Five Creative Ways to Use Customer and Employee Suggestions Boxes

Overview: The suggestion box is a classic tool for collecting feedback. Modern boxes should be online, privacy-friendly, simple, collect useful data, and offer useful incentives.

Put It Online

One of the obvious issues with the old-school suggestion box is that it’s hard to put a slip of paper in a slot when you’re out in the field, on the floor, or just keeping up with your other work. Ideas can arrive at any time, and your suggestion box should be ready when they are.

Taking your “suggestion box” online covers a few crucial points for any effective innovation strategy. It makes the box accessible to everyone in the company with a data connection, first of all. And makes it easy to push to your entire company’s IT infrastructure. That way, you’re not only getting ideas from the handful of people using your break room.

It also makes it easier to use across different languages, communication styles, and levels of ability. You can add functions like voice-to-text or dual language translation so more can participate. And you can also more easily distribute, collate, and analyze suggestions through online platforms.

Keep It Simple

How many times have we been confronted with an elaborate form for a simple task? Your suggestion box should be simple in terms of being filled out. Avoid including any complex questions upfront; ask for an identifier, if needed, make space for a suggestion, and include a submit button.

This should also include access and instructions. The place where you keep your suggestion box should have an easy URL to remember and write out, and you should test it on multiple platforms and formats, just like you would any other webpage your company relies on.

Instructions should be short, concise, and clear. Translate them into all languages your company uses regularly. The instructions should also, if possible, be at the top in an easy-to-copy block of text that can be copied and pasted into translation engines and read out loud.

This doesn’t mean there can’t be a follow-up after they click “submit.” For example, you might invite them to fill out a quick survey after they make their suggestion. Or perhaps you could serve another suggestion and ask for some feedback on it. Regardless, make it clear the suggestion has been submitted and that they don’t need to fill out the form.

Offer Incentives

Many times a suggestion box sits idle as employees forget to use it. One of the best ways to remind everyone it’s there is to give them a reason to make suggestions.

When we say “incentives,” you’re probably thinking of cash prizes or gift cards. And indeed, raffles and the like draw attention. Yet, the best incentives are the ones tied to your company values. For example, if you’ve got a lot of tight-knit offices, the offices with the highest number of useful suggestions could win lunch, making it a friendly competition between them.

Sometimes, data and encouragement is an incentive. Regularly offer updates on how many suggestions you’ve gotten and how they’ve been acted on. Publicly thank people who’ve helped you meet your goals, made life easier for the rest of the team, or otherwise helped out with their suggestions. A transparent innovation process makes this particularly effective.

Don’t forget to make sure everyone has a chance to win. Promote any incentives you’re using in a way that ensures anyone with access to the box can see them and aim to win.

Make It Privacy-Friendly

There are many reasons that your team may want a certain level of privacy around their suggestions. They may want to speak frankly about a problem they believe company culture protects. They may be worried about their suggestion offending a coworker or a supervisor. Or they could simply be shy.

Your suggestion box should have multiple levels of privacy and sharing to make everyone comfortable. Start with identification; it should be an anonymous system if the user wants it to be, and they should understand just how and why the system is anonymous. In public-facing systems, you can offer multiple levels as well, such as the innovation committee knowing who made the suggestions but suggestions being presented as anonymous on the public side of the platform.

Another level is where the suggestion goes. If somebody is more comfortable sharing the idea with a specific department or with a specific committee, you can include that option as well.

Finally, there may be situations where a suggestion box is used for an HR issue or a similar concern that the committee can’t address. Those should be sent along to the appropriate person, and it should be clear in the language on the site that this will happen. You may want to set up a separate route for these concerns depending on organizational need.

Collect Useful Data

Your suggestion box can tell you a lot just by sitting there. If it regularly fills up or doesn’t, that says something about employee engagement. Yet there are other opportunities for data you can use to bolster your innovation program.

To begin with, look at the types of ideas and what they address. Remember that innovation programs tend to draw the most highly engaged members of your team; they have a lot to say and think about your company from their perspective a great deal. If you’re getting regular feedback on improving company processes or about a specific project, that’s worth knowing. If some teams show more engagement than others, that also may be something you need to explore.

And this is before opportunities to gather more information directly. Once a suggestion is complete, you can serve a short survey, for example, or even just ask one question you want an answer to on a scale of one to ten. Even if you just want to know how the innovation program is going, it’s valuable.

The suggestion box is a simple tool. Yet new technology and online platforms have made it a powerful one as well. If you’re curious to learn more about how this tool can be used with innovation, let’s connect.

This article was first published on the IdeaScale blog.

IdeaScale is the leading innovation management software platform for the enterprise, government, and education. Gather ideas, implement them. www.ideascale.com