Due to some changes in our organization I recently had a new responsibility added to my plate. Some of the words that describe it are “Voice of the Customer” or traditional terms like Customer Service or Customer Satisfaction. These things have always been high on my priority and values list, and something that I have been intimately involved in as an account manager. But when your name gets tagged to it, it becomes even more important to you!
Throughout the history of Optimation we have always requested, reviewed, analyzed, and taken to heart our customer feedback. We seek feedback through customer surveys upon completion of projects, and even consider it a customer complaint if we do not get at least a “met expectations” response. Our customer base, as well as the type of work that we do is very diverse. We have projects for hundreds of dollars up to millions of dollars. Some projects are extremely unique and customized, and others are more routine. We try to be mindful of the number of surveys we send out (especially to the same customer). When we can, we will group similar projects together.
In today’s world it feels like every time you go to a website a window pops up asking you to fill out a survey. Or every time to buy something in a store the cashier circles a website or phone number at the bottom of the receipt and asks for you to fill out a survey. Sometimes they will lure you in with the chance to win something if you fill it out, or offer you a discount on your next purchase if you fill the survey out. This process has become commonplace and the barrage of requests can get annoying and cause people to ignore them. Studies show that in most cases people fill out surveys if they are unhappy, and sometimes if they are extremely happy, but rarely if the service was as expected (or met expectations). This can skew the data or results dramatically. How do you get a good representative cross-section of responses? This is a question that puzzles many in this field.
I have a new appreciation for the value of the data and feedback that comes from these surveys. Without feedback, you don’t really know how you are doing or how you are perceived in your customer’s eyes. The onus is on the supplier to create a survey that is short and concise, but still yields the feedback that they are looking for, and it is the customer’s responsibility to provide meaningful feedback to the supplier. The feedback loop is vital to service providers. If you are satisfied with the product or service that you received, let them know, just as you should if you were not satisfied.
For those of us looking to get that valuable feedback, finding the sweet spot in the length of the survey, or making the reward large enough for filling it out, is the key. Even if you are passionate about your feedback (good or bad), if the survey is too long, you won’t finish it.
In the end, it all boils down to communication! If you are not happy and you do not say anything, how is the supplier supposed to know that they are not meeting expectations? They may continue doing what they have been doing for you, and other customers, thinking that everything is fine, until a customer stops buying products or services. Or the customer may accept what they are getting and then make their own modifications to what they received, only to find out that if they had said something to the supplier in the first place, the supplier could have made a change that might have been better for both the customer and the supplier. Bottom line: you will never know unless you say something.
Providing positive feedback is just as important as constructive feedback. In some industries, especially service or hospitality industries, there are bonuses or rewards for employees who are mentioned by name in a survey for doing something positive or going above and beyond to help the customer. This is certainly not the case in every industry, but if someone did go out of their way to delight you, provide that feedback (either directly to them or through their supervisor or a customer survey). It goes back to the golden rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you, or treat others as you would like to be treated.
If your company relies on feedback from its customers, but you don’t fill feedback forms out for your suppliers then you are part of the problem. I know I have a new appreciation for customer surveys and the next time I get a pop up survey I will be much more likely to respond to it!