Customer Feedback: Allowing customers to follow their desire paths


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Have you heard the story about the University who argued about where to place the footpaths on the campus? The arguments went on for a while until someone suggested not building them at all and waiting until the students had worn the paths that were best for them and then building the paths to follow these routes.

This might be a mythical story (the internet is somewhat confused about that answer) but the concept is valid and used, it’s even got a name – Desire Paths.

While investigating the provenance of the story, I found some interesting examples; the one that really made sense to me was the Finnish planning teams who revisit their footpath planning just after the first snowfall of the year.

While the normal paths are covered in snow they visit the parks and other public places and track the footpaths the visitors use to cross the area. Then once the snow has melted they compare these ‘desire paths’ with the actual built paths and plan changes based on this data.

You can always trust the Scandinavians to come up with a pragmatic approach to social planning.
Speaking of social – recently there has been a number of papers written regarding Social Desire Paths on the internet and tracking how the internet users move between social content building hotspots and enabling efficient connections between these hotspots of interest.

That led me to think about how companies ask for and collect customer feedback.

Too often, companies think about what they want to find out and bombard their customers with question after question asking them to score their attitude to the topics proposed. Ultimately, they get to know what they asked, but that doesn’t mean this actually matches what the customers are thinking – just their attitude on the topics you have asked about.

But, like the Fins, there is another way, change nothing, ask the customers to share their thoughts in their words on a blank page and look at the results. Like the Finnish planners, you may find that some of what is understood about their customers’ needs may not be what they think it is and by changing, makes working with the company easier and more pleasurable.

Gareth Rees
Gareth Rees is Head of Service Delivery at Rant & Rave.Rant & Rave provides customer engagement solutions with a difference. Created with the belief that fundamentally brands and consumers want the same thing - to deliver and receive great service - half of the FTSE rely on the Rant & Rave platform to proactively communicate with and listen to the Voice of their customers.


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