Listen, Learn and Act

  • Make a Suggestion and Change Tomorrow

    4 Dec 2018
    Carl Ottersen

    Make a Suggestion and Change Tomorrow

    I guess that headline makes me sound like Ralph Nader or Bernie Sanders. I don’t have a political ax to grind, so don’t get me wrong. But doing something revolutionary for a good purpose—call it a game changer—well, that is exactly what I’m talking about.

    Let’s start at the beginning. We are all buyers of things and services. That makes us consumers and customers. It also makes us directly interested in the quality of what we buy and how we, as customers, expect makers and suppliers to listen to us, interact with us, and treat us. Nothing aggravates us more than to see they did not deliver what we wanted or to feel they did not treat us the way we expect.

    When that happens, what do we do? We complain, we threaten and we bluster our way to (hopefully) get a replacement, a refund, and an apology. Sometimes we do that directly with the person or store we bought from. Sometimes we call or write to “customer support” (for what that’s worth). Increasingly, we blast them with negative posts on social media, hoping that kicks them into action.
    If we are lucky and find a company that does have a sincere way of dealing with complaints, then at least we have some resolution for that single case. Will the maker/supplier change their behavior so the problem won’t happen again? Probably not.

    As consumers, our goal is to get organizations to make or provide more of what we want and interact with us the way we expect. How can we change the way they behave? How can we motivate them to change what they are doing—not just for a moment, but for always?

    The answer isn’t so difficult, when you think about it, because we do it with people every day: we change the way we talk, so that they sit up and listen.

    The best way to do that with a company, just as with a person (and companies are made up of people, after all), is to motivate with positive strokes, not negative ones.
    Let me make this personal. What gets you to change your way of doing things? Constant complaining about what you are doing wrong? Or a sensible explanation of why it is good for both you and others that you do something different, for which you will likely find greater reward? It happens that way at home and at work, every day. So what stops us from doing that with manufacturers, retailers, service providers, associations and even government agencies?

    Let me make this more personal. I want to change your behavior when you interact with organizations. Let’s say you see something that needs improving, or see something that is lacking, or see an opportunity to create something new that you would like to buy. Instead of complaining about what’s wrong or missing, think how you would make it right, then tell them, along with what they get from doing it right. Game changer.

    Ah, I hear you ask, other than the ethereal satisfaction of seeing you can influence an organization’s way of doing things and, hopefully, the organization recognizing that, what’s in it for you? There has to be something more than that, right?

    That’s where USuggest It steps in. When you post a suggestion through us, we make sure it goes straight to the manager responsible for the product or service the suggestion is about. We help the manager put in place a “recognize and reward” program so that you can immediately benefit from having made the suggestion. We also make sure the suggestion is shared through social media platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn so that other consumers can see the suggestion you have made and vote on it by “liking” it.

    See yourself publicly recognized and rewarded for contributing to changing the way an organization does things. Picture your suggestion resonating with other people and getting ten thousand likes. Imagine the reaction of the product manager when he or she receives your idea, supported by thousands of others. Awesome!

    If you can see all that, then sign up for USuggest It. It won’t cost you a penny, but you stand to gain great benefit, and you will help create better choices for everyone.
    If you want to change your tomorrows, stop complaining and make a suggestion. It’s what company managers are asking for, by the way.

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  • How a suggestion made Marmalade

    4 Dec 2018
    Carl Ottersen

    How a Suggestion made Marmalade

    The Scots have a story about how, back in the time when George Washington was president, an enterprising trader shipped a barrel (or maybe it was two) of Spanish oranges to the town of Dundee, high up on Scotland’s eastern coast. He was going to sell them to the rich merchants there, for at that time Dundee was a city rich with trade, while oranges were still a delicacy, eaten only at Christmastime.

    Winter storms tossed the ship carrying those oranges from one side of the North Sea to the other, so much so that all the decks were awash with water. The ship arrived in Dundee two weeks late. The men hired to unload the cargo could see that all the crates, barrels, and boxes were cracked. Precious cloth had been soaked, spices were turned to mush, and the oranges were floating in seawater that had squeezed its way through the wooden staves of the barrels. On the wharf sat a sodden mess.
    Some people took the cloth away to be dried and salvaged. The spices were dried and sold for a cheaper price (some think that’s how spice got its way into Dundee cake, but that’s another story). Those soggy oranges: that was another matter.

    At a moment of inspiration, someone whom we will never know suggested taking the oranges to the Keillers, who ran a small candy store in Dundee. A brisk knock on the door brought James and Janet Keiller to the doorstep of their shop, where they could see for themselves the barrel (or was it two?), oozing seawater. The porters pried open the cask’s lid and, with hands stretched forth to encourage the Keillers to take a look, explained the situation. The Keillers looked inside the watery barrel, with its soft, misshapen, orangey oranges bobbing around. A moment of hushed quiet enveloped the small crowd, as only the Scots can manage. “Can I make a suggestion?” one of the Keillers said.

    “How about . . .”
    And the rest is marmalade. Almost.
    The Keillers knew how to make candy. They knew about the original version of marmalade as a thick paste, so dense you could cut it like cheese (marmalade goes way back to before Roman times, although the name comes from Portugal). They guessed their local market would like a “softer” version they could “spread on their morning toast”. Making it softer also meant saving on the cost of cooking the mash, and saving a penny is something Scots are famous for. The Keillers tried it on the local market, who loved it. In 1797, Janet’s and John’s marmalade became the very first labeled, branded marmalade in the world. A few more suggestions down the line and Keiller’s Orange Marmalade was as famous in the British Empire as McIlhenny’s Tabasco Sauce is in the United States.
    And that’s another story about suggestions.

    A story inspired by events
    Carl Ottersen @ 2018

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