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5 Ways You're Wasting Your Customers' Feedback

Posted on 9.03.2014

:: By Isaac Rothstein, Infinite Conversions ::


Business leaders seem to want to listen to their customers. A lot of funding is pumped into customer/user review and feedback systems, but most of these systems seemed to have been designed with the express intention to ensure that nothing is done in response to the information that is gathered.

This raises a question. If a company learns nothing, how can they make changes to make things better?

Allow me to walk you through my guide for the worse possible online feedback system. If you are determined to learn nothing from your customers, then these are the approaches you need to take:

1. Risk your employees' livelihood on it

If you want your workforce to respond to customers, the best way to go about it is to punish employees who receive poor customer feedback, and reward those who generate good customer feedback, right? Well, on the surface this may seem fine, but it risks your workforce learning how to concentrate on the numbers, rather than the customers. Employees will start to beg customers for good feedback, and will only take cases where good feedback is likely. This can lead to customers who have genuine, difficult concerns about the poor treatment they have suffered being ignored. It can also lead to departments 'fudging' the numbers if they are failing to meet their goals.

2. Let a machine do it

Companies seem happy to create automated systems to deal with common customer complaints. This is okay for general issues, but how can a specific issue be addressed by a series of multiple choice questions, or by punching numbers on a keypad? Such systems are nothing but a burden for your customers, and no one likes talking to a machine, aside from, perhaps, other machines. As well as creating customer dissatisfaction, by having only predetermined responses to customers, it prevents a company from receiving useful feedback, and also from receiving suggestions from customers as to how services could be improved.

3. Let's wait a while

Businesses tend to correlate customer complaints and comments, then pass them to their employees every 4-6 months. What is an employee supposed to take in from what could be several pages worth of customer feedback? If you lump everything together any results are going to be much less effective than customer feedback that's fed through on a much quicker basis. It's like watching your favorite TV show – you tend to remember more if you watch the series week-by-week, rather than binge-viewing an entire series in one day.

4. Everything in life's a number

Numbers are easy to measure, that's for sure, but without a scale, numbers are meaningless. Say you are 6 feet tall – that's easy to understand. But then you have 63 in your checking account – cents, dollars, or millions of dollars?

Rendering online feedback down to the numbers is just as ineffective. So what if customer satisfaction fell by 5 percent. That could mean 20 complaints from last week became 19 – wow, one less complaint. What's important is what drove that one less complaint – was something performed better, was a long-running dispute resolved, or was a member of the complaints team off sick meaning less complaints could be handled? What's not important is the numerical analysis. What is important is the customers and how they are being handled.

5. Round and round and round and round …

This is a common theme with customer feedback systems that allow customers to leave feedback anonymously. The idea is that a customer is more likely to provide honest feedback if they don't have to put their name to it. Whilst this may work in some circumstances, it's not going to be useful in the long run. If a customer has a complaint or has experienced poor service, then those issues need to be resolved. If a customer is required to retain anonymity, then the loop is never closed. A customer needs to know that the effort they put into leaving feedback is not a complete waste of time, and that they can expect a resolution and some kind of closure. Additionally, people do understand that mistakes can and do happen. What's annoying is the frustration at not being to rectify a mistake. Poor feedback becomes excellent feedback upon a satisfactory resolution, e.g. “there was a problem with the PS4 I bought, but they just sent me out a new controller, free of charge … how cool was that?!”

Naturally, no business follows these five “how not to” rules intentionally, yet I will wager that everyone who reads this article can think of an example of a customer feedback experience for each of these rules.

In reality, running a website that genuinely listens to what its customers are saying can be difficult, which is why so many companies try and automate the process as much as they can. Customer satisfaction needs to move away from the “thanks for your feedback, it will come in useful” way of doing things, to a process that focuses on problem resolution. This kind of closed-loop structure means that employees learn more by directly working with customers to resolve issues, and will be better placed in the future to be more effective at creating resolutions.

If your business wants your workforce to learn from its users, then do not go down the traditional paths of customer satisfaction procedures. Feedback needs to be reacted to and learned from daily, not with an information dump every six months or so. Effective learning comes from listening and acting appropriately, not by wading through columns of numbers and attempting to decipher some meaning from them.


This is a guest post by Isaac Rothstein. Isaac is an analyst at Infinite Conversions, a digital focusing on improving website’s real-world financial metrics through conversion rate optimization.

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