Friday, August 18, 2006

Starting Findory: Customer feedback

Findory customer service is light, averaging a couple e-mails per day. They are mostly suggestions, a few requests for help, and a few complaints.

Of the few complaints, the most common are various forms of rants about either liberal bias or conservative bias. Partially this is due to our political climate right now where any site at all related to news is bombarded by absurdity from the extreme fringes.

However, accusations of bias also may be due to Findory explicitly trying to not pigeonhole people. The idea of personalized news has been around for a decade or so. One common criticism of the idea is that personalization may pigeonhole people, showing them only what they want to see. On Findory, opinion articles are not selected based on a particular view, with the result that people are exposed to viewpoints they might prefer to ignore.

It is an interesting question whether Findory should have given people what they wanted -- let people put on their blinders and pigeonhole themselves -- or if it is doing the right thing for the long-term by helping people discover a breadth of information and viewpoints.

On the requests for help, the most common is somewhat amusing. People often expect Findory to be harder to use than it is. It surprises me, but some write in and ask, "How do I set it up? What do I do?"

Perhaps Findory is too simple. "Just read articles! That's it," I often say. "Findory learns from what you do." Everyone has been trained to expect sites to be more difficult -- lengthy registration and configuration, for example -- and it appears it can be confusing when all those barriers are removed.

On the suggestions, the most common are requests for a feed reader (which we did as Findory Favorites), interest in rating articles and sources (which we have prototypes a few times but never launched because it seems to change the focus away from reading), a desire to see news photos inline on the page (potentially costly, but something we are exploring), extending the crawl (always working on it), and support for non-English languages (prohibitively expensive due to the changes required in the recommendation engine).

Customer feedback is useful. Many Findory features have been implemented as a direct result of suggestions from Findory readers.

However, just listening to customers is not enough. Customers will tend to suggest iterative improvements and request more features. Customers will not offer ideas for big jumps, big ideas, or major new products. Customers will not balance requests for new features against simplicity and usability.

When looking at customer feedback, I find it is important to look beyond the words to try to divine the intent. The best solution may be something completely different than what was suggested.

See also my other posts in the Starting Findory series.

1 comment:

netking said...

You make me dream with your constructive feedbacks...

But you'd rather be talking of "user feedback" rather than "customer feedback".

As mentioned on previous posts, I manage a big dating site in France and I can assure you it makes a big difference between users and customers...

Paying customers feedback is another story... They're more active at yealing at you for the tiniest problem (massively due to their malware rotten pc's).

In fact, we had to create a custom CRM program to handle the load (+/- 300 messages/day) and have people 12 hours a day to answer...

But this is the only side effect of a business model that provides at least a 15% income growth every single month :)