Awesome & Awful Suggestion Boxes

We were working on this week’s article on suggestion boxes when we came across two fabulous real-life examples.


One’s an object lesson in what NEVER to do. The other’s an example of doing absolutely everything right.

First, let’s start with Nortel’s approach. This large telecom equipment manufacturer wants any customer who submits an idea online to agree to about 800 words of legal mumbo-jumbo first. I can’t imagine that many customers are willing to waste time even reading this. And part of what makes it so silly is that these guys routinely meet face-to-face with customers who undoubtedly routinely share ideas and suggestions for new products during those meetings. I’m virtually certain that they don’t require those customers to sign this kind of waiver first.

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(And as a side comment, never include an internal organizational description like “Enterprise Portfolio” in anything that’s customer-facing. Don’t distract customers with your company’s internal workings.)

On the other hand, we mentioned the Vermont Country Store catalog in the same newsletter. These guys do a wonderful job online and offline of soliciting customer ideas. I don’t see a single opportunity for improvement – I think they’ve got it nailed.

First, notice that “Suggest a Product” is included in the main navigation bar on their home page:

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Next, notice how they highlight specific products that they added in response to customer requests, proving that they really do pay attention to these suggestions:

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And finally, check out two examples from their direct-mail catalog, again emphasizing the importance to them of customer product suggestions. I wonder how many people Barbara Coakley told about this…probably dozens! Incredible free advertising.

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Even when the requester wants to be anonymous – or they get multiple requests – they still make sure you know that they added the product by popular demand:

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Leslie Nolen, Radial's president, is the nationally-known expert on the art and science of selling health and wellness.

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