The 7 Deadly Sins of Customer Feedback

January 31, 201714min

Fact of life: customer feedback is essential for a business to know if it’s on the right path. But why must surveys be so torturous? ‘Survey fatigue’ is on the rise, so what does it matter if your research dept. can report massive sample sizes, if only 10% actually fill it in? Make sure your survey isn’t a gun aimed at your own head, avoid the 7 deadly sins!

Sin #1: Gluttony… Endless questionnaires

The cardinal sin: thinking your client has nothing better to do than fill in your endless questionnaire. You want to be thorough and identify key areas to improve your business, but a questionnaire that takes half an hour to complete is not the solution. Customers want to feel valued as collaborators, but with endless surveys you’ll alienate them.

Alleviate the feeling of your survey being a ‘black box’: ​ the ‘​silver bullet’ is placing all questionson one page and having the ‘submit’ always in sight. This limits questions to the essential. Alsolimit the amount of open questions – give your respondent smaller tasks to perform, like givingstar ratings. Less is more!

Sin #2: Impurity… An impersonal approach

“On behalf of Supplier X we at Y Research invite you to fill in the following questionnaire.” This is an invitation, but it’s hardly inviting to give feedback. Who really wants to receive email from someone they don’t know, or even directly from a research firm?! The invitation is the ideal moment to convince your customer to volunteer their feedback. Some tips on getting the most responses:

  1. Avoid ‘No-Reply’ addresses. You’re addressing your client personally and directly, don’t leave them feeling isolated. Be recognisable and relevant.
  2. Ask the most important question already in the email. “Click here to begin the survey” will have alarm bells r  inging: is this worth my time? Be upfront!
  3. Keep it concise. Write in the same manner you would an email to the customer. Save the corporate drivel about feedback – they know what it is. Tell them what they can expect to follow.

Sin #3: Wrath… Making it difficult

Sometimes I really wonder if companies actually read their own surveys. Why must it be so difficult?

– Surveys not optimised for mobile. The majority of respondents fill in surveys on mobile, so when this isn’t possible you can already cross off half of your potential respondents.
– Brainteaser-style formats. I frequently see surveys with questions posed both horizontally and vertically. Instead of trying to play 3D chess with your client, keep it simple, stupid. People have a limited bank of concentration power available each day, and your client won’t want to spend theirs on your survey!
– Mandatory questions. Annoying pop-ups. Red text. Remember your client is taking the time, voluntarily, to fill out your survey. Why treat them like a child? There are valid reasons for not filling out a whole survey: short on time, no opinion, not bothered.

These kinds of mistakes make customers walk away, and they’ll do so with a lasting negativeimpression of your brand. See optimising responses as a constant and evolving challenge:experiment with different subject lines and broadcast times, etc.

Sin #4: Despair… Anonymous Surveys

As well as offering relatively few meaningful insights, with anonymous surveys you may face potentially dangerous misconceptions, for example: feeling like everything’s going fine, when in reality your biggest client is about to walk away. You need to make sure your results are traceable. People aren’t afraid to put their names to their opinions, just see Facebook and Twitter for proof. Enable an ​early warning system to know ahead of time which clients will soon need extra care!

By letting feedback ​feed back into your CRM system you can be assured that all your colleagues are kept updated on a client’s history. Imagine the client calls in regarding something entirely different. It would be good to know if they’re still unhappy, and how you should adjust your tone of voice accordingly.

Your CRM presents you with crucial client value data, which when coupled with client satisfaction, gives you an at-a-glance evaluation of revenue/risk. Trust me, your customers won’t reject this. They want to be properly heard. We suggest our clients use this phrase in their invitations:

“The feedback form is a single page and is not anonymous, so that in the future we can demonstrate what we did with your feedback. It is for internal use only.” Not anonymous, but confidential. Obvious right?”

Sin #5: Sloth… No feedback on the feedback

“Why should I bother filling this in? Nothing’s ever done with it.” What do you do with feedback currently? Is it read through once and then left to gather dust somewhere? Or are concrete action points being formulated, and the customer kept informed about how their feedback is being used? The latter course of action will bring feedback to life in your organisation. Here’s how to mobilise this strategy:

  1.  Inform the customer in the invitation that after period X you will inform them what happened with their feedback. This motivates your organisation to get started with improvements.
  2. Make sure your ‘Thank you’ pages are conditional on the client’s sentiments. Familiar with this phrase? “Thank you for your feedback. You can close this browser window.” This is absolutely a missed opportunity. Is the client really unhappy? Indicate on the Thank You page that someone will contact them to resolve their issue. How about an overwhelmingly positive client? Encourage them to share this with others!
  3. Ensure you get instant notifications when a customer is extremely dissatisfied. This normally entails easily resolved issues, and doing so will prevent them escalating. These days feedback is seen as a form of communication, and ignoring a problem will make the customer feel neglected.
  4. Get back to your clients after a few months, preferably regarding their individual feedback. They will feel heard and their opinion valued. Software makes it possible to do this in an automated but very personal way.

Sin #6: Greed… Not automating client feedback

I recently spoke with a business who experienced a major failure a couple of weeks before conducting their customer survey, and unsurprisingly this failure led to bad survey results, despite the company having had one of its best years. Goes to show that it’s dangerous to only collect feedback once a year. Automating your feedback makes sense and brings with it heaps of advantages.

You’ll overcome cherry picking and democratise the whole process. You’ll have a ​constant thermometer running at a cheaper price than the yearly ‘doorstop’ survey conducted by a big research firm. You’ll have the time to actually ​do something with the feedback, and your CRMsystem stays updated. It’s safe, and it will be an automatic fixture in your agenda.

Automation doesn’t mean you can replace the person responsible for this with a robot. It actually means that this person is freed up to address the important things concerning customer feedback: monitoring and implementing improvements.

Sin #7: Hubris… Feedback for the sake of it

Sadly it’s the norm rather than the exception that companies ask for feedback ​because it’s part and parcel. The competitor is doing it. It’s required for an ISO certification. The investor wants to know what the Net Promoter Score is. These are all fine secondary reasons for requesting feedback, but should never be ends in themselves. Customer feedback will only make a difference when you come to see it as means towards customer loyalty.

Doing it right: Deutsche Post and Omoda

We count Deutsche Post among our clients, and having joined us two years ago, they’ve reported an increase of 15% in their response rate. Focusing on their B2B clients across their European divisions, they’ve made giving feedback a short and sweet process for the respondent. Contact with their customer service is followed up by a feedback invitation. So too for their Account Managers: following a meeting, Deutsche Post clients are sent a personalized invite to give feedback on the meeting. Personal touch? Check. To the point, transparent? Check.

Feedback filters back through Deutsche Post’s organisation in its periodic contribution to individual and group goals and learnings, and they’ve even built an initiative around turning their NPS ‘passives’ into ‘promoters’ in the wonderfully titled ‘Passion for Passives’ project. That’s what I’d call an approach to feedback that goes beyond being ​part and parcel! Another example of good practice is Omoda, a Dutch shoe retailer. They have 17 physical stores, where most customers have a loyalty card. At 18:00 every day Omoda send us a signal to automatically send their customers a short questionnaire. The response rate is almost 50%, and branch managers are able to see how their staff performed that day. Because Omoda benchmark the scores of each store against one another, a healthy rivalry is created, each store
striving to be the best. Getting to first place will only come if you really want to learn about your customers, not just cherry picking positive feedback.

Conclusion

Without doubt, customer feedback has a bad reputation, largely thanks to the 7 deadly sins. I hope I’ve inspired you to be different: every company can benefit from feedback, but let’s keep it fun and relevant. It’s time for a human touch when it comes to giving feedback. It’s important to remember that your client is guaranteed to be more satisfied when you ask for their opinion, provided you ask properly. By making feedback continuous, you guard against customers walking out on you.

Put yourself in your client’s shoes and consider how your invitation to provide feedback will lookto them. If you wouldn’t bother to fill it in yourself, how can you expect your customer to?

See your response rate as a score of quality – vary and optimise to increase this. Only when you come to see customer feedback as a means towards loyalty will it really make a difference. Otherwise it’s a waste of time and money all round. And that’s just sinful.


Lars van Wieren

Lars van Wieren

Lars van Wieren founded Starred after 3 years at Google. With Starred he wants to make it easy and fun again to provide feedback to a company. With offices in Amsterdam and London, and working for more than 160 clients including the likes of Spotify, Catawiki, Nestlé and DHL in over 40 countries this approach is getting noticed by more and more companies.




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