Four Frequent Feedback-Gathering Flaws

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Summary:
Giving your customers the opportunity to provide feedback is great, but only if you don't fall into one of the four traps that Naomi Karten describes in this article. Let your customers know that not only do you want their feedback, but that you'll actually use the important info they give you.

If organizations really want customer feedback, why do they make it so difficult for customers to provide that feedback? Here are some examples of common flaws and how to avoid them.

1. Requesting feedback about the wrong information. At a hotel I once stayed at, I was satisfied with all the items listed on the feedback form in my room: quick check-in, clean room, and so on. However, the peephole in the door was over my head. Way over my head. When you're my height, such things are important. How am I to follow the hotel's advice to look out the peephole before opening the door to visitors if I can't reach the peephole?

Customers can give top ratings to the attributes you consider important and still be dissatisfied because you've fallen short on the attributes they consider important. If you want satisfied customers, find out what they consider important, and invite them to rate your service on those attributes.

2. No space for feedback. In addition to asking customers to rate the items listed, many feedback forms invite customers to add their comments. Some of these forms provide plenty of space for comments - provided customers write in a one-point typesize!

A request for customer comments is a key element of a well-designed feedback form. Given lots of blank space, customers often give extensive amounts of high-quality commentary. However, it's pointless to request comments and then not provide space for them.

3. No time to think about feedback. I got a call from an office supply store I shop at. The caller said he was conducting a survey, and asked what I liked and didn't like about his store. I told him I could give him better feedback if I had some time to think about it, and asked him to call back the next day. He said he would, but he didn't. I guess he wanted feedback only from those who'd provide it on the spot.

Some people can instantaneously retrieve information from their mental databases. Other people prefer time to cogitate. Whether method you use to solicit feedback, give customer ample time to reflect on your questions. The quality of feedback you get is likely to be worth the extra time.

4. Not responding to feedback as promised. I received a mail survey from a hotel shortly after staying there. One item on the survey asked if I had any complaints. I did, and used the space provided to elaborate. Another item asked if I'd like someone to contact me about my complaints. I checked the "yes" box. It's been about four years now, but I'm waiting patiently.

It's a measure of sophisticated service to offer to contact customers about their grievances. Doing so tells customers that you value their feedback and want to set things right, and this evidence of concern can keep customers who might otherwise take their business elsewhere. But by not calling me as promised, this hotel fell lower in my estimation than if no such promise had been made. Don't offer to contact disgruntled customers unless you really mean to do so.

As for me, I'm still waiting.

About the author

Naomi Karten's picture Naomi Karten

Naomi Karten is a highly experienced speaker and seminar leader who draws from her psychology and IT backgrounds to help organizations improve customer satisfaction, manage change, and strengthen teamwork. She has delivered seminars and keynotes to more than 100,000 people internationally. Naomi's newest books are Presentation Skills for Technical Professionals and Changing How You Manage and Communicate Change. Her other books and ebooks include Managing Expectations, Communication Gaps and How to Close Them, and How to Survive, Excel and Advance as an Introvert. Readers have described her newsletter, Perceptions & Realities, as lively, informative, and a breath of fresh air. She is a regular columnist for StickyMinds.com. When not working, Naomi's passion is skiing deep powder. Contact her at naomi@nkarten.com or via her Web site, www.nkarten.com.

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