Advantages and Disadvantages of a Suggestion Box

by Eric Dontigney; Updated September 26, 2017
Businessman Placing Suggestion Slip Into Box

The suggestion box dates back to the 1800s and offers a time-honored way to solicit feedback. In theory, customers or employees jot down their ideas and you pick the best ones to implement. This lets you improve your business and earn goodwill. Before you put up a suggestion box, however, understand that it creates as many disadvantages as advantages.

Advantage – Innovation

Suggestion boxes sometimes prove a source of innovation. Employees, for example, often experience problems firsthand, and this positions them to offer you real insight into the problem and its potential solutions. Customers can also become sources of innovation. The profession of any given customer is not always obvious, and she may be an expert in solving a particular kind of problem in your business.

Disadvantage – Minority Opinions

Business owners know better than most that disgruntled customers discuss their grievances freely, while satisfied customers often remain silent. A suggestion box offers a platform for dissatisfied customers to lodge their complaints about how your business operates. The suggestions you receive may not reflect a general view of how to improve your business, and they might encourage you to change elements of your business that most customers appreciate. If you require a name and contact information for the suggestion to receive consideration, it can help you separate redundant suggestions by a lone, angry customer from those of your overall customer base.

Advantage – Improved Employee Relations

Soliciting employee suggestions, directly or via a suggestion box, often helps to improve engagement. When employees feel that you value their suggestions, they make a deeper commitment to the business. Employee morale increases when you implement their ideas because it gives them a sense of control over their work environment. Soliciting and implementing employee ideas can cultivate a cooperative relationship among you, your management team and your rank-and-file employees.

Disadvantage – Unrefined Ideas

A refined idea requires time and, often, a substantial amount of space to explain. Suggestion box forms, by necessity, often provide too little space to lay out a refined, actionable idea. The ideas that land in the suggestion box typically require substantive development before you can evaluate their viability. For example, customers may want a store to offer online ordering. That represents a workable goal for a small store with limited inventory. In a larger store with thousands of items, developing online ordering requires a serious financial investment. You need to assemble the necessary information technology infrastructure and create a searchable, up-to-date catalog, and you have to determine if online ordering will deliver a return on investment.

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