Mighty pens – how your feedback can help businesses to grow

From Kirsty Mawer

In the Sunday Mail’s recent Stellar insert, there as an article titled “Is Technology Destroying the Human Race”. Even though I have yet to read this article, immediately I feel my gut say “Yes”. Such a response is pretty ironic really, considering I have just typed an email to a Hervey Bay business owner urging him to consider getting on Facebook and Instagram for the benefit of his business.

I can afford to be hypocritical because, while I use selected social media for personal and professional use, I don’t believe in the concept of writing whatever little thought pops into one’s mind to publicly ridicule, attempt to destroy or criticise people or businesses online.

The argument of “It’s a free world” and “We are in a democracy” does not justify the unnecessary barrage of vicious and negative comments and taunts I have viewed online. If we were graced with the opportunity to use words, then we all have a responsibility to use them wisely. Edward Bulwer-Lytton was on the money when he wrote “The pen is mightier than the sword”.

Since the digital age began, a lot of people feel the need to give feedback and many businesses directly request reviews online. This can be a useful strategy to gain insight into how people felt about a service, accommodation or a business in general. It is also a gateway for competitors, spammers and the general public to write whatever they feel, depending on the mood they were in at the time, good or bad.

I encourage you to use other ways to tell business what we think. Rather than flippantly write a review online, let’s think about it a bit more and give useful, honest feedback. If the business is really interested in improving, then they will consider and potentially action it. If not, their loss - but if more and more people actually take the time to connect then perhaps it will make them notice.

I recently toured the Bundaberg Rum Distillery and was genuinely impressed with every aspect of the tour and facility. In the merchandise store, feedback cards were available and I grabbed one as I left. They were meant to be filled out onsite and handed in, but I didn’t realise that until I got home. I pondered about how I could make a suggestion for improvement because it was really, really good.

Now, I had two choices – not fill out the card and just tell everyone I know that it was great OR write them an email. If they have gone to the effort of printing a card for feedback, surely they won’t mind an email stating mine? Well, I wrote them an email answering the questions that they asked and then added my suggestions for improvement. Will they care? I honestly don’t know, but they must have at one stage to get to where they are now because one of the questions on the feedback card says “I think we know the answer already, but we like hearing it from you – how did you find your experience visiting the distillery today?”

Ten points for confidence right there, as they don’t expect you to circle “Less awesome”. They certainly didn’t get to the place they are now just with the board of directors telling consumers what they want – they have asked them the whole way along.


Here are my tips for being a great consumer:

  • Give credit where it is due but identify what was actually great – was it the waitress, the meal you ordered, the assistance of “Hillary”.

  • It might be tempting to write “It was good” on a feedback card and, while it is positive, it is almost pointless.

  • Similarly, if you want to give negative feedback, be helpful and identify where a company could get better results. But don’t do it online on their Facebook page. Give businesses the opportunity to fix up the issue and email them direct. Don’t be rude, but give constructive criticism with the intention to help a business improve.

  • Acknowledge if there were other factors at play, for example “I understand it was a busy because of school holidays….” or “It was just before closing time and there were 50 million people in the store all trying to pay….”.

All of this telling people what you think takes time. It requires effort and some creative energy and you may get absolutely nothing in return (except good karma). But in times when businesses are struggling, it could be the help a company needs to turn things around and take a different course of action.

Next time you experience something really great, tell the business! And the same goes for if something went really badly. Take your emotion in the situation out of it and let them know what went wrong for you.

Don’t underestimate the power of your feedback, especially if you can be constructive.