Dangerous Information

I was speaking with a client the other day and she asked me for my opinion on some customer feedback that she was running.

She was having problems with quality and volume of feedback and knew that this was an area that I had some knowledge in.

She said to me: 

”I have been advised by a business advisor on a course that I was attending that I should be getting feedback from my customers and clients and I should be using the net promoter score.

So that exact is exactly what I\’ve done, but I\’m very disappointed with the results.

I really want to get feedback from clients who are not in general engaging well with my services, but the only feedback I am getting is from the 15% of clients who are trusting and loyal of my services and who I know would always tell me whether I asked them or not. 

The frustration is that I\’m not hearing back from the 85% of clients who I really want to hear from and who I am sure have valuable information that would be helpful to my business.” 

I responded that 15% feedback rate was actually quite good in the market but I agreed with her that it was a complete waste of time. 

If you don\’t know no what the majority of your customers think (and in particular the customers who are not engaging well with you), then the value of the feedback is limited at best. 

Indeed another client of mine was getting advice from a business plan creator based on feedback from just over 7% of their customers!

I suggested that the world of feedback is fraught with dangerous information, misinformation, misunderstanding and disingenuity.

It appears to me that many companies are quite happy with low levels of feedback , provided it tells them what they want to hear, so they can use it as PR and publish to the world how well they are doing, whilst at the same time a large number of their customers feel misunderstood and frustrated.

Indeed, research shows that the number one reason for customer defection from any business, at a whopping 65% is ‘perceived indifference’.

So, it is clear that there is something very wrong with the world of customer feedback and I would suggest that the vast majority of customer feedback systems and results are producing information that is incomplete, inaccurate, and dangerous. 

Yet, this is the world of the empowered customer, transparent online reviews, and global competition driven by innovation and and AI!

Never has the need for accurate and timely feedback being more vital.

Companies that are doing feedback badly are, in my opinion, sleepwalking into disaster, driven by dangerous information.

As Sir John Harvey-Jones famously stated: 

‘The wonderful thing about having inaccurate measures is that failure comes as a complete surprise!’

I would suggest it is better not to do feedback at all, than to do it badly and generate a false sense of security. 

Ok, as ever it\’s easy to criticise, but much harder to do what\’s right- so what would I suggest that an independent business owner can do differently to really get feedback right and genuinely use it to continually improve and generate higher levels of customer happiness, engagement loyalty and reputation ?

Here are 10 steps to success:

  1. Slow Down.
  2. See feedback as a key and foundational part of your whole business process: feedback should be one of the four pillars of the way you do business …. not an add-on to think about afterwards.
  3. Have balanced feedback systems: Have ‘quick feedback systems’ built into key steps in the customer journey, supported by ‘slow feedback systems’ measuring and improving the customer relationship.
  4. Actively promote it , support it and mention it it with all your people , and hold them accountable to it: thus ensuring that they will do the same with your customers
  5. Find ways to make it easy and fun for the customer to want to give you feedback and tell you what you need to know: this is not easy to do and takes significant research and lateral thinking to do really well.
  6. Employ the right system for the right situation: different businesses have different types of relationships with customers: 
    • they can be transactional, emotional, partnership, B2C or B2B. 
    • every type of business is unique and has a unique way of doing business with its customers: 
    • so, it\’s common sense that their feedback system should likewise be unique and designed for the needs of the customer relationship in question . 
  7. Reward help: the customer needs to go out their way to tell you what you need to do in order to improve customer relationships and reputation: find ways to reward them for telling you. 
    • Again, there is no one-size-fits-all here: it could be something tiny to something massive, depending on the size and quality of the customer relationship
  8. Have a constructive response system built-in. This is an area where so many companies and feedback systems fail appallingly.  The customer feels ignored and disengaged if they give you feedback and don\’t get any response. 
  9. Use feedback as a key process in your business, using the ‘go the extra inch’ ®  principle, to drive continual improvement and innovation in everything that you do and how you do it. 
  10. Follow up and rejig all your systems continually: they need to be continually evolving and improving. 

I hope that is helpful to you: unfortunately, feedback systems are much more complicated than simple tick-box exercises, and to suggest that there are simple quick-fixes in this area is dangerous information.

But this means that sometimes blogs like these can give you more questions than answers.

If this is the case, please feel free to contact us with any questions that you have, And we will respond to you directly.

In conclusion, feedback is a vitally important and surprisingly complicated area to get right.

But I urge you to spend time, effort and budget to do exactly that: this is the age of the empowered customer and massive change and innovation in your market: there is only one thing worse than not gathering feedback, and that is to gather feedback badly. 

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Slow Selling is a UK based not for profit organisation for leaders and managers in independent businesses. 

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