Honest feedback is essential for helping a business improve. A business must know what customers think of their products, service, or the way the company is managed. Yet for many, the thought of asking customers for feedback is uncomfortable and fraught with potential disaster, most often because the feedback process is broken or where the business insists on requesting the identity of the customer. Benefits of anonymous customer feedback include eliminating these issues so perhaps this is why anonymous feedback is gaining popularity with business owners.
Both employees and employers can enjoy the benefits of anonymous feedback simply because they now have feedback data. This means they can review and improve – albeit without contacting the customer. In fact many companies have already adopted it, including restaurants, city governments and even the U.S. Army.
It’s no secret that businesses need feedback to succeed. Anonymous forms of feedback are an option – but do they work?
What is an Anonymous Survey?
A survey is a list of questions, often quantitative and qualitative in nature used to collect data about how people feel about a particular subject. For most businesses, there are two types of feedback.
1) Qualitative data is free text opinion ie. no scoring or rating eg. “how was the service at the hotel today?”.
2) Quantitative data on the other hand, delivers a rating or numeric response eg. “rate the service at the hotel today from 1 to 5, where 1 is very poor and 5 is very good”
As the name suggests, anonymous surveys allow the business to collect ratings from customers (of either of the above type) without them giving personally identifiable data eg. name, email, phone number. Surveys with these types of questions means that respondents are not required to give you their contact information, and are therefore not obligated to answer any questions they aren’t comfortable with.
The Benefits of Anonymous Feedback
We’ve broken it down into five specific areas:
1) More Likely to Give Feedback
Preserving anonymity minimizes the fear of losing privacy and security over personal information. One of the most common reasons for survey drop-off is when a respondent is asked to fill in personal information. Without divulging private information especially contact data, the customer feels there is no danger they will be spammed so more likely to deliver their feedback. This means anonymous reviews have higher response rates.
2) Improves Accuracy by Fostering Honesty
The feedback process is much easier, more convenient without the burden of sensitive data so likely delivers more open and honest responses, and detailed constructive feedback.
3) Removes Fear of Reprisal so Gets More Data
It’s not easy leaving negative comments or delivering blunt feedback. It is human nature to assume a fear of retaliation. Consumers may fear they’ll be black-listed from receiving information on sales or have a lower level of service.
Anonymous feedback allows the customer to focus on the question, not the fear of the response. In this way it eliminates the retaliation concern and improves brand perception.
4) Builds Trust and Goodwill in a Business
Anonymous surveys get more feedback, and more detail so enable the business to pinpoint areas that require change. These demonstrable changes build up trust in the business (and employees). When the customers understand and see that the business is actively listening to them and taking their opinions on board, they’re more likely to place their trust there – consequently increasing business.
5) Address Problems in Real-Time
Addressing problems as they are brought to the company’s attention allows the business to immediately take action and swiftly improve the customer experience. Anonymous feedback delivers more feedback hence greater opportunity for employees to fix the issue and correct the experience. Remember that the sooner an issue is corrected, the fewer customers will defect, or worse, defect and complain online. If left unchecked, defection can have a huge negative impact.
The Disadvantages of Anonymous Feedback
You may think that feedback is feedback, and that it’s good to get it from customers but only if you can connect with them t find out more. For these business owners, it is important to realize that anonymous feedback lacks context. In other words, with this type of feedback, it’s hard to tell if customers are giving you valuable information or venting their frustrations. Anonymous feedback can lead to reactive management, which means your company may be making decisions based on the “loudest” or “most controversial” bad feedback, instead of the most accurate. Moreover, this accuracy can only be confirmed by knowing who the customer is – and connecting with them
So lets delve deeper into the three main downsides of regular feedback without customer details.
1) Inability to Discuss Feedback with Consumers
Consumers expect organizations to address their concerns. When they take the time to fill out a survey, they want and expect answers to their questions or at least a response from the company. Moreover they may expect a discussion at their valuable insights can be discussed.
Without personal information, employees can’t respond to their consumers. Customers can feel like their input doesn’t matter, and companies aren’t aware of their experiences. Dissatisfied customers can quickly defect – with severe consequences.
2) Companies Can’t Respond to Feedback
Unfortunately, the lack of personal information makes it impossible for employees to respond to the individual. It also makes it difficult to know what made the consumer’s experience satisfying or why their were negative answers. Perhaps not knowing if the if problems were with an employee or across the entire organization. Consequently, the cloak of anonymity also makes it impossible for organizations to address problems in real-time.
This is important as it means that while allowing customers to remain anonymous does encourage consumers to be honest in their comments, it can also result in lazy information. Comments can be vague, and hard to pin down what the customer expects. Without a way to contact the consumer, organizations often find it difficult to implement the changes customers want.
3) Inability to Build Relationships with Consumers
Using positive and negative feedback within a structured survey is a great way to build relationships with consumers. With anonymous feedback, businesses can’t respond to individual customers.
This represents a loss of opportunity for appreciation. This is why Google My Business only allows non-anonymous feedback reports.
Conclusion – Learn What Customers Really Think about the Business
A typical summary from those who don’t like anonymous feedback is:
“Anonymous feedback. It is just too difficult to know exactly whose opinion I am reading. Is it a customer I have a good relationship with? One I have a bad relationship with? One who is happy with the service we provide? One who is not? Anonymous feedback can be difficult to interpret and make use of, which makes it much less valuable than other kinds of customer feedback.”
To be successful and grow sales, business owners need more than a vague idea of any deficiencies in what they are providing. They need to know the real issues, the true customer experience and what changes people want to see made. Customer surveys deliver this, but there are many ways to get to the hot button issues.
Specifically, an anonymous feedback tool gives people a safe way to express their feelings and deliver more authentic customer reviews. This means anonymous surveys must become part of the company culture if it is to improve customer service and truly understand customer satisfaction.
For customers willing to share personal or contact information – the business can close the loop. After all, everyone loves giving feedback don’t they? – NO. In fact only about 5% complain directly and only one out of every 26 customers is likely to bring up their complaints. The other 25 customers will simply take their business elsewhere without a word.
This means that it is important that you let a customer know they have a voice and that you will listen.
So we think it better to collect data with analysis even if anonymous than force customers to reveal their identity. Anonymous feedback allows the customer to focus on the question not the consequences of the answer.
The voice of customers will still be heard, their identity is only a bonus.