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Serving Your Blog’s Customers: Listen

Serving Your Blog’s Customers: Listen

Have you checked in lately to find out how well you are serving your blog’s customers? Have you asked your readers how you are doing and what you could be doing better?

While some complain, my three years experience working with has shown me that they have open ears and an open door policy for communicating directly with its customers: the users.

I’ve watched WordPress grow and expand while still staying personal. Do WordPress developers, staff, contributors, and volunteers do everything right? Of course not. But one thing that has been at the top of the list from the very beginning is the ability to listen.

Recently, WordPress opened up their communication doors to offer two open and public places for you to add input on how you feel and what you think about . WordPress Ideas is a list to which you can add suggestions for improving WordPress. WordPress Kvetch! is open for whines, complaints, moans, and even a kind word here and there.

These got me thinking about how we bloggers get input from our readers on how we are doing.

Are You Asking Your Readers to Talk Back to You?

If your blog is your business, or you have a business blog, you must get your message out to your audience and customers, letting them know about what you do, how you do it, and why they should buy it.

More importantly, your blog opens the door to feedback, if you let it. Opening up blog comments and encouraging your audience to tell you what they think expands the conversation. It helps you better meet your audience’s needs. Isn’t that most important?

It’s frightening to open yourself up for criticism. The problem with opening communication with your audience is that it’s the double-edged sword of customer input. You may find out you are doing something wrong, but also possible you will find out you’ve been doing the right thing all along.

Many bloggers take the communication in blogging for granted. I tell you want I think you want to hear and maybe you’ll leave a comment or two. Does that really mean that your blog offers a two way line of communication? No.

It takes work to set an open door communication policy with your readers. You have to take a risk and really ask them for serious input. You need to have the inner confidence and strength to listen to what they have to say, whether you agree or disagree with what they have to say.

If you ask the question, you have to be willing to hear the answer.

As much as you want to say something on your blog, your readers want to be heard. Listen to them. Read what they say, and then look deeper at what they are really telling you. Then show them that you heard them.

A few months ago, BCC News’ Newsnight was having second thoughts on their web design and publicly asked their audience what they thought:

Web designers should ALWAYS remember: “just because it can be done, doesn’t mean it should be done.”

Stung by that challenge we’ve resolved to enter a period of rationalization.

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Let us know what you love and hate, what you visit all the time, what you never visit but are glad is there. Some of you have said – is your forum a forum or is it a blog, and vice versa? Does it matter what it is? Tell us what would make it better.

Hundreds of people responded. Some of them were very tough…and informative. What surprised me the most from among the volume of comments was the very high level of technical web design savvy.

For the most part, the responses were positive about what the program was doing with their web content. The information was there and it served their needs. However, people were very fast to say the table-based design had to go and that it didn’t meet web standards. They also blasted BBC for not having an accessible web design for the blind, visually and physically impaired. The lack of easy navigation, fast access to podcasts and video, ability to connect and read with cell phones, handheld computers, music players, and even various non-IE web browsers, were also condemned.

Overall, there was little discussion about the site’s content or how pretty the design looked, or how much they liked the colors. It was totally about “get me what I want with the least amount of effort on my part, do it right, and get it to me now”.

The designers behind the BBC site quickly learned that it was going to take some hard work on their part to make life easier for their readers.

And readers responded even more by spreading the word that BCC News’ Newsnight was listening to them.

Are you listening to your blog’s audience? What are you doing to make sure your audience knows you are listening to them?

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Lorelle VanFossen blogs about blogging and WordPress on , and is a long time support volunteer for . Lorelle travels too much and reports about life on the road in and covers family history and genealogy on , and writes for too many blogs, ezines, and magazines.

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