactresearch  @

Now Seeking Research Subjects!

27 Mar

So, after a faaaantastic vacation in Mexico, I’m back again and ready to get going on my research project. Times ticking and I’ve got lots to do! Hoping to tap into my own personal network here and perhaps get recruit some participants for my study. Here’s a quick run down of what it is exactly, the expectations and the profile of the type of people I’m looking for:

What: A final post-grad research project exploring the motivations of participation in online ideation platforms. The identities of all subjects will be kept strictly confidential and no identifying information will be revealed in the study.

Expectation: The research will have 2 parts. 1) an email questionnaire with basic background and demographic information. 2) an interview (via Skype, telephone, or email in some cases) which will include 5 open-ended questions regarding participation in idea generation platforms. The interview will be a maximum of 60 mins, depending on how detailed subjects choose to be with their responses.

Participant Profile: Must be 18 years of age. Understand the definition and concept of feedback of ‘ideation’ and/or crowdsourcing. Have at least once visited an ideation platform (participation not necessary, as lurking will be considered ‘passive participation’ in this study).

If you’d be willing to participate in this study, know someone who would or would be willing to pass along this request to your networks, please feel free to reach out to me at And of course, if you have questions, feel free to ask in the comments because you have questions, someone else probably does too!

Please note this is not in anyway affiliated with my employer and there is no compensation provided for participation.



Crowdsourcing = Community?

12 Mar

The more research I read on various ideas around crowdsourcing and online communities has me asking this question: Is an online crowdsourcing platform a community? Since I have to define this for my research paper, I figured was worth contemplating aloud.

At this moment in time, my gut tells me no – crowdsourcing platforms are not communities. But I’m wide open to discussions on this and am not yet confident enough to consider that my final answer.

Here’s my thoughts though:

Crowdsourcing platforms may be an aspect of a community, but are not in and of themselves communities per se. In my mind, the meaning of ‘community’ conjures thoughts of interaction, connectedness and engagement. In a crowdsourcing platform, my feeling is that it’s more about individuals offering their ideas, opinions and thoughts to an organization, usually with their own interests at heart. In most cases there is little discussion amongst the users regarding the merit of an idea and there is little further development of the ideas by a group of users – the submissions tend to be focused on individual wants and needs.

In many cases I think you’ll see users interacting with others in connected spaces – ie. Users of Dell’s IdeaStorm likely are also familiar with users from their technical support forums. However, I don’t believe that the crowdsourcing platform encourages the peer-to-peer interaction which is generally indicative of an online community. I suppose what I’m saying is that it removes the social aspect which is a defining feature of communities.

Does that mean that there are no interactions among users on crowdsourcing platforms? Absolutely not. If you look at open-source developer communities for instance, there is a lot of peer to peer interaction and support. It’s essentially crowdsourcing without the formalized submission structure – but then is it crowdsourcing at all? Where is the line between collaboration and crowdsourcing? And if it is a collaborative effort, does it then become a community?

In the end, I highly doubt I’m going to settle this one. Maybe there is no definitive answer. My guess is that it will all come down to how I choose to define it for the purposes of my own research. But I’m interested to hear what others think – might consider this a mini crowdsourcing (or maybe just collaborative?) effort.

Recharged and Ready to Restart

29 Feb

So, after much contemplation, I decided to bite the bullet and restart my final project for my Masters. It was a big decision, but the reality was, I wasn’t interested anymore. And I wasn’t far enough along to really be too concerned about scrapping my work. But back to the drawing board I went and looked for something that might be more in line with my work efforts as well as my personal interests.

After a lot of thought, I came up with this: Exploring the motivation of user participation in online idea generation platforms. Or, as my supervisor has suggested as a working title: Talking about Product Ideas. I’m not sure I’m sold on it yet as a title, but it’s a work in progress. So, over the next 6 months, I’ll be looking to speak with people who participate in platforms such as Dell’s IdeaStorm, MyStarBucksIdea, or any other centralized crowdsourcing for product development platform.

My through process for the idea is this: I don’t participate in those kinds of platforms. But why not? And what makes other people want to do so? From personal experience in my role as a Community Manager, I have my suspicions, but I want to hear what regular people have to say.

Beyond that, I’m not really sure where I’m going. I’ve got a million theories in mind that could apply, a few thousand directions and ties ins I can think of and 2 or 3 major ‘worldviews’ I’m toying with to frame the research. I’ve got my questions and communications drafted to begin recruitment, but so far haven’t moved on it. So, this post is one step forward.

Expect a lot more activity around here as I work my way through this – I tend to think things through out loud, so I consider the blog to be another way of doing it. I don’t think Yoshi will be a very good sounding board for this one 😉

And, if you participate or have ever even visited a crowdsourcing platform used for product development and might be interested in asking a mere 5-6 questions for me, please let me know!


13 Feb

The beginning of the year always makes me reflect on time. Mainly because of two specific indicators of time: Another new year, followed not long after by another birthday.

I’m not a big birthday person really. I love doing nice things and celebrating others’, but on mine, I generally like to keep the celebration to a minimum. Last year, I spent most of it in the Dallas airport on my way to Costa Rica…by myself. This one, I spent most of it reading and relaxing and spending time with my favorite little munchkins. Now, alone again, my mind has wondered back to the concept of time.

When I reminded my grandfather on Friday night that my birthday was coming and told him I’d be 29, he simply said ‘Jeez. 29 uh?’ At 92, I have a feeling he still sees me as a child and often overlooks the fact that I’ve been a grown up for quite some time now. But it left me with a strange feeling of perspective. To be 29 – in fact, the actual reverse age to his 92 – is still so young, yet sometimes I feel like my childhood and teen years were so long ago.

It made me wonder how it will feel when I’m 92 and looking back at my life. It reminded me how much more of life is still to come. It’s funny how we often think of our lives in the milestones that society has provided for us to measure against – graduate school, get a job, get married, buy a house, have kids, work hard, retire young. I’ve only done 2 of those things – but I’ve also done a heck of a lot of other things instead. And I’ll likely continue to do a lot of other things for a little while yet.

It’s just so strange to me to be hit so hard with the realization that those milestones don’t have a timeline. At least not one any of us know. So, I’ll be making attempts to be thankful for the times I’ve had, and enjoy the time I have now because when I’m 92, I want to look back at my time and smile.

Wish me luck.



21 Jan

Ambition is a tricky thing. Some people have it naturally, others it takes a little more work. Either way though, the end result generally focuses on getting ahead. A new job, more education, a new skill, a new project. For me, it ebbs and flows. In my early twenties and since, it’s been all about developing more skill sets, widening my knowledge base, both through academic, professional and even personal pursuits. But in the last year, something changed. I was more stagnate than I have been in the past, but didn’t really see it at the time. In 2011, I didn’t complete any courses (professional or academic) for the first time since…well, kindergarten. That’s a scary thought to me.

Learning is something that has been so fundamental to my life, and yet, in the past year I abandoned it. And for what? I’m not really sure.  Most of my life, that whole ambition thing has come pretty easily – although admittedly, most of it has been ‘right place, right time’, but it’s only now that I realize I’ve let it slip. And I don’t like it. In attempts not to dwell on the past though, I’d rather look at how I’m going to change that this year.

My biggest concern with all of it, is that I think maybe I’m just not sure where to go next or what to work towards. I’m finally back on track to complete my MA in August, but beyond that, I really haven’t thought about what I want to do next. I feel like I’m hitting a point in my career where it’s time to find an area of focus and develop an expertise of sorts. Sure it’s nice to have knowledge mile wide and an inch deep, but that will only get you so far in this job climate. If I want to go up, I get the feeling I have to go deeper.  At the same time, I need to figure out what ‘up’ means.

These are the kinds of decisions that generally leave me spinning my wheels, with a little mixture of avoidance. Like I said, in the past, it’s usually been a case of ‘right place, right time’. Now, it looks like I may have to enter that grown up world and find my own ambition again.

Ugh. Wish me luck. Any wise words would be appreciated 😉


13 Nov

Yup. That’s how I’ve felt the last few months – at least when it comes to school. For those who know me, you’ll remember I had this grand idea to start pursuing a Masters degree in 2007. Got accepted and hopped on a plan to Edmonton for 3 weeks in Spring of 2008 to start this crazy ride. I was easily the youngest/least experienced in my class, had a 3 months old puppy and a finace waiting for me back home. It was a long three weeks. Fast forward a little, and you’ll remember I took stress leave from the program for most of 2009, returning to school in the fall. Powered through it, went back Edmonton for the last time in Spring 2010, and completed my last course in December 2010. Thats where is all goes to hell again.

Got my ethics application approved in February. Had aimed to have everything done by August 31. As you can probably tell by now, that didn’t happen. Decided I’d do a victory lap and extended by a year. My new deadline is August 31, 2012. Except…

I don’t care anymore. After 3 years of course work and research, I no longer give a flying rats ass about the research I’ve been doing. My proposed study turned out to be far more data intensive then I ever imagined and after one heck of a year – moving to a new city, a major breakup, another change of job, another niece – quite frankly, school has been last on the priority list once again.

Hence the paralyzed state I’m feeling now. I have no desire to even look at whether or not my ethics approval can be extended or if I can possibly re-submit for another project entirely. I don’t even want to know. After nearly four years and a ridiculous amount of my own hard earned money, I’m stuck. Scared. What if I don’t finish? What if I fail? What if I’ve done all this for nothing? The worst part is, I know that the first step is the hardest – admitting to myself and my supervisor that I’ve already failed in some regards. Then I have to figure out what’s next.

I looked at the calendar today and realized that somehow, it’s been 2 months since I even LOOKED at my research. Time goes by too fast – and pretty soon it will be too late. Yet, my brain does not want to budge on this. Talk about a rock and a hard spot.