Customers Rock!

A blog about customers, their experiences, and how businesses can make sure their customer experiences rock!

Desperately Seeking Customer Feedback

Posted by Becky Carroll on September 14, 2007

all_ears.jpg  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.

Feedback Forms

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.

Phone Surveys

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.

Survey Results?

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

(Photo: stevecole)


7 Responses to “Desperately Seeking Customer Feedback”

  1. […] Customers Rock!: Desperately Seeking Customer Feedback […]

  2. Thanks for mentioning my post Becky. Your 6 tips are right on! One other “issue” I have noted is that companies who use multiple sources of feedback (e.g. call center satisfaction surveys, print surveys and online trending surveys, transaction surveys, etc.) and don’t ask questions in the same way have trouble making their data actionable. By asking questions in the same way when evaluating multiple customer touchpoints you can start to see trends and issues much faster and clearer. Even on more informal “customer visits” it’s a good idea to ask your questions the same way, and then, like you said above, be sure to keep quite and actively listen (and don’t get defensive).

  3. Becky, you nailed it! These tips on how to take customer feedback are great! Gathering effective customer feedback is an art in itself. You have to make that balance: not too eager and annoying, not too passive and annoying. 😀

  4. Becky,

    Excellent post, and Paul adds more value in his comment. For those organizations interested in expanding their feedback methods, here’s a June post of mine that lists 21 ways to collect feedback.



  5. […] to get out, engage our customers in conversation (online or offline at their place of consumption), learn from their feedback, and put what we learn into action within our […]

  6. Abdolreza Roshandel said

    Beckey’s views on the section “phone serveys are interesting’ on 14th Sept. I guess you learned more from that survey than the GE company from you.
    But I am thinking from another point of view: How about they wrote the survey in a way to give you information or brand awareness and they really wanted you to get some information you never thought about; that is product placement and promotion embedded in surveys, or surveys with the purpose of brand or product awareness or promotion.

    I am writing a class paper about this technique and would like to know if you have read any articles, books or have any other resources any publications in print or online about this kind of hidden advertising/promotion,or brand awareness. A reply to my e-mail: would be appreciated.

  7. Abdolreza, thank you for your alternate viewpoint and your question! It is great to see you here.

    I had wondered whether they were trying to raise awareness, but if they were, I don’t feel that was a good technique. The survey was lengthy, and the number of brands mentioned was numerous. If I were to do a survey to improve brand awareness, I would make it short, sweet, and a little bit fun. Most surveys, such as this one, are long and boring to all except for us marketing types!

    I don’t have any other sources or articles for you on this technique, but let me know what you find out. Maybe we can share some of it here at Customers Rock!

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