Feed 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 in box is completely clogged with pleas for the “dets” 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 engaging with them.

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