Most things in life are on a spectrum from the very good to the very bad but customer feedback seems to fall at the bad end more often than the good. This is not just a web issue, in fact it crosses into Call Centres as well as in-person but some companies are paying a fortune because they get it so wrong!
Why do we want or need feedback? Well the first point, and one which many get wrong, is that we want feedback for different reasons. We might want feedback to improve services, we might want feedback because something is broken, because someone might have a really good idea or even because someone needs to complain. We might also need feedback for everyday things like cancellations, address changes or other Customer Service issues.
If you try and funnel your feedback down the same channel, you will fail unless your company is tiny. But companies like Air Canada, do exactly that. Want to contact them by "email"? Well, click the link on their site and you get the mother of feedback forms. It would be OK if all of the fields were optional apart from perhaps email, so they can contact you back but even that should not be required. If I want to report that a link is not working, my email address is irrelevant and if you are not going to confirm the email address, I can type a fake one in anyway.
But no! You have to fill in your address and even passenger details for the flight. What flight? The flight you went on. But I haven't been on a flight, I'm having trouble booking. Oh.
You need to trust people a bit. Why make the passenger details mandatory? Why not say, "If your contact is about a particular flight, please enter the passenger details so we can find the records"? Why not have a drop-down list for your reason for contacting us? If you did that, you could filter the other fields and not show 50 pointless fields to a person who wants to "report a website issue".
This is one example and a fairly typical one but there are plenty of other ways in which we get feedback wrong.
Lots of big companies use automated telephone systems to "direct your call to the correct department" but for some reason, in EVERY example that I have used, the options are abstract or esoteric and do not obviously relate to everything I might want to do. "Press 1 if you need to change an address; 2 if you need to adjust a Direct Debit amount..." What if I want to do both? What is the problem with saying very clearly, "If your call is about your customer information like name and address, press 1; if it requires access to your financial records, please press 2; If you want to complain or provide feedback in general, please press 3"?
If you get this all wrong (which most people seem to) you generate a massive overhead in Customer Services. How many people are calling back because they got confused? Do you know? Are you employing twice as many people as you need because you are not doing it well.
Most importantly, do you ever think about things from a Customer point of view because I'm certain that many companies quite simply don't!
Let's use Air Canada again. I would bet money on the fact that most people visiting their site are economy passengers looking to get the best price on a ticket with perhaps the desire to have the quickest flight or at least a direct flight. Can you do this? Nope. You type in the dates and say that you're flexible (fine so far) then you see a grid of prices - hmmmm OK. I can choose the dates purely on the basis of price in this grid and then when I select the dates, I go to a list of flights. Oh - none of these are direct and take at least 4 hours longer than a direct flight so I need another day. I'll change my search results and choose another day, that's better, I can get a direct flight and click next. Oh, the return flight is also not direct so now I have to change my search results again. Now I've done that, the price grid now says that the cheapest flight I can get is double the original price! So the two direct flights cost double the flights that are longer, further and have a stopover. Why? No idea.
I tweeted Air Canada, usually the best way to get a quick response and they asked me to contact their reservation lines on the phone. So despite them paying however many millions for their site, I now have to use up some person's time on the phone to do what I should have been able to do on the web site! Waste, waste, waste.
I wanted to feedback this issue but the contact form was so poorly designed, I didn't bother. This is the real danger in getting it wrong, you will push people away until eventually you will not even know why people stopped using your service and you will go bust - just because the few of us who want to help with feedback couldn't do so easily enough!
I sometimes wonder whether this is another skill that falls between the cracks. Customer Service Manager's job to sort the website? Probably not. Technical departments job to make the user journey effective? Probably not.