Home > Call centres, CEM, CRM, customer engagement, customer experience, Customer service > Customer feedback forms never hold the answers

Customer feedback forms never hold the answers

Asking for customer feedback is by and large a waste of everybody’s time.  Sometimes the customer may feel valued and special if their opinion is asked for but that’s probably about the only thing of value (albeit transitory) you’ll get from it.

Why?  Because customers don’t always know what they want; because customers don’t always tell the truth and because customer feedback is always historical.  Also there are a few other factors that come into play that further reduce the usefulness of feedback: customers are often irrational, customers who respond to feedback forms are usually either very happy or very unhappy and therefore are not a true reflection of most customers and customer response depends on their mood when they fill in a form – not when they are next thinking of using your service.

Don’t get me wrong – I love my customers, I thank them heartily for paying my mortgage, but I have never sent any of them a feedback form.  And that is my real bone of contention, not the seeking of feedback as such but the lazy delivery of endless feedback forms that serve no useful purpose.  Such forms are not intended to collect data to help drive service improvements but are more likely to be used for some internal, self or department serving purpose.

The use of feedback forms is marketing dressing and the main reason for that is as above: we all know they don’t work but we feel obliged to send them out anyway.

The key to serving customers is get inside their business, their heads, understand how you can help them achieve more.   That old quote from Henry Ford – and much loved by the late Steve Jobs – about his customers just asking for faster horses is a truth.  In fact I was reminded on Twitter how Jobs took that thought further: “Start with the customer experience and work your way back to the technology” he was quoted as saying. (No idea if it’s genuine but it suits my purpose.)  Ignore ‘the technology’ bit and replace it with “how you run your business” and you’re just about there.

Customer feedback does not tell you about the customer experience and their emotional reaction to it.  You should not use data from feedback forms to inform you to how you run your business.   Understand what you could give them and understand how they would react to it and use it and what value it brings.   But don’t ask them to tell you what it is.

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  1. October 21, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    Focus groups can help understand customer experience.

    Asking the right questions is the key whether in a survey or a focus group.

    Don’t ask ‘Would you like free money’ – the answer is always yes (and they don’t realise that unflation would then make it worthless, paraphrasing Hitch-hikers guide).

    Give them real choices like:

    How would you like us to spend our really small budget:

    More of this
    means Less of this

    Watch how they use your services – is it how you expected? If not why not.

  2. October 24, 2014 at 12:11 pm

    I remember reading an article about how Amazon rated their agents. They use customer feedback (with very limited choice of feedback => positive / negative) and have a limit of negative feedback each agent can get. Agents themselves see how the system is flawed.
    As you said, customers are more likely to send feedback when they are either really happy or upset (I’d say they’re even more likely to send negative feedback).

    It’s also really hard to grade an experience with 2 options (positive / negative) or stars. Sometimes the service can be good but the issue couldn’t be resolved.

    If you want useful feedback, the only way to get it, it to take time to speak with customers. It’s also about asking the right questions as you said. You want them to tell you things you don’t already know. It’s no use to you to know that you service was good or bad, you need to know why and how you can improve it.

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