Real-Time Audience Feedback

by Jeannie Walters

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I had the honor of speaking at SOBCon conference for entrepreneurs hosted by Terry “Starbucker” St. Marie and Liz Strauss this weekend. The theme of the event this year was the “Customer-Centered Business” and each speaker was asked to focus on one area. What makes SOBCon a very different type of event is how each session is led by a speaker and then the attendees get to put theory into practice right away.SONCon 2013

I spoke of how customer experience is an ongoing and difficult challenge for business owners. We love our brands. Our brains literally can’t handle when we hear negative feedback because it goes against our emotional investment in these companies. My topic, See What Your Customers See, was all about how to tackle honest evaluation of your experience when it’s almost impossible to do so. A lot of what I discuss and do for my clients is help them truly understand the experience their customers face every day. And  another speaker, Drew Marshall quoted Anaïs Nin with, “we don’t see the world the way it is. We see the world the way we are.”

And then the most amazing thing happened. After speaking, I was able to receive powerful feedback about my presentation. I had to take my own medicine. I had to check my emotions at the door and hear the honesty people were providing. Most of the real-time feedback on Twitter was very positive – and afterwards I continued to hear incredibly nice things. That was cool. That part felt great.

Then, as the hours went on and I got to know people better and spend more time with them, they told me some amazing things. Amazing things that weren’t easy to hear. And because I’m always on my soapbox about how important honest evaluation is, I’ve decided to share some of what I heard here.

One incredibly thoughtful bit of feedback was about my intro – I didn’t do a great job there because I was a little nervous and didn’t set the stage. At first, I had to take a gulp hearing that. But then I realized it was honest and accurate. I flubbed a bit and I moved on. Lesson learned.

512px-Photographic_lenses_front_viewAnother piece of feedback that I wasn’t expecting was about the expectations which were set in advance. A person I respect but had never met in person before shared that she was pleasantly surprised by my speaking. Why? Because my photos online don’t reflect the energy and passion I bring to the speaking experience. That shocked me, because I had literally never thought about that connection. But it’s advice I took to heart. I’m working on improving those images ASAP. Here I was, thinking I was being professional, and this feedback tells me I went too far.

It just goes to show you – you never know what feedback you will receive when you let people bring it to you. I could have asked for tidy feedback with checkboxes and numbers, but those would’ve never provided me the awesome and thoughtful bits of constructive feedback I received by being open and inviting it. I’m so grateful to those SOBCon attendees who shared with me.

This leads me to wonder…what are ways companies can gain this type of valuable feedback in today’s environment? Open-ended is great, but it takes consideration and passion and someone who cares enough to give it to you. Are there ways in our multi-channel world we can make it easier? Are there ways to show we’re open without passing out surveys and asking for careful ratings of 1 – 5? I believe there are, but a big part of it is being open.

Photo By Bill Ebbesen (Transferred from en.wikipedia) [CC-BY-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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Jeannie Walters

Jeannie Walters is the CEO/Founder of Experience Investigators, a global Customer Experience consulting firm. She has 20 years of experience helping companies improve loyalty and retention, employee engagement, and overall customer experience.

Jeannie is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP,) a charter member of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA,) a Professional Member of the National Speakers Association, a Forbes Coaches Council Member, a C-Suite Network Advisor, a LinkedIn Learning and Lynda.com instructor, and a TEDx speaker.

Learn more here.

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