Businesses understandably want customer feedback but far too often they’re going about it the wrong way – with intrusive texts, calls and emails – when there are plenty of other ways to go about it that don’t place the onus on customers themselves.

In a WARC Best Practice Paper, How to get customer feedback and what to do with it, John Sills, director of The Foundation, warns that the current “epidemic of feedback requests” simply leads to “feedback fatigue”.

Being constantly asked to rate interactions with brands and businesses risks ruining the customer experience and places an unnecessary effort on people who just want to enjoy their purchase, he argues.

And the generic information gathered from these exercises (Were you satisfied? Would you recommend to someone else?) often just ends up in a PowerPoint presentation that may allow executives to believe they are close to customers and avoid taking inconvenient decisions.

“The most important aspect of gathering useful customer feedback,” says Sills, “is that it needs to be relevant and useful for the experience the company is trying to create – not just generic questions to produce generic answers that could apply to any average company.”

That not only means asking the right questions and tailoring the feedback mechanism accordingly, it also requires marketers to more closely examine what customers actually do (or don’t do), rather than just asking them for a rating.

“It could be listening to calls, understanding drop-out rates, or assessing webchat text, all of which can help to reveal customers’ behaviour, and thoughts on their experience, without needing the customer to give up any more of their time.”

In that context, he adds, social listening can be educational since comments appearing there are often written when people are at their most angry or emotional, sharing raw feelings before these have been fully processed.

Web searches can be another source of insight: “there’s a huge amount of rich feedback available through understanding the questions your customers have,” Sills advises.

And internal company feedback is often overlooked. Time and effort is put into surveying customers on their views, but staff are frequently only asked how they feel about working for the company when they’re actually well placed to identify where things are going wrong and how these might be improved.

Crucially, having gathered feedback from various sources, “you then need to ensure you listen, understand, and act on it”, Sills stresses.

That means avoiding meaningless “averages” and corporate euphemisms while sharing openly to create a culture of continuous improvement.

Sourced from WARC