One perk of having a company name that offends some people is occasionally getting an earful of their outrage. Recently someone left a message saying we might want to consider changing the name. "You might as well call it Big T** Fans or Big D*** Fans," he said, indignantly. This caller assured us he was "not a prude," but was simply offering "constructive feedback."
I love constructive feedback. Even if the discussion gets a little heated, it's what makes progress possible. If everybody only said nice things, we'd still be living in caves. In business, you can never have enough constructive feedback, if it's well intended.
As a company that designs and manufactures the products we sell directly to customers, we don't just listen to feedback, we're totally dependent on it. We have a customer advocacy team whose job is to root out criticism like a pig roots out truffles--to us, it's that valuable. Don't only tell me what you like, I say, tell me what you don't like, and why. That way we can work to make it better. If someone is unhappy with a product or service, we'll go to great lengths to make it right.
At Big Ass Fans, we contact every customer after an order has been shipped or installed. We ask them if there were any problems with the order, and to please not sugarcoat their reply. We also ask for suggestions on product improvement and new products too. All comments are copied and pasted onto a spreadsheet for each month. When customers tell us of problems with communication, installation or maybe the quality of instructions--"It says, 'do it like the picture' but the picture isn't clear"--we follow up and make sure the appropriate department hears the criticism and acts on it. It's our way of guaranteeing that when we do make mistakes, at least we don't repeat them. Though the negative responses get top priority, the vast majority are positive, I'm proud to say. Last month one customer wrote back, "Don't change anything, especially your name!"
But a business needs more than customer feedback in order to grow. Equally as valuable is a company environment that encourages constructive criticism, from the "time is money" standpoint but more importantly, for its reputation. A few whiz-bang startups might not be in bankruptcy court right now if they'd cast a more critical eye on their products before shipping them out and getting skewered in online reviews. You need people inside who will not mince words when they see a problem. If somebody harbors doubts about a project's direction, I want to know about it.
One disadvantage of our company's growth--we're up to more than 900 employees at last count--is that I'm not on the receiving end of as much criticism as when it was just six of us. You would have thought my official title of Chief Big Ass would make it clear I know my own ideas can be as boneheaded as the next person's. The thing is, I can't always tell which ones--I need help with that. Everybody does.
So speak up, please. And call us, if there's something on your mind. We may not always agree with the "constructive feedback"--we're going to stay Big Ass--but we always want to hear it. And if you want to leave us a voice message about the indecency of our company name, heck, we might even "press 9 to save it" at the end.