Are we compromising the customer experience in the pursuit of customer feedback?

October 20, 20170 comments

It used to be said consumers will see 5,000 (Walker-Smith) advertising messages every day. From how frequently I am asked I’m sure that number will soon be overtaken by ‘customer feedback requests’! I was at a CX event recently where one company alone claimed they had over 300 listening points! As customers we seem to be asked at every key stroke or foot step to provide feedback for one thing or another.

Is the purpose to better understand how to enhance the experience to fulfil known customer outcomes or to be tipped off about processes which weren’t fit for release? The question is will this use of feedback by companies to discover their own faults enhance the the overall customer experience or over time impair perceptions of the company?

I’ve heard it said, ‘but it’s feedback, that’s different to comms’. Organisations can’t afford to believe feedback systems are in a bubble and won’t impact the customer’s overall perception of their experience? Our evidence, from research and from helping companies caught in this space shows that whilst ‘being listened to’ is important to many customers (so much so it can be a driver of decision making), it still needs to be timely, measured and meaningfully executed if it is to be recognised and valued by customers. We once collated a number of feedback survey data sets for a client for analysis to discover that two of the top five reason for detractor scores were the quality and quantity of surveys received by customers!

Too often the brand experience is absent in VoC design. Like customer communications and brand activation, the voice of the customer presentation to the customer should be aligned to the brand value and visual identify, and most importantly adhere to the brand experience standards. However, the flexibility here is often limited by vendor platform capability which may be limited to a logo, colour palette or font change.

I saw an example recently where the company’s feedback button had been launched on top of the customer ‘contact us’ button used for sales. Brand should be at the table when it comes to  VoC feedback design as well as being grateful recipients of the insights.

Is quality sacrificed for quality?

When I walk through an airport, I’m asked to feedback how the experience was at security, passport control, at Starbucks, WHSmith’s, the loos etc. – it seems everywhere. And any bored 5-year walking to the gate ahead of me gets to whack the same set of buttons as me. I chose not to tap because of the floored value, even though I had an experience I wanted to feedback. How useful is that data exchange?

If this was a polling station, or online questionnaire, the child’s feedback would be recorded as a spoil. But not here – every ‘whack’ and ‘whacker’ is equal. Worryingly there will be a group of execs sitting around a table analysing this data and deciding investment choices for the airport experience!

Doubling up. Dumbing down.

The ease of serving online feedback might ultimately become the catalyst for their demise. I’m This recent personal account, highlights my point. Having spent less than £6 on a screen cleaner fluid for my son’s laptop  using Amazon Prime, I then received two requests for feedback (on a product I’ll never use).

First Amazon came knocking. They wrapped three questions into one answer (ouch), not sure I’ve seen that in any MRS training manual. The third of which isn’t applicable to most customers. The questions are also about the seller who Amazon highlight as unnamed ‘seller’. Well the seller to me is Amazon. I bought my product through their platform and I paid them. So, the buck starts and stops with them surely?

And then the actual seller approaches me and ask more questions. They want to know about the product. They want ‘2 min’ of my time, that’s twice as long as it took to buy the product! I am then confused because the refer to leaving a review on Amazon ‘for millions of shoppers awaiting your feedback’. As useful as screen cleaner is, I’m not sure four times the population of Iceland are glued to their screens uncertain of their

screen clean purchase until I make my case for it! Sack (at least) the copywriter.

And then I look at the choices for feedback which feel rather loaded to me. I asked my 11-year-old son whether he was ‘very happy with the screen clean’. He looked at me like I was mad. I didn’t pursuit it.

Whose benefit is it for after all?

The value of customer feedback is to improve things for the customer. However, when the focus is on socialising the feedback, the priority shifts to getting volume with the intention of creating a free (weak) marketing tool. And undermining the importance of insight collection for the rest of us at the same time.

Shortly afterwards, we bought a £180 keyboard for our other son’s birthday. That’s a significant purchase to us, and emotively means something as I want my son’s face to be full of joy on his big day. So how it was presented online, the reviews, the packaging, the delivery and how it performed really mattered.  However, because we get feedback requests for everything we buy on Amazon, I can’t be bothered to feedback on anything from them anymore.

Listening but not hearing what really matters

Digital capability has really enabled the popularity of this continuous feedback obsession. Where an interaction occurs (either commercial or service based), there’s an opportunity to capture feedback. Sometimes it feels appropriate, other times it’s as welcome as a powercut. The driver is the need for vendors platforms to consume vast lakes of data to ensure analytics are substantial (and some price per response aware of this dependency too, although most have moved beyond this pricing model now).

What happens when the digital data collection touch-point isn’t there? 

Silence! I was in my local 3 shop a couple of weeks ago. We have 5 devices with them. Some had finished their initial contracts, but I hadn’t been contacted, so I have been paying a fair chunk more than I needed to for months (thanks). The service rep had to switch between two CISCO systems to see my devices and actually needed to look at my 3 app to get the details. But much of the information was missing, such as how much I pay. It made it very difficult to work out what was what. In fact, we resulted to a scrap of paper from my pocket and a pen to work things out. By the end of it we’d worked out I could be about £90 a month better off. That conversation turned me from being frustrated to impressed with his perseverance.

But at the end of it I hadn’t completed a transaction so there was no survey triggered. I’d gone from detractor to promoter but I couldn’t feedback my more important observations on the lack the integration between the app and the retail tech experience or the impact a lack of transparency has had on my confidence in 3, the neglectful CRM system, or most importantly (in my mind) the patience and brilliance of the service rep (not sales rep because he didn’t try and push things on me). But he turned it around. In all the time I’ve had 3 contracts, that was the moment that has mattered most, and 3 missed it. How many organisations miss moments because their listening posts are tied to technology platforms capabilities?

This highlights the challenge faced by VoC managers in gathering feedback appropriately, from the right customers, when it matters most to them,  not the organisation.

The customer feedback asset journey map is usually an interesting one but ironically often neglected.

With so much to learn, but so many trying to learn from it customer feedback must be treated with as much importance as any other customer experience reflecting its value to the company. Otherwise you will get less than you put in and could find your feedback programme cited as a driver of customer attrition – ouch!

Posted by Chistopher Brooks, Customer Consultant, Lexden (London)

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Lexden helps deliver effective customer experience insight, strategy, content and creative activation clients seeking sustainable profit from customer experience.


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