The Heisenberg Principle and Your Customer Feedback Program


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What in the world could physicist Werner Heisenberg know about soliciting customer feedback?

It was back in 1927 that Heisenberg published a paper describing his “Uncertainty Principle.” At the time, his theory was focused on describing the behavior of sub-atomic particles. But, as it turns out, Heisenberg’s findings could be applied to lots of other things – from business customers to reality show contestants.

The Uncertainty Principle essentially states (and I’m really simplifying here) that the mere act of observing something inevitably ends up changing that thing’s behavior.

In quantum physics, it describes how instruments used to pinpoint the location of a sub-atomic particle actually serve to reposition the particle itself – making it difficult to ever really know its original location.

In the social sciences, Heisenberg’s Principle suggests that an anthropologist observing other people really won’t witness their natural behavior, as the observed individuals will act differently in the presence of a stranger. Or, to put it in a 21st century context, you’ll never see the true colors of a reality show contestant while the camera is on.

In the realm of customer feedback, the Principle translates into this: the mere act of asking people for their perspective on your business, can actually influence their opinion about it.

I touched on this in a January post about how customer satisfaction surveys can actually dissatisfy your customers. But there is a flip side. If your survey approach is sound, then the very act of soliciting feedback could actually elevate customer perceptions about your business.

I was reminded of this quite vividly during a recent client engagement for a B2B business that was compiling feedback from customers around the world.

Despite the different cultures involved, what was striking was how nearly every customer interviewed expressed their delight with just being asked for their opinion!

It’s so rare that companies reach out to customers in this way that when a firm does, it really stands out in the marketplace. What this particular firm found was that their brand experience was enhanced just by virtue of engaging clients in this feedback dialogue.

Of course, it can’t stop there. Once you solicit feedback from customers (particularly B2B ones), there’s an expectation that you’ll do something with it. However, even if you can’t immediately act on all customer suggestions, just communicating back to say “we heard you, and here’s what we’re going to do” can go a long way.

There are many benefits to having a robust customer feedback program – from providing an irrefutable external gauge of performance to identifying new products and services that address unmet needs.

Often overlooked, however, is the notion that a well designed, carefully executed feedback program can – in and of itself – make customers feel better about your business.

And you don’t need to be a quantum physicist to appreciate the value of that.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Jon Picoult
As Founder of Watermark Consulting, Jon Picoult helps companies impress customers and inspire employees. An acclaimed keynote speaker, Jon’s been featured by dozens of media outlets, including The Wall St Journal and The New York Times. He’s worked with some of the world’s foremost brands, personally advising CEOs and executive teams.Learn more at or follow Jon on Twitter.


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