Involving Customers in Decision Making (Or, what will Nordstrom do?)

Nordstrom did a good thing today – they used social networking (in this case, Facebook) to apologize to users that their site was down. Open communication is good, and letting your biggest fans know when there’s a glitch is usually appreciated. But then I noticed something in the comments. Out of about 55 comments to-date (as of 4:00 p.m. EST), most had nothing to do with frustration around the site being down, but rather, frustration around the new site design itself. Take a look:

The complaints center mostly on the navigation of the site, difficulty in using it and an overwhelming opinion (of those commenting) that the old site was preferred. So far, Nordstrom’s has yet to respond to any of these comments in the chain. It will be an interesting experiment to see how they handle such feedback. It begs some questions:

- Changing website design is no small undertaking from a time or resource POV. With social media allowing our customers to comment openly on everything that we do, should we give them the opportunity to help shape such changes before we make them? Would Nordstrom – and its customers – have benefited from a customer council that had a hand in shaping the new design before it was complete?

- Should a brand involve customers in product, marketing and branding decisions?

- How beneficial is it to a consumer-facing brand like Nordstrom vs a B2B brand to embrace a customer council? (Often, customers drive software development, for example, by requesting features. Should a company like Nordstrom consider such thinking?)

- Will Nordstrom make any changes as a result? Or hope that the customers will simply “get used to it?”

What do you think? What would you do if you were Nordstrom? Keeping in mind that you can never please everyone, has your company involved customers in shaping and testing the direction of your products or brand? Why or why not?