Fed Up With Feedback Requests?

Sorry, Google. I realize this is my last chance to tell you about my experience. But you see, you’re in a long line of companies that are also desperate for the juicy details of my various consumer escapades. Best Western, Ford, Kia, Home Depot, Apple, Samsung – my inbox is completely clogged with pleas for the “deets” of my transactional interactions with them. I’ve never been more popular – or frustrated.

I appreciate the idea of customer follow-up. I really do. But as company after company jumps on the customer feedback bandwagon, poor ordinary mortals like myself don’t have a hope in hell of keeping up. It could be a full-time job just filling out surveys and rating every aspect of my life on a scale that runs from “abysmal” to “awesome.” The irony is, these customer feedback requests are actually having the opposite effect. Even if my interactions with the brand are satisfactory, the incessant nagging to find out if I “like them, I really like them” are beginning to piss me off.  In the quest to quantify brand affinity, these companies are actually eroding it. Ooops! Talk about unintended consequences.



So, if we accept the fact that knowing what our customers think about us is a good thing, and we also accept the fact that our customers have better things to do with their lives than fill out post-purchase surveys, we have to find a more elegant way to get the job done.

First of all, customer feedback should be part of a full customer relationship continuum. It should be just one customer touch point, not the customer touch point.  You have to earn the credibility that gives you the right to ask for my feedback. Too many companies don’t worry about gauging satisfaction “in the moment.” If you don’t care enough to ask if I’m happy when I’m right in front of you, why should I believe that you’ll pay any attention to my survey? But too many companies jam this request for feedback on their customers without doing the spadework required to build a relationship first.

Worse, because compensation is increasingly being tied to feedback results, you get the “please say you’ll love me” pleading on the sales floor. See if this sounds familiar: “You’ll be receiving a survey from head office asking me how I’ve done. I don’t get a bonus unless you give me top marks in each category. So if there’s anything I can do better, please tell me now.”  There are so many things that are just plain wrong with this that I don’t know where to start. It’s smarmy and disingenuous. It also puts the customer in a very awkward position. When it’s happened to me, I just murmur something like, “No, you’ve been great,” and run with all speed to the nearest exit.

The next thing we have to realize is that not all purchases are created equal. Remember the risk/reward matrix I talked about in last week’s column about how our brains process pricing information?  While this applies to our motivational balance going into a purchase, it also provides some clues to the emotion landscape that exists post-purchase. If the purchase was in the low risk/low reward quadrant, like the home improvement supplies I picked up at Home Depot this weekend, it’s a task that has been crossed off my to-do list. It’s done. It’s over. The last thing I want to do is prolong that task by filling out a survey about said task. But if it’s something that falls into the high risk/high reward quadrant, such as a major vacation, then I am probably more apt to invest some time to give you some feedback. The rule of thumb is: the higher the degree of risk or reward, the more likely I am to fill out a survey.

The final thing to remember about customer surveys is that you’re capturing extremes. The people who fill out surveys are usually the ones that either hate you or love you. So you get a very skewed perspective on how you’re doing. What you’re missing is the vast middle of your market that may not be sufficiently motivated to toss you either a brick or a bouquet.

I’m all for getting to know your customers better. But it has to be part of a total approach. It begins with simple things, like actually listening to them when you’re interacting with them. 

5 comments about "Fed Up With Feedback Requests?".
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  1. Scott Brinker from ion interactive, inc., June 23, 2015 at 10:53 a.m.

    Great article, as always, Gord. Although I was expecting a quantum mechanics reference in there with the notion of measurement changing the outcome. :-)

  2. Jeff Schlueter from Nexidia Inc., June 23, 2015 at 10:56 a.m.

    Here here, Gordo!  I couldn't have said it better myself. I started my professional career in the market research group of one of the RBOCs (Baby Bells...remember those?!) and spent untold hours creating reports from raw data from customer feedback surveys. I always thought then that it was a piss-poor method of really knowing what customers think. The best methods these days involve mining the actual transaction (be it voice, text, face to face, etc.) for the telltale bits of info that will indicate whether or not a great service was delivered. This helps reduce the general bias you mentioned and gives companies a much better view into their customers' mindset. And it relieves us of the tedium of filling out yet another Likert Scale questionnaire and deciding just what the difference is between "excellent" and "awesome."

  3. Carl Ludewig from Ludewig Multimedia, Inc., June 23, 2015 at 11:20 a.m.

    Good observation. Another major problem is that many of these surveys begin by requesting all my demographic information. So it's less about my opinion and more about data extraction - which is a big turn off.

  4. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, June 23, 2015 at 7:51 p.m.

    Just had one that wanted a lot of my personal information to unsubscribe. I wrote back that I do not know them, I do not trust them, for them NOT to sell or rent or give my information anywhere and I will not give them anything. Get a note that they would. 

  5. Matt Brooks from We Love Surveys, June 25, 2015 at 11:15 a.m.

    That's music to my ears! We help organisations to interact with their customers at the point of experience. Some of our most successful clients ask for feedback as part of the sales process and they receive tens of thousands of completed responses a week. Those same customers still provide web surveys but get maybe 1,000 to 2,000 responses a week as opposed to upward of 200,000 with our tablets.

    We focus on keeping surveys to 5-10 questions long, sometimes only 2 questions long and it means that they get information which they can use everyday. As a store or branch manager they can discuss customers in their team briefings and celebrate any successes and at a corporate level they can check our reports to see if there are patterns in feedback scores by hours of the day or days of the week.

    If anything, the biggest issue we find is senior business leaders who want to tick a box, say they listen to customers and don't actually do anything with all the information they collect, it is such a shame and they are missing out on some great insight.

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