Should we invite complaints?

I have been wrestling with the idea of encouraging users to complain about the WizOf.Biz site, its design and/or contents. Here are my reasons for encouraging complaints: 

  1. I learn much more from complaints than I do compliments.
  2. This is a new site and we want to be as open as possible. (also see my previous blog on gaining credibility.)

Then, there is the downside of doing this:

  1. There might be too much information to take in, which I hope is my biggest problem ;-).
  2. We will receive a lot of rants with little useful information.
  3. We might be spammed — a lot.
  4. Others may use this as an opportunity to generate "link love" (where a seemingly meaningful comment's sole purpose is to contain a link to another site).
  5. Security may be compromised by allowing unrestricted comments.

And, the technical issues include: 

  1. Does the commenter have to be logged in?
  2. Why not just use the comment form?
  3. What types of controls can we impose?

For our site, which charges for professional reviews of users' submitted material, there needs to be a measure of trust that we can deliver what we promise and do it for a reasonable price. Openness helps gain this trust. Then there is the "elephant in the room" — "Did you get your money's worth?". I know that most other sites don't ask this question. I feel that we have to and making complaining easy is one way of keeping us informed if we are failing to deliver.

At this time, I do not believe we will be overwhelmed by complaints. We will have plenty, but our staff should be able to handle them. When the load increases, besides us being in trouble,  we can use a more structured complaint form that has predefined category of complain, including "other". For example, types of complaints might be site look and feel, site omissions, pricing, the complaint form itself, etc. You get the idea. Of course, if we get too many complaints, we have done something really wrong and we may need to consider how to proceed next.

Spamming we can handle to a certain extent by asking users to complete a CAPTCHA before sending in the complaint. Those trying to gain "link love" dishonestly will have their complaint deleted, have their site placed on our blacklist, and be reported to spam lists. To top that off, all lnks can be sanitized so links will be readable, but not live. We can also limit the size and type of content for a complaint. Doing all this should also add to our security and to the security of the information our users provide. These measures can be taken by any site. 

In encouraging complaints, we need to separate the wheat from the chafe. To do this, we may give a weighing factor to complaints so that those coming from registered users have more weight than those that come from anonymous users. This begs the question of why not exclude comments from anonymous users? The answer has to be the threshold that users have to cross in deciding to become members. We need to capture the reason that they decide to go elsewhere. That is, we want to make our site better and reduce our "bounce rate". 

We already have a publicly available comment form. Do we need a complaint form? Only experience will tell us for sure. However, we can foresee the case where the complaint form could ask for more detail or more explicit information than the normal comment form which is pretty free-form.

Lastly, there is the question of using the word “complaint”. We want criticism while we do not want to belittle the writer, which may be the impression that the word complaint gives. Perhaps a word like “critic” would be better.

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