I've just finished providing some feedback to someone from whom I had just bought something. There was nothing unusual about it - I'd bought the product, they'd asked for feedback, and I'd given a small amount of my time to offer it.
At the end of the interaction (this was all online) they said "... And thanks for the feedback - I know it takes time and effort to give it - but we really appreciate it."
Suddenly my attention was focused on the amount of time I'd taken to provide feedback. Time, of course, is a very precious commodity these days, and so we have to choose where we spend it wisely. So how do we choose when to give feedback, when to just do nothing, and when (if the service was bad rather than good) to vote with out feet.
It struck me, after a moment's reflection, that my time is better spent offering feedback to people who are already doing a good job.
People who are already doing a good job have already gone to a lot of trouble to do so. And so, it is my view, they are much more likely to receive my feedback and to go to even more trouble to use it continue to improve their product or service. Conversely, people who are already doing a bad job will probably do a bad job of addressing my feedback as well. This is a gross generalisation, but as I said, my time is precious and I've got to make a call on how I spend it.
So, if you're doing a great job, enjoin your customers to help you do it better. But if you're doing a poor job, get your house in order and sort out the basics before you try and waste even more of your customers' time.
Finally, on a purely selfish note, it struck how much more I had enjoyed giving constructive feedback about good service than I would have enjoyed explaining to some under-trained call-center operator that they were the 5th person I'd spoken to at their company today who'd been unable to help me!
(Oh, and just in case you are interested, I'd just bought the Kindle edition of "Blackboards Bubbles and Cappuccinos" from Change Designs. Watch this space for the review.)