The Suggestion Box

According to a definition in Wikipedia; “A suggestion box is a device for obtaining additional comments, questions, and requests. In its most basic and traditional form, it is a receptacle with an opening, not unlike an offering box or voting box. The box is used for collecting slips of paper with input from customers and patrons of a particular organization. Suggestion boxes may also exist internally, within an organization, such as means for garnering employee input.”

To paraphrase, using the key works of the definition. A suggestion box is a receptacle for offering and voting by customers, patrons and employees. Clearly this is a noble concept and valid method of seeking information. So why do they not work as expected? The issue lay not with the concept itself but rather with the methods of application.

To examine the issue it is first necessary to segregate the two types of input required, feedback from customers and input from employees.

Take for example the method of gathering comments on service you received at your local restaurant. Often the comment form is on the table held up by the condiments. The choices given are limited and you are asked to give your full contact information (so management can contact you to resolve the issue). You may also find a link to a website on your bill that allows you to log in and leave comments. Again, you are asked to give contact information.

Unfortunately, in an overwhelming number of instances, you never hear from anyone. Not an apology or even an acknowledgment. The result, you do not fill out the form. I often hear people say, “Why waste my time they are not going to pay any attention to my comments anyway”.

The other type of suggestion box input sought is from employees on changes to improve business. Once again, more often than not you are asked to provide your name etc. However, in a number of instances, firms allow for an anonymous posting of suggestions.

Both systems have their good points and their flaws. If you ask for an employee’s name and do not contact them to explain what happened to the suggestion you can bet it will be a long time before another is submitted. On the other hand if the input is anonymous then no feedback is provided on the idea and unless a change made by the company is clearly linked to the suggestion the proposer again believes that nothing was done. Again, the comments are: “why waste my time they are not going to pay any attention to my comments anyway”.

We all know that employee input and customer input is information gold to our organizations. The question we need to ask ourselves is, when we mine the gold, how do we process it, how do we acknowledge the submitter.

My suggestion, recognize even the fools gold and you will receive much more valuable input.

Gordon J. H. Newman, CPT, FICB (Honours)
Gordon is President of The Newman Learning Group Inc. an organization dedicated to providing value add solutions to improve the bottom line performance of organization and individuals. Gordon may be reached at: or 905-790-2944
This concept and others covered in Gordon’s book “There Has To Be a Better Way.”—the-right-systems-for-success/5381867

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