How do I react to a *customer* receiving Kshs 10,000 a month in free credit, consuming it all (asking for more actually) but actively telling potential customers not to use us because he is unhappy about some facet of our product he’s not let us know about? I’ll tell you how I react. I smile, reach out and fix the issue. I also die a little inside. We’re not perfect but if you let us know we’ll do our best to help. Kenyans, it seems, seem to suffer a similar affliction to the British.
This was written by a Kenyan cloud computing provider called Angani, in a blog post where they are reflecting on their year. The interesting thing is I used to think it was just a big problem here in Zimbabwe. Turns out most Kenyans too won’t tell you the truth you need to know to improve your offering. The association with the British is also interesting as both Zim and Kenya were colonies of the country, and I’ve heard people say maybe we inherited this culture from them.
I’m not sure how big a problem it is in other things in life, but to a company – especially a young one on a continent where first time entrepreneurs lack an ecosystem with established best practice to follow – getting no-BS feedback is critical to survival. The scenario he describes has happened to us at Techzim enough times we now make it a point to deliberately seek out the negative feedback and to assure those that give it that we’re sincerely thankful for it.
I know though that we don’t do it enough, but stuff like, “your site sucks on mobile!” or “It’s so bad we expect better from a company that blogs tech,” or “your ‘look and feel’ is old and tired,” or “I don’t read Techzim because your content’s not interesting enough anymore to me” etc… have all come from users of the product.
The conclusion for us is that if you show everyone that you’re always looking for the non-BS truth, they feel more comfortable giving it. Because it’s really about that – people think you will take the negative feedback negatively and they fear you’ll think they’re just trying to pull you down. This is actually the cause. Our culture discourages those that give negative feedback.
The result is that we’re stuck in the mediocrity of fake comfort and, collectively, we deny ourselves the challenge to improve. The startups fail and they have no idea how they failed when everybody gave very positive feedback. And because they learn little from the failure, the mistakes are repeated. An on and on like that we continue with unsaid negative feedback.
image adapted from globoforce.com