Why It Works
Although most customers have complaints, few customers are genuinely "against" you or your product. Even if they express extreme frustration, the reality is that they want to succeed when using your product (see the sidebar "Speed Boat for Expensive Products"). Giving them a way to express their frustration without letting a group mentality or a single person dominate the discussion is what most customers want. Speed Boat creates this relatively safe environment where customers can tell you what's wrong.
Another significant reason that Speed Boat works is that many people don't feel comfortable expressing their frustrations verbally. Giving them a chance to write things down gives them a way to provide feedback. It also gives them an opportunity to reflect on what is genuinely most important. The opportunity to reflect is especially important for those customers who just seem to be somewhat unhappy people (you know, the ones who complain a lot about the little details). Asking them to verbalize their issues, especially in writing, motivates them to think about these issues. Many of them will identify trivial issues as just thattrivial issuesand, in the process, focus on the truly big issues. Thus, they end up voicing their complaints, but they're put into perspective. When they get used to thinking about their complaints, especially quantifying what the impact is, they are more reasonable and will contribute more to successtheirs and yours.
Time Frame of Action
However, there are products for which the sheer number of seemingly trivial complaints adds up to one truly large complaintthe product or service offering might have been good enough to purchase, but not good enough to continue using or to recommend to others. In this case, Speed Boat helps you identify the set of problems that you need to address before your product fails. Although we don't require that customers use different sized or shaped anchors, the game does not prevent customers from changing the size, shape, weight, or number of anchors that they add to the boat.