Customer Feedback: Hide or Seek?

None of us like to be criticised, but as a business it is imperative that we gather feedback from our customers.  Here’s what the Frog has to offer in the way of Top Tips:

I’ve just come off the telephone with my mother.  It’s a universal truth that any conversation starting with “oh, so you are still alive then” is doomed from the outset.  Extend that conversation to 45 minutes because of an unhealthy interest in the wellbeing of your friend Phil’s tropical fish (despite the fact they’ve never met) and you end up where I am right now… probably not in the best place to start writing a blog!

However, she did mention something that piqued my interest.  It appears that my mother has recently paid a visit to our local fast-food restaurant – yes, the one of previous blog notoriety.  It makes me feel so warm inside to discover how closely she pays heed to what I tell her…

It seems that the restaurant has recently introduced customer surveys.  My mother was ridiculously excited to discover a freshly printed pile on a table by the exit.  Never missing an opportunity to let others know her opinion (something usually accomplished very loudly and at the least appropriate times), she grabbed a sheet and headed for the nearest table to fill it in.  As no pens were supplied, this was followed by a stealth visit to the kids area to borrow a crayon.

Five minutes later, armed with a feedback sheet that probably looked like it had been completed by Tracy Emin, she went to find a deposit point… only to discover there wasn’t one.  With no postal or other contact details on the sheet, my mother had no other choice than to hand her feedback direct to the individual whose service she’d just commented on.  Ding, ding… round one.

A company’s approach to customer feedback can be a funny old thing.  There are those who avoid it like the plague; those who want it but only if it’s filtered; those who use it to inform business response months after it’s collected; and those who want it so much they annoy their customers.  So, what’s what when it comes to customer feedback?  Here are some thoughts:

  • Seek real-time feedback:  Earlier this week I read how National Express survey their customers’ experience via text during the journey, providing them with in-the-moment feedback.  Sky frequently send a text survey immediately after telephone calls to capture their customers experience.  Capturing feedback in the moment provides a valuable insight into what is arguably a customer’s most instinctive thoughts and feelings about their experience.
  • Think outside the box when it comes to method of capture:  While some companies employ the standard fare of surveys – whether by paper, a questionnaire on their website or by text – others use their customer-facing staff to capture response and feedback as part of the interaction.  This is then used to identify trends and establish the general temperature & zeitgeist of their customer experiences at any point in time.  Consider employing this as a complimentary approach if you have reservations about the integrity of what you’ll capture.
  • Seek don’t hide:  Customers are going to have an opinion about their experiences.  Whether it’s good, bad or ugly, those same customers will tell their friends, family, blog readers etc about it.  Therefore, it’s in the best interests of your company to know exactly what those experiences are – what you should be doing more of and what you need to consider doing a little differently or better.
  • Set out your stall:  Use customer feedback as an opportunity.  Identify what you want to gain, what areas you want to focus on etc and seek exactly that.  By being specific in what you’re asking your customers about, you’re more likely to get constructive feedback rather than both barrels.  You can always have an extra section as a “catch all” that provides the opportunity for additional feedback.
  • Drive a quick turnaround:  Some companies have an extremely thorough, but lengthy, process from the point of feedback receipt to the point where a general response is implemented.   Often, responses are driven weeks or months after a trend is originally identified.  Whilst it’s critical to robustly analyse the information; arguably it’s equally critical to react quickly.   Delays will cost the business.
  • Don’t annoy your customers:  Some businesses are so proactively keen about obtaining feedback that they request the completion of a survey that resembles the Domesday Book.  Others, such as my local council, have a relentless pop-up box on their website that just won’t go away.  However, it is possible to absorb your feedback mechanism so it’s imperceptibly part of the customer experience.  For example, some online companies ask you to rate your experience when they thank you for your custom – a few simple options & quick clicks later and it’s job done.

The added bonus of course is that seeking customer feedback reinforces the perception that your company cares.  The other day I drove behind a van that had a sticker saying:  “How am I driving?  Call 0800 blah blah”.  That van was delivering stock to a store and so, really, the van driver’s customer was the store owner.  But as a potential customer of that national company, my thought was “they care about people’s experiences with their company even if they’re not dealing with them as a customer”.

Seeking customer feedback has never been so supported or straightforward.  Apps, such as Mindshare, not only track customer feedback real-time, but pull in information from a company’s available surveys, alerts and incidents.  USAA utilise software that allows telephone representatives to log comments and trends, whilst at the same time transcribing calls to text for ongoing coaching discussions.

Whether it’s by pen & paper or expensive software, it’s vital that you consider customer feedback as an investment – an investment in the sustainability of your business.  At the very least, the risk of not doing so is that everyone other than you knows the customer-facing weaknesses of your business – something I’ve always considered to be a bit like coming back from the loos with your knickers tucked in your skirt.  Except that no-one tells you until 5 hours later; after you’ve walked 2 miles to the shops, been on a marathon shopping spree, caught a full bus back home and thought all the attention was admiration…

For more help and support with your Customer Feedback systems, please contact the Bright7  team at www.bright7.co.uk

7 Responses to “Customer Feedback: Hide or Seek?”

  1. Kel

    I’ve often wanted to phone those numbers on the back of a van, never quite had the gall to do it tho!
    Very good blog as usual

    Reply
  2. Catherine Lee

    Another brilliant Friday blog which also made me chuckle!!
    I agree with all of the points made. Feedback is vital. It is like a school report – we didn’t always like getting them but it is what we needed to improve.
    No one and no company is perfect and need feedback to know what their customers feel about their service. This enables them to improve on their customer experience.
    And as we all know customer experience is at the heart of every company.

    Reply
  3. Shaps

    Another witty yet accurate account of modern day consumer culture.
    1- I hope you dial those back of the van numbers hands free
    2- for those wondering my new female discus has settled well, there some MAJOR flirting going on and I have high hopes of being a grandfather by mid summer
    3- next time can you blog about the most popular form of British complaining, i.e. saying nothing when asked in the moment, then writing a dramatic complaint letter to head office in the hope of getting something free afterwards

    Looking forward to next Friday already ☺

    Reply
  4. Mark

    Another great article, Liz.

    As someone who worked in customer experience research, a few other things spring to mind:

    1) Ensure that your methodology is sound – I’ve had experience of calling a bank on two separate occasions, and being offered a survey on one occasion (when the service happened to be great), and not offered it on another occasion (where I’d been passed from pillar to post)…..the assumption might have been that they didn’t want to antagonise me with a survey after a long, drawn-out call, but if they were only looking for feedback on good calls, they’ll be missing a LOT of feedback.

    2) Where the feedback can be associated with a particular transaction, keep a record of the reason for the customer interraction, as it can shed different light on a customer’s responses. If you’re asking about the employee’s customer service on a call, it may have been exemplary – above and beyond anything expected – but only score a 5/10 on the part of the customer because the company had let them down in the first place, prompting the call. Understanding who you’re measuring, why they were calling, etc gives context to any feedback.

    3) Try not to incentivise feedback unless you have to – I’m suspicious of anyone saying ‘tell us what you think and win £100’, because such a survey attracts false responses from people apathetic to the service, but passionate about winning a prize.

    4) Bear in mind that those likely to score between 4-7/10 are less likely to complete a survey in the first place. Your results may average 7/10, but probably because of the blend of 1/2/3/8/9/10 scores you gain overall. Great service or shocking service is more likely to yield a response, and for the reasons I’ve stated above, high or low scores can often be submitted due to factors other than the service at the point of survey.

    5) Most importantly, do something with the results. Don’t change everything about what you do if the scores aren’t as high as you like, and don’t panic if your published scores aren’t as high as the scores of your competitors. Look for the small, incremental changes that will improve scores….ultimately, the fact that you have customers to survey in the first place says that you’re doing something right – after that, it’s down to you through well considered customer experience research to figure out what makes your great service even better.

    Reply
  5. The Sword

    I read an article some months back which made me smile, it was about a three year old girl wrote to Sainsburys with feedback regarding tiger bread, the letter read:

    “Dear Sainsburys, why is Tiger bread called Tiger Bread? It should be called Giraffe bread. Love from Lily Robinson age 3 and 1/2”

    Chris King from the customer service team wrote back:

    “I think renaming tiger bread giraffe bread is a brilliant idea – it looks much more like the blotches on a giraffe than the stripes on a Tiger, doesn’t it?
    It is called tiger bread because the first baker who made it a loooong time ago thought it looked striped like a tiger. Maybe they were a bit silly”
    He enclosed a £3 gift card in the letter for her to buy sweets, and signed the letter “from Chris King (age 7 and 1/3)”.

    Lily’s mother posted this exchange on her blog and the story went viral on Twitter and Facebook. Due to the overwhelming response, Sainsburys have now in fact rebranded the bread to Giraffe bread.

    What the customer service industry could do with is a few more Chris Kings, understanding and relating to their customers on a personal level.

    Another great read EJH. Looking forward to the next as always!

    P.s can we have a sweepstake on the birth date of Phil’s baby Discus?

    Reply

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