The Problem with Too Much Customer Feedback


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In the world of household cleaning supplies, “anti bacterial” formulations have become ubiquitous. Anti-bacterial sell themselves to a germ conscious society. Unfortunately, one negative consequence of the over use of anti-bacterial is that germs develop increased resistance to these formulations. Likewise, with customer centricity becoming a ubiquitous in business management, the sheep volume of the collection of customer feedback is having an unintended negative consequence: survey fatigue.

A recent article by William Grimes in the New York Times (When Businesses Can’t Stop Asking, ‘How Am I Doing?) points this out. He reports that survey response rates have declined over the last decade. Why?… because customers are increasingly being asked to provide feedback offline and online not just once per year or quarter per business, but at every transaction, significant or not. Now these can be done via smartphone apps and the like. Grimes highlights the blog of Kimberly Nasief – “Service Witch” (which I must say is delightful edutainment). A particular peeve of hers, and truthfully to all of us as customers, is the length of these feedback surveys. She writes in one of her posts:

Everyone has a customer satisfaction survey these days. Brands have exciting ways of enticing you to give feedback, like a chance for $1000, or $500, or a gift card..or my favorite, a free fountain drink on your next visit (What?!). I’ll say this over and over again, beating the horse until its dead thrice over, we are busy people. We have lots of things going on in our lives, like families, cooking, filling up on gas, working, checking email…Asking me to take 5+ minutes out of my day to tell ANYBRAND how they did via phone or web for a pittance shows absolutely no respect for my time or me as a customer.

True! So “Houston, we have a problem”. Companies will continue to want/ need to have data from customers to meet customer expectations and technology advances will allow for this to occur at ever more microscopic parts of the experience. Customers’ lives will not magically simplify any time soon.

The solution is in making sure surveys are as directed as they can be. If businesses knew the focal points that actually make a difference to business value, they could then zoom in on understanding how to implement those things. Emotional Signature modelling has been used to identify the most important drivers of business value. While there may be many things going on in a customer experience only some of these actually impact business value in a significant way. Why not zero in on those things that provide the business with the biggest returns. While Emotional Signature requires research itself, its sample size requirements is small – insignificantly small in the grand scheme. Think of using Emotional Signature or a similar approach as a useful precursor or stopgap check that a customer research program is focused on the right stuff.

The bottom line is that the volume of customer feedback requests will probably be on the upswing for a while now. That’s good news but we insiders need to remember to be focused. No one survey is evil but we do not want the general public to come to think of the whole feedback experience as a negative. Perhaps we are starting to see a mini-movement to act responsibly – just as the medical and public health profession has spoken out against the inappropriate usage of anti-bacterials.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Qaalfa Dibeehi
Qaalfa Dibeehi is the author of "Achieving Customer Experience Excellence" and "Customer Experience Future Trends and Insights". He has 20+ years experience in the customer experience related space with particular emphasis on organisations that have a dual commercial and social/community responsibility. He is Non-Executive Director at Emerge. Previously, he was Chief Operating and Consulting Officer at Beyond Philosophy and Director at Fulcrum Analytics. He has an MBA from NYU and three other Masters Degrees from City U. of New York in Statistics, Psychology and Health Care Administration.


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