Are Employees Rigging Your Customer Feedback?

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Ask employees what they want from a customer feedback survey, and all too often you’ll hear, “The top score!” When it comes to their conduct, that’s great, but when it comes to you getting accurate survey data, it’s a disaster.

Employees skew customer satisfaction survey results in a variety of ways for a variety of reasons. The main problem is that, explicitly and implicitly, managers often encourage employees to reach for the highest possible scores. While this is especially true when bonuses and promotions are tied to customer feedback, it happens even without a financial motivation, and it occurs across industries.

Service staff who have a personal investment in receiving favorable feedback are often the ones in charge of distributing, administering, and collecting customer feedback surveys. This incentivizes staff to choose customers for the survey who appear pleased and to avoid surveying customers who seem dissatisfied.

The most egregious example we’ve heard of with self-administered surveys is when, at the conclusion of a patient’s exam, a doctor turned to the patient, while still in his paper gown, and questioned him about how his appointment went. Talk about forcing a perfect score! In this case, the clinic knows even less about the customer experience post-survey than it did pre-survey. Before, the clinic had no information; now, it has bad information.

Because employees have strong incentives for high scores, they may skew results in their favor, making you less likely to uncover true customer insights. Employees can skew the customer feedback in a variety of ways. They can:

  • Choose pleased customers for the survey.
  • Fill out the survey for customers.
  • Toss out surveys with negative feedback.

With that in mind, here are a few ways to improve your customer feedback approach:

  • Explain to staff that you are truly interested in assessing the customer experience. Tell them that all surveys regardless of their scores are valuable.
  • Keep staff out of it. Don’t let your frontline staff decide who takes your survey. Use an independent third-party to make these judgments, or at the very least use employees from a different department.
  • Show customers that you don’t tamper with the evidence. For example, customer feedback cards and paper surveys can be turned in using a sealed envelope and a drop-box.
  • Proactively tell customers that you’re interested in hearing from them whether their opinion of you is good or bad.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Employees – automotive dealership sales representatives are notorious for this – can be guilty of skewing study results for many reasons, not the least of which are those that you cite. One of the other key reasons for employees to ‘game the system’ is that these surveys are often used for punitive purposes, i.e. to punish employees, especially those on the front line, if scores are low, as well as to reward them when scores are high. Irrespective of the reasons, however, is the reality that the data are biased to the point of being misleading at best, and useless at worst. Employees must be kept out of the transaction and relationship research process.

  2. Hi Michael, thanks for weighing in. Definitely, using scores for punitive purposes creates incentives to cheat customer feedback surveys. That’s why it’s crucial to have a customer experience auditor who doesn’t have skin in the game!

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