Hearing vs. Listening
I like to say that I love feedback. I love to hear when someone falls in love with a project bag I’ve made. Or when they tell me my Craftsy class improved their photography. Or that they were complimented on something they knit from one of my patterns. I LOVE that kind of feedback. Who doesn’t? We all like to hear the nice things. So when I say I love feedback, what I really mean is I love to hear the nice things. The not-so-nice things aren’t as lovable. I still appreciate negative feedback, but it takes me a few days to come around to it.
I received an email through the shop contact form a week or so ago and it was one of those pieces of feedback that wasn’t quite as nice as I like.
I just wanted to tell you that your bags look like they might be beautiful and the photography seems great, but when you photograph the bags on the fabric that they’re sewn out of, it’s really hard to see the actual bag. And because of that I’m going to go to a store that makes the bags more appealing to buy by photographing them so you can actually see them.
When I first read it (ok, the first 10 times I read it) I heard it as a schoolyard taunt. “I suppose your stuff is ok, but I’m taking my money elsewhere. Nyah nyah.” And I dwelled on it for a bit. Why would someone say that?! Why wouldn’t they just look, decide they didn’t like the set up, and move on? Why take the time out of your day to make me feel bad?
Friends told me to ignore it. Over cocktails, another pal helped me work out a snarky reply. But after a few hours I had that feeling. There was a cry of truth in her note and my crankiness was preventing me from hearing it. All I heard was the nyah nyah and not the issue that prompted her to contact me.
I grew up in the hospitality industry. I am Canadian. It would be next to impossible for me to reply in any way other than with kindness. So three days later, the email was still sitting in my inbox, now taunting me because I hadn’t responded yet. I took a deep breath, agonized, typed and deleted, and finally replied.
Gosh [name redacted], I’m sorry to hear that my product photos didn’t meet your expectations. Was there a particular bag you were interested in? I may have some alternate photos on a different background that could answer any questions you may have.
(And you know what? The email bounced. Argh.)
Sending that reply was what I needed to strip away the noise of her note and listen to the feedback she was giving me:
Caro, it’s hard to see the product you’re selling.
In Shoot It, I talk about finding a background for your products that is unique to you. Something your customers can see anywhere online and instantly recognize as yours, whether they’ve seen the product before or not. (Dear every seller on Etsy, your white backgrounds make you look like everybody else.) That was what I loved about the fabric on fabric shots. You knew it was Splityarn before knowing it was Splityarn. While I think photographing the background in the same fabric is fun, and *I* can see the products just fine, I’m also incredibly familiar with them. You don’t sew 45 wee pouches of the same fabric without getting to know the little suckers by heart.
I started thinking about what I could do to help make the products clearer. Photograph them on the alternate colourway of the same print? Maybe. Find a neutral fabric that coordinated? Boring.
WAIT. I KNOW! Someone in my quilt guild recently finished a project using chalkboard cloth.
I can draw the fabric motif on and clear away the visual static at the same time. It’s still unique to me (at least I haven’t seen anyone else doing it) and the background combined with the product identifies it as Splityarn. Happy making.
The TL;DR version: The shop has been updated.
So next time I get cranky about something negative, ask me if I am hearing noise? Or if am I listening to the problem.