Listening to feedback

I have half a dozen different blog posts started but I thought I’d write this one instead. When you listen to customer feedback, you need to treat the good and the bad equally. If some customers say “wow – this is awesome”, and some others say “this is awful – are you on crack?”, either they’re both right, or neither of them are right. People base their opinion on their experience. It’s unfortunate that you created polarizing experiences, but that’s what happened. If  you write off the negative comments as flukes, it’s only fair that you say the same about the positive comments.

We get feedback on the courses we teach for testers at Microsoft. My team is pretty good at reviewing feedback and making adjustments as necessary. I remind my team of the same thing. They need to treat the positive comments (“the instructor made the class awesome!”) and the negative comments (“the instructor was an idiot”) the same. Either throw them both out, or treat them both as valid. Obviously, you can play the balance game. If 20 students said “great”, and 4 said “sucks”, then you’re probably on the right track (although you’d want to self-evaluate on why the polarity exists in the first place). It’s a frequent topic of discussion, but one that I think everyone understands.

The concept came up again this week when a teammate pointed out that someone commented about me on the mini-microsoft blog. The comment in question was mostly positive, yet it was in response to something negative (which, in full disclosure, I replied to a week or so ago). In this case, I either have stale ideas and have some talent, or neither. I don’t really care either way, but I suppose I’m happy for the attention (there’s no such thing as bad publicity).

The important lesson to learn is that there’s no bad feedback, and no irrelevant feedback. There’s just feedback – it’s your choice to listen to it or not.

One Comment

  1. Everyone is a critic though. Reminds me of the people who tell me that what I say about collaboration is just common sense. Umm. Ok. Well, fair enough. People who criticize like that usually don’t create anything or write so it seems easy to them. You have to wonder what the motivation is and what they DO like. That is the info that is useful to me.

    I know when I do a mediocre job of speaking and when I’m on fire and doing my best work. No one can do their best work every second. I think making it happen more often is about the best I can do and accepting the feedback when it isn’t, but the bad feedback isn’t what makes it possible to improve nor is the encouraging feedback. It’s more the practice.


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