Just a few more questions

By March 25, 2014customer feedback

Does that sound familiar? It seems that I cannot conduct the simplest of business transactions without being asked to complete a questionnaire or survey or “just answer a few questions”.

But before I rant about the explosion of customer feedback surveys, let me say that they surely come from a good place. It is important, I should say “essential”, that businesses understand their customers and understand how they are serving those customers. For too long we’ve talked about being “customer-centric” without ever finding out what that person in the center thinks.

Many businesses are not only making customer satisfaction an integral part of their performance dashboard, but they are using it as a metric for top management compensation. This has the beneficial effect of keeping management focused on the customer and not just on spreadsheets. So the fact that so many businesses have ‘found religion’ and started asking their customers about their experiences is a good thing . . . to a point.

And that point comes when we fail to see the customer beyond one transaction or even the relationship they have with us. To paraphrase a nearly famous quote, “we would be less concerned about what our customers think of us if we realised how seldom they do”. The point isn’t that we shouldn’t be concerned, but that in most cases, customers don’t spend much time thinking about us.

A few weeks ago I called my bank to resolve an issue (a deposit was not showing in my account). After I was told that the posting of the information was delayed because of a software upgrade, the call centre operator politely asked if she had answered my question. “Yes”, I said. “Is there anything else I can do for you today?” she asked. “No”, I answered. Then a recorded voice asked me to rate my satisfaction with the service I received.

I hung up.

Not because the service was bad (my question had been answered) but because I would have rather not had to call in the first place. That call; the time on hold, the time answering security questions, the time explaining the problem, the time being passed to a different department, the time re-explaining the problem, the time hearing the excuse or explanation —all that time was an interruption to my busy day. The last thing I needed was to take more time to answer questions asked by a computer.

The Observer Effect in physics refers to changes that the act of observation will make on the phenomenon being observed. I felt that effect in this situation. In attempting to observe and record my satisfaction, the bank actually changed my satisfaction (lowered it).

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review implored businesses to “stop trying to delight your customers“. Why? Because concentrating on those rare “delighted-moments” does not increase loyalty. But doing what you promise, day in and day out, maintains loyalty. In other words, spend less time and money trying to “delight” me and put that same effort into doing what you promise.

I think the nearly omnipresent customer feedback survey may be a symptom of businesses chasing a metric rather than building excellence into their everyday service delivery.

We all must continue to focus on the customer, but that focus should make us more judicial in how many times we ask for them to participate in a survey or provide instant feedback.

Joe Talcott is the Chief Creative Officer of CREATISM.IS and a Legends & Leaders mentor in the Creative module.

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