Desperately Seeking Customer Feedback
Posted by Becky Carroll on September 14, 2007
I applaud any company that seeks feedback from its customers. It is becoming more and more common to see a receipt from a restaurant or retail store asking me to call and take a “short survey”. Customer surveys and research have always played a role in business. However, they are only effective if they are done right, from the customer’s perspective.
Paul Schwartz of Congruity has a great post on customer feedback forms. He gives two examples of requests he recently received for customer feedback, one from Black and Decker, the other from Blockbuster. These requests were either confusing (due to corporate lingo) or inaccurate (didn’t reflect the actual transaction). Paul points out the need for quality control as he summarizes the post:
But please, make it easy for customers. Speak in their language and be sure to have at least a few people test your feedback form and process from the customer’s point of view.
I had a similar experience yesterday afternoon with a phone survey. As a marketer, I am always interested in how companies are running their surveys. In this case, it was for an appliance manufacturer. As the interviewer went through the questions, it was easily apparent that the sponsoring company had written the survey from their perspective. Here is an example:
Interviewer: When you think of dishwashers, which brands do you think of?
Me: GE, Maytag, Kenmore.
Interviewer: For GE, which dishwasher brands come to mind?
Me: Dishwasher brands for GE???
As the survey continued, I learned the GE brands they were trying to inquire about had names like Monogram, Profile, and Triton. As a consumer, I was not aware of those sub-brands. I was barely aware of which kind of dishwasher I had (GE, Nautilus as it turns out!), as it was in the house when we bought it. I was starting to feel a little bit uncomfortable.
I then had to go through an agonizing list with the interviewer of which magazines I read and which TV programs I watch (hint to marketers: this might be helpful for ad placement but doesn’t help you understand my needs, which is generally a more effective way to market to me). My answers to 90% of the list of magazines was a NO (didn’t read them). I was only able to say YES to one TV program he listed (Jeopardy, if you must know!). It would have been easier for me to list which magazines I regularly subscribe to, and they could then be checked off the list.
There is a strategy to creating surveys, especially phone surveys, so they are not leading the responder to answer in a certain way. However, I am not sure how much this appliance company really learned about me from this survey, other than the fact that I don’t really know my GE sub-brands and I don’t watch much TV! Testing the survey on a few different individuals might have helped streamline it a bit as well as provide ways it could be tweaked to be more customer-friendly.
Here are 6 tips for effective customer feedback gathering:
- Make it easy to answer your survey. If it is about a product I have already purchased, be clear as to which product that is (I may have many of your products, if all is well!). If it is about a recent transaction, be as specific as possible about that transaction, to help jog my memory. Above all, ask me as soon after the transaction as possible; if it has been more than a few days, I probably won’t remember well enough to make the survey worthwhile.
- Use my language, not yours. Please put the questions in language that I use rather than in your company’s lingo, if you want me to be able to answer them!
- Don’t limit customer feedback to surveys. Get out with your customers whenever possible, and talk to them in their own setting. At HP, we used to do something called “Day in the Life”, where we would go out and videotape a customer going about their business for the day. It would help us figure out how to fit in with their processes, rather than forcing them to fit in with us. When you go out to be with customers in their own setting, be sure to listen more than you speak!
- Follow customer conversations. Go to the places online where your customers are talking about you and your company. This could be in forums, blogs, Facebook, or other places such as the new service Satisfaction (which I have referenced before ; you can read more about their launch at Service Untitled).
- Engage in ongoing conversations with your customers. Each customer touchpoint, whether in customer service, marketing, or sales, should be part of an ongoing conversation with your customer. Ideally, it will pick up where it left off last time (this requires you remember the customer!). Each piece of the conversation helps to build a more solid picture of the customer, their needs, and their desires.
- Get customer service involved! They are usually the place where most customer conversation takes place. Smart organizations realize this and ensure that customer service personnel are an integral part of planning customer marketing, as well as an input to product development. They are your organization’s eyes and ears, and they hear more about the customer than most. Their insight is valuable; don’t miss out on it!
Related post: Listening and learning