In the beginning, before customer research, the owner of the corner store was doing it anyway.

The best business owners asked people what they think and realising that they had created an expectation, they did something about it.  If they couldn’t then they’d say so, nicely.  People giving feedback were happy to do it, because they knew they were being listened to.  Everyone was happy. It’s simply all about treating customers as humans, demonstrating that you understand them and showing empathy. 

Fast forward to today, where owners of larger businesses are often at arm’s length from customers.  Customer  research was invented to fill the void.  Despite the best intentions, the industry has allowed itself to focus too much on the information it wants and in doing so, has neglected the experience for the people giving feedback. It’s no wonder that the myriad of post-interaction surveys get poor response rates – too little listening and too little obvious action is at the root.  We need our experiences to be more human but data and how we collect it isn’t delivering that.  Not like in the beginning. 

Ironically, so many companies want to stand out for their CX, yet one of the most important interactions of all (asking for and getting feedback) is an underwhelming experience at best. How then should customer researchers/marketers  improve their game?

  1. Never go anonymous– how can you respond to feedback if you don’t know who said what?
  2. Remember what they said last time and bring it into the dialogue- most research is a snapshot; not a story.
  3. Don’t sweat about bias– the whole reason for seeking feedback is to do a better job for those giving the feedback. That will make them happier and that’s good for everyone.  It’s an achievement if most people giving feedback speak more highly of you next time
  4. Celebrate people who continue to give you feedback.  Aren’t they the best customers of all?  Find out who they are and say thanks.
  5. Take a whole of business approach to getting feedback, even though its usually the responsibility of marketing.  It’s obvious that different functions have different needs.  For example, marketers want explanation for why things have changed and whether what they do is working.  Relationship owners want to know exactly who they need to respond to, while being informed about what they said previously and what was done about it.  Role based reporting isn’t enough, nor is adding more questions for the different departments.  Cross-sectional methods often don’t cut the mustard.  Longitudinal is a very good method for meeting cross-functional needs.
  6. Getting actionable insights is today’s MR/ CX mantra.  Trouble is that management teams load themselves down with the desire to do things better.  That’s all very well, but getting feedback is as much a communications challenge as it is a performance challenge.  Examination by academics on the root causes of dissatisfaction show that half is to do with performance that doesn’t meet expectations.  The other half is about mismatched expectations.  It’s ok to not be all things to everybody and to not blindly respond to each piece of criticism, as long as it’s well communicated and expectations are well managed.
  7. Finally, explore how you can break away from the uninspiring on-line surveys that it seems everyone is doing.  There are some exciting new channels now available.  Digital human feedback avatars are one of them.  80% of people who have chatted to one said they loved the experience.

Put all this together and seeking feedback can be an ENGAGING and positive experience for your customers.  Just like in the beginning.  And as customer researchers/marketers, let’s get clarity of purpose, and then aim to be more engaging, more inspiring and more beneficial. Let’s be awake to the world we are living in and make the experience of engaging with us a positive one. 

Peter Harris
As a Fellow of The Research Society and the Australian Marketing Institute, Peter aims to make Market and social research more valuable to business and in particular marketing. He is Chief Research Officer at Advantage Group International which helps businesses be better together by amplifying listening and responding.

Reg Price
Reg is a Co-Founder of MirrorWave, a unique approach which unlocks relationship potential by following, listening and responding to people over time – the first in the business world to bring CRM, customer experience and research together using the longitudinal method.

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