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ONLINE BUSINESS HELP

The importance of feedback in improving your sales, site and software.
By: Developer Shed
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    2004-08-11

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    The importance of feedback in improving your sales, site and software.
    by Michael Wall

    A while back I received an email from a potential customer suggesting that he liked a piece of membership software that I sell. Over the course of the next few days he sent me numerous emails with suggestions for features that I might want to include in a new update. I was only to happy to get to work on his suggestions after all they could only make for a better product, more customers and a bigger profit. He was also a very experienced web developer with over 10 years experience so to ignore his advice would be foolish.

    A couple of months down the line and sales soared. His extensive feedback had proved a godsend and showed exactly why feedback is so important. It helped me provide better software and dramatically increased my online sales. Tapping into the knowledge of an experienced web developer will always provide dividends. Even less experienced developers and general visitors can give you valuable advice and a new perspective.

    Website blind
    When you build a website you can sometimes get so focused on the site that even after your testing and quality assurance you can overlook errors and typos. Getting an outsider to proof read your copy is always a good idea.

    Negative feedback
    Negative feedback should spur you on provided it is constructive rather than abusive. You will always get the guy who cruises round sites just ditching everything in sight. Ignore the abuse and don't be rattled though always take on board feedback provided it is constructive.

    Use a Poll
    Although not every visitor will provide you with such as a wealth of feedback as was the case above there are plenty of ways to actively encourage your visitors and they aren’t that complicated or costly to implement. A poll is a good way to garnish feedback. I realised after a while that I could use my poll as a way to assist me in planning new site adjustments and to find out what areas of the site my visitors felt needed to be changed or updated. Polls that I have asked on my site include “Should I use Worldpay as well as PayPal for a payment option?” and “Should I include a member’s forum”. I acted on my forum results as the majority of site visitors wanted a forum and decided not to use Worldpay for the time being as my visitors seemed happy enough to use PayPal to buy my software. If you would like to have more information and not just a straight poll you could use a poll that allows your visitors to add comments as well. I created a Poll system (Poll Pro) that not only allows the site administrator to post polls but also to allow visitors to vote and offer comments as well. It’s a nice feature and highly beneficial. Think about your poll carefully and what exactly you want to know, questions that help or improve your site or help you learn some demographics of your visitors are preferable. Acting on the poll outcome will show regular visitors that you are listening to their opinions.

    Provide a feedback form
    Make sure you provide a feedback form and not just an email link. Feedback forms will encourage your visitors to provide feedback more than just a simple email link. With a feedback form you are letting your visitors know that you want them to provide you with feedback and that you will listen to their comments and perhaps even act on them. Make the form as attractive as possible, use drop down boxes, radio buttons and try not to make the form too long and difficult to fill in. Don’t ask too many personal details, an email address and a contact name may suffice in most cases. You may want to validate the form so that you get a proper email address and name. If you sell products provide an easy drop down menu of those products or a department within your company that the email will be sent to. Also make sure there’s a thank you after submission to let the visitor know that the submission was successful and provide a time scale message such as “a member of our support team will be in contact with you within the next 24 hours”. You may also want to remind the visitor of your business hours.

    Other feedback suggestions
    A forum can be another way to gain feedback and suggestions. Perhaps having a forum category called ‘site suggestions’ or ‘product suggestions’ would be a good addition to your site. Another good way to gain feedback is in your payment processing. If you sell products you’ll know that sometimes visitors cancel their purchase just at the last minute This can be puzzling. PayPal allows you to redirect the user back to a personalised page so why not allow the user to provide you with feedback as to why they aborted the purchase. This could be valuable information, perhaps they felt the payment process was too cumbersome and long and if so you may decide to change to a different payment company. Providing ready written options such as “the payment process was too long and complicated” that have an accompanying checkbox might make it easier for the visitors rather than them simply having to fill in a feedback box. Other ideas might be to use review or rating software that will let you visitors perhaps rate a page or application and write reviews.

    Employing some or all of these methods can certainly help you get feedback. In turn this feedback will help you provide a better site or software and the best thing of all is that this feedback doesn’t cost!

    I'd love you to email me and tell me what you think of this article!

    Codefixer was set up in 2000 by Michael Wall. Having studied Law at university Michael changed career paths and moved into the world of web development and Active Server Pages.

    DISCLAIMER: The content provided in this article is not warranted or guaranteed by Developer Shed, Inc. The content provided is intended for entertainment and/or educational purposes in order to introduce to the reader key ideas, concepts, and/or product reviews. As such it is incumbent upon the reader to employ real-world tactics for security and implementation of best practices. We are not liable for any negative consequences that may result from implementing any information covered in our articles or tutorials. If this is a hardware review, it is not recommended to open and/or modify your hardware.

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