Customer Feedback: Hide or Seek?

None of us like to be criticised, but as a business it is imperative that we gather feedback from our customers.  Here’s what the Frog has to offer in the way of Top Tips:
I’ve just come off the telephone with my mother.  It’s a universal truth that any conversation starting with “oh, so you are still alive then” is doomed from the outset.  Extend that conversation to 45 minutes because of an unhealthy interest in the wellbeing of your friend Phil’s tropical fish (despite the fact they’ve never met) and you end up where I am right now… probably not in the best place to start writing a blog!
However, she did mention something that piqued my interest.  It appears that my mother has recently paid a visit to our local fast-food restaurant – yes, the one of previous blog notoriety.  It makes me feel so warm inside to discover how closely she pays heed to what I tell her…
It seems that the restaurant has recently introduced customer surveys.  My mother was ridiculously excited to discover a freshly printed pile on a table by the exit.  Never missing an opportunity to let others know her opinion (something usually accomplished very loudly and at the least appropriate times), she grabbed a sheet and headed for the nearest table to fill it in.  As no pens were supplied, this was followed by a stealth visit to the kids area to borrow a crayon.
Five minutes later, armed with a feedback sheet that probably looked like it had been completed by Tracy Emin, she went to find a deposit point… only to discover there wasn’t one.  With no postal or other contact details on the sheet, my mother had no other choice than to hand her feedback direct to the individual whose service she’d just commented on.  Ding, ding… round one.
A company’s approach to customer feedback can be a funny old thing.  There are those who avoid it like the plague; those who want it but only if it’s filtered; those who use it to inform business response months after it’s collected; and those who want it so much they annoy their customers.  So, what’s what when it comes to customer feedback?  Here are some thoughts:

  • Seek real-time feedback:  Earlier this week I read how National Express survey their customers’ experience via text during the journey, providing them with in-the-moment feedback.  Sky frequently send a text survey immediately after telephone calls to capture their customers experience.  Capturing feedback in the moment provides a valuable insight into what is arguably a customer’s most instinctive thoughts and feelings about their experience.
  • Think outside the box when it comes to method of capture:  While some companies employ the standard fare of surveys – whether by paper, a questionnaire on their website or by text – others use their customer-facing staff to capture response and feedback as part of the interaction.  This is then used to identify trends and establish the general temperature & zeitgeist of their customer experiences at any point in time.  Consider employing this as a complimentary approach if you have reservations about the integrity of what you’ll capture.
  • Seek don’t hide:  Customers are going to have an opinion about their experiences.  Whether it’s good, bad or ugly, those same customers will tell their friends, family, blog readers etc about it.  Therefore, it’s in the best interests of your company to know exactly what those experiences are – what you should be doing more of and what you need to consider doing a little differently or better.
  • Set out your stall:  Use customer feedback as an opportunity.  Identify what you want to gain, what areas you want to focus on etc and seek exactly that.  By being specific in what you’re asking your customers about, you’re more likely to get constructive feedback rather than both barrels.  You can always have an extra section as a “catch all” that provides the opportunity for additional feedback.
  • Drive a quick turnaround:  Some companies have an extremely thorough, but lengthy, process from the point of feedback receipt to the point where a general response is implemented.   Often, responses are driven weeks or months after a trend is originally identified.  Whilst it’s critical to robustly analyse the information; arguably it’s equally critical to react quickly.   Delays will cost the business.
  • Don’t annoy your customers:  Some businesses are so proactively keen about obtaining feedback that they request the completion of a survey that resembles the Domesday Book.  Others, such as my local council, have a relentless pop-up box on their website that just won’t go away.  However, it is possible to absorb your feedback mechanism so it’s imperceptibly part of the customer experience.  For example, some online companies ask you to rate your experience when they thank you for your custom – a few simple options & quick clicks later and it’s job done.

The added bonus of course is that seeking customer feedback reinforces the perception that your company cares.  The other day I drove behind a van that had a sticker saying:  “How am I driving?  Call 0800 blah blah”.  That van was delivering stock to a store and so, really, the van driver’s customer was the store owner.  But as a potential customer of that national company, my thought was “they care about people’s experiences with their company even if they’re not dealing with them as a customer”.
Seeking customer feedback has never been so supported or straightforward.  Apps, such as Mindshare, not only track customer feedback real-time, but pull in information from a company’s available surveys, alerts and incidents.  USAA utilise software that allows telephone representatives to log comments and trends, whilst at the same time transcribing calls to text for ongoing coaching discussions.
Whether it’s by pen & paper or expensive software, it’s vital that you consider customer feedback as an investment – an investment in the sustainability of your business.  At the very least, the risk of not doing so is that everyone other than you knows the customer-facing weaknesses of your business – something I’ve always considered to be a bit like coming back from the loos with your knickers tucked in your skirt.  Except that no-one tells you until 5 hours later; after you’ve walked 2 miles to the shops, been on a marathon shopping spree, caught a full bus back home and thought all the attention was admiration…
For more help and support with your Customer Feedback systems, please contact the Bright7  team at


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Marianne Page

Marianne is the author of three books, and is currently working on her fourth, whilst regularly writing her blog, we hope you enjoy it :-)


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