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3 Customer Feedback Best Practices to Follow

Have you ever been at a restaurant and had the server ask you this as you’re finishing your meal? If you’ve enjoyed your service today, would you mind filling out this customer feedback form?

If you’ve enjoyed your service…? (Cue the needle sliding off the record.) Empathy for servers wanting good feedback aside, this is a pointless exercise that lures organizations into a false sense of security about their customer service. Instead, companies need to ask for actual feedback, especially when it’s going to be negative.

1—You Need Feedback from Everyone, Not Just Happy Customers

What’s the point of asking for feedback only when you think the service has been good? Again, we can all understand why a server at a restaurant or an agent in a contact center would want it that way, but it does a serious disservice both to the employee and the company at large.

Customer feedback efforts, whether in the form of postcard-sized forms on a table in a restaurant or an email campaign, are surveys. Therefore, all the rules of survey methodology apply, including sampling methods.

In survey terms, it’s faulty sampling to get feedback solely from people you already know will give a positive response. Very faulty. It skews the survey results to the point where it’s a waste of time.

By contrast, pollsters use complicated methodology based on statistical analysis and careful consideration of demographics to avoid sampling errors. It’s a serious business, not one to take lightly.

2—You Can’t Bias the Survey Before They Even Take It

Bias is another one that keeps pollsters on their toes. There are enough things out of our control to sway surveys, we don’t need to influence it anymore by hinting or outright saying we’d like a good review. Again, pointless.

Without going into it too much (I’ve written about surveys a fair amount), there are three basic types of bias: coverage, nonresponse and response.

Coverage bias is not reaching everyone you wanted to reach with the survey, so not everyone is properly represented. Only asking happy customers to respond to surveys would certainly fall under this category, although it usually results from unintentionally faulty sampling, not intentional.

Nonresponse bias is people not responding for whatever reason. Certainly, an unhappy customer might not respond to a server asking them to provide feedback ‘if you’re happy with your service.’ Why would they? Unless it was to provide negative feedback rather than positive, in which case a cagey server probably wouldn’t ask them in the first place.

Response bias is when people temper their responses for whatever reason. A customer only providing positive answers would also fall under this category, if they’re being led that way by their server. Maybe they would only give 3s and 4s out of 5, but instead they end up giving 5s across the board.

3—You Need Negative Feedback to Get Better

Not that any of us could imagine this happening, but what if a server who gave you bad service said something like this to you after your meal? I’m sorry about the service today. If you could let us know how we can improve by filling out a feedback form, we’d really appreciate it.

Again, it’s probably not something any of us could imagine a server or a call center agent saying, especially when the fault in the service came from them. However, it could provide necessary feedback.

For improvement, we need criticism—all of us. Rather than an employee or company viewing criticism as negative, they can view them as a starting point for improvement.

It can be the baseline against which an employee or company can show marked improvement over time. Imagine a new server at a restaurant getting bad reviews in the beginning as they find their way, then fewer bad reviews mixed with some good reviews, then primarily good reviews.

That would be concrete evidence that the server has made a solid effort to improve—something their manager could look at to gauge what kind of an employee they’ve hired. The server might even want bad reviews in the beginning, to have something to build on.

Besides, asking for feedback in the face of impending criticism shows the customer that the employee and/or company cares about getting better, which says something about their character.

It might also go a little way towards appeasing unhappy customers—letting them know we’re aware of our faults and are trying to improve them. So their responses to survey questions are thoughtful and rational rather than snarky and emotional.

Which, in the end, is the whole point of customer feedback surveys.

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