What are some disadvantages to customer feedback?

James Dodkins quote what's customer experience

Many of our articles focus on the importance of getting feedback and using it to improve customer experiences. But what are some of the disadvantages to customer feedback? Are there any?

To find out and to discuss how we can improve getting customer feedback we chatted with James Dodkins

In general, he’s opposed to customer feedback. We wanted to find out why and what we can learn from that.

“Only 4 percent of dissatisfied customers will complain, and the overwhelming majority of the remaining people will just leave,” James said during a keynote. “If you are only fixing problems for the 4 percent of people that complain, you are missing a massive opportunity. Fix the experience within the experience. Don’t wait for the complaint.”

“I do say I’m against customer feedback, and some people misconstrue that to mean to not talk to your customers,” James said. “That is not what I’m saying. Talking to your customer is probably the single best thing you can do if you want to be a customer-centric company and improve your customer experience.”

But remember: The survey — and that includes the type of survey software used — is part of the experience.

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“So if you are going to do it, at least make it not suck,” James added. “That’s what I like about Voxpopme. The way you guys do it doesn’t suck for the customer.”

Disadvantages of customer feedback

James mentioned several disadvantages. Let’s dive into some here.

The percentage of customers responding

You’ll only get a small percentage of customers who will respond to your customer feedback surveys. He said four types of people do surveys:

  • The serial feedbackers. They love giving feedback. “It’s like a hobby,” James said. “They do it for fun.”
  • The extreme feedbackers. They do it when their experience was extremely good or extremely bad.
  • The incentive feedbackers. They get paid for surveys or can win something. That can lead to potentially overly positive responses, James said.
  • Everyone else. “Which is the largest percentage of all people,” James said. “And they are the people that rarely do it, if ever.”

(Perceived) inaction with feedback given

James said the reason many people don’t bother giving feedback is because nothing is done with the feedback. Or at least there’s that perception. How often can you complain about something and it doesn’t get fixed? That’s why many customers don’t take the time to give feedback, James said.

There can be a disconnect, too, between what brands actually are doing and what they communicate with their customers, added Jenn Vogel, vice president of marketing at Voxpopme and host of “Reel Talk: The Customer Insights Show.

Companies think they are using customer feedback. “But if you are asking customers the same question, they don’t think their voices are being heard,” she said.

And the experience also must be good. Jenn said she gets long surveys all the time, sometimes weeks after making a purchase. Who has the time to sit down and complete those?

“It’s not a great customer experience, that survey itself,” Jenn said.

James said when companies take action on feedback, communicate it.

“It could be as easy as sending an email,” James said.

Read next: How a customer experience program can help your business

Video surveys make feedback funDisregarding current standards

Customer feedback also should consider current standards, James explained.

Let’s say two people go to the same restaurant, have the same meal, which was delivered in the same way. One person might give it a one-star review while the other might give it a five-star review.

“And who is correct?” he said. “Maybe both are. Feedback surveys don’t take into account people’s expectations and personal standards.”

How can we make the survey customer experience better?

Unfortunately, it can be an infinite loop, James said.

He mentioned he’s seen teams that want to improve the survey experience, so what do they do?

“Oh, we should do a survey,” he said. “So now you are seeing companies asking for feedback on the experience of giving feedback. Here’s a feedback survey that our customers probably hate. So let’s give them another one.”

Think outside the box. Try something new.

How can we make surveys better?

Start with good questions, James said. Also don’t do this: “They ask closed questions. Or they ask questions the company already knows the answer to.”

Read next: Not sure what to ask? Check out Voxpopme’s tried and tested open-ended questions for video research.

Some companies stack the questions in their favor to get them closer to the results they want, James said. That’s why it’s important to not ask leading questions.

“When they do that, they don’t really care about the feedback. They care about the number,” James said. Asking open-ended questions that are not leading can help.

James also advises against tying employee performance to only feedback scores. Employees might start manipulating the system by only getting positive customers to offer feedback, or they pressure customers into positive scores by reminding them their performance is tied to those scores.

I actually remember a situation like this myself when a customer service rep kept saying: “Is there anything else I can do to ensure that you’ll give me a five-star review after this call?” It can be hard to say “yes” and say what else is needed. If you say “no,” you are somewhat committed to giving five stars.

“Guilt-tripping people is a thing,” James said. “What you really see is seeing what employees are best at guilt-tripping customers into giving good scores. The scores go up, and the executives see them and say ‘we are geniuses.’ But employees are annoying customers more than ever before because they are score-begging. And it gives a worse experience, even though you are ending up with higher scores.”

Making the feedback experience better

Remember to not reduce customers to just a number.

James shared a story of a customer who called with a complaint. After the customer was done talking, the rep asked, “So, on a scale of 1 to 10 … ?”

James said the biggest improvement might be to try and personalize feedback to the customers who are receiving the survey.

  • At least address them by their name and not “Hey, customer.”
  • Mention the product they purchased.
  • Add pictures of their experience, if possible.
  • Know your customers’ experiences with you.

For example, James said when he bought a house, he had to call the company he was working with. Later, the company sent a survey. One question was: “Did you need to call us to fix anything?”

And then the next question was, “If you did, how many times?”

“You know this. Why are you asking me?” James said. “You already got that information.”

The personalized experience

I remember the days of travel pre-COVID when the Westin in Cleveland texted me as I was settling into my room, asking me about my experience — the one that was currently ongoing. Very timely, personalized and relevant.

James said companies need to take that extra time to contextualize the feedback experience to the customer and try to move into the moment, as with that example.

“I’d love it if we could get to a place where during the experience, in the experience, we can start to predict likely outcomes, and we make sure to keep it on the right path,” James said.

Customers also are undergoing survey fatigue so we have to find a way to make it more meaningful and engaging for them.

“Make it fun to do, make it not suck,” James said. Video surveys are one way, James said. “I would argue video surveys make it fun and quicker to do.”

Here’s a quick video of customers talking about the positives of video surveys.

Keep in mind what a customer’s preferred way is to offer feedback. Some customers prefer video. Others prefer a quick, smiley-face scale. Others would hop into any focus group in seconds.

When to ask for feedback depends on the company and industry, James said. “You should know the pivotal moments that make or break an experience.”

The person behind the customer

Try to think of the customer as a whole person, something Megan Kehr, an insights professional at PepsiCo, shared in this short video.

How to tie feedback scores into your insights strategy

James said scores — let’s take the Net Promoter Score, for example — should be used like stepping-stones.

“Spend a certain amount of time doing NPS, but instead of caring about the score you get, think about the experiences that need to happen to get a certain score,” James said.

Once you have a history of scores, you can see what experiences caused a 1 or caused a 10. From there, you can make updates and also ask customers through video survey software for more information. Also, don’t just wait until the end to ask questions of your customers. Ask along the way.

Read about how to ask questions earlier: Customer-led product development through design thinking

Mood also plays a role in the score, James said.

In the moment

If the survey arrives when somebody is in a good mood, they are more likely to give a good score. If it arrives when they are in a bad mood, they may give a lower score.

I gave this view a positive review when the hotel asked me in the moment how I liked my experience.

I can relate to this. When I checked into my room in Cleveland, I was in a good mood as the view of the lakefront was fantastic. I gave them a good score. Had my room been bad, I would have given a lower response. Of course, in the immediate moment my mood was highly relevant to the situation. I also would have sent them video feedback had they asked for it.

Tara Robertson, chief marketing officer at Teamwork, said that she’s “not a fan of using NPS just to be able to say our NPS score is this. I’m a fan of identifying who are the unhappy customers and follow up with them.”

On the more positive side, you can also follow up with high scores and see if they can give a testimonial or even be used as a case study.

Combining quantitative and qualitative research

Jenn said that getting metrics is still important and, certainly, what can be measured easily continues to evolve.

“Black and white data isn’t an accurate representation of a world of gray,” James said. “It’s trying to force something that might not actually be there. Every customer is different. Every person has their own definition of what good customer service is.

“The annoyance is that they are all right because it’s theirs.”

To understand the gray, try video surveys now. 

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What’s a question you’d like to ask consumers?