Does digital technology enhance feedback results or just make the process look pretty?

Jonathan Winchester

Shopper Anonymous UK chief executive Jonathan Winchester examines why only the most effective feedback tools will enable companies to make the most out of their customers’ opinions and create profitable, successful businesses

When companies began using feedback decades ago, it usually comprised of a one or two-page written survey, often with multiple choice questions. How times have changed.

There is no escaping surveys at the moment. After an online order, a delivery, an experience at an attraction, a training day or visit to a hotel you will usually be asked for feedback. The requests for feedback arrive as on all mobile devices usually as emails, as ‘pop-ups’ on websites, as text messages and sometimes as good ‘old-fashioned’ paper surveys.

We are invited to go online and offer feedback after almost every retail transaction, as pointed out by over-zealous shop attendants who spend extra time circling the web address on the bottom of the till receipt and mentioning the ‘year’s supply of free chocolate’ or ‘spa weekend’ that you could win if you take the time to complete the survey.

When spoken on a personal level the phrase ‘Can I give you some feedback?’ is too often a euphemism for ‘I’m about to criticise you and potentially reduce you to tears…..’ and many businesses still shy away from using feedback tools because of a fear of criticism.

But is feedback really about criticising? Are some companies reluctant to use feedback tools because they know there are inherent problems in the business that will require a lot of ‘fixing’ or they are just afraid of criticism?

And, conversely, is the convenience of digital technology driving some companies to seek feedback because it’s the trendy thing to do at the moment? Many businesses are experimenting with feedback simply because they feel they should be. Using one of the popular feedback platforms like SurveyMonkey or TrustPilot it has become very easy to implement a superficial feedback strategy.

Feedback is in fashion

We are in a customer-centric decade where all businesses are slowly realising that the phrase ‘The Customer Is King’ is one they can’t ignore. The customer is not afraid to use social media to voice opinion and share views with the whole world, literally! So it is impossible to ignore the fact that businesses should be using feedback to get an honest view of their customer service if they hope to please their customer base and retain loyalty.

The smiley face emoticon App feedback tool is popping up everywhere at the moment. Our local Boots has one and I saw one in the Gatwick toilets last week.

But what happens with the data? Does the team meet once a week to analyse the feedback? What’s the ‘acceptable number’ of yellow or red faces? Do they use an equation to then act upon if not enough green faces were tapped?

Shopper Anonymous feedback

And following on from that, what happens when the red faces outnumber the green faces? Does the branch manager invoke section 4.2 of the Boots Customer Service Smiley Face Feedback App: branch closure and recovery training on how to treat your customers appropriately?

Or does the data just collect dust somewhere in a corner; another metric implemented but not used for any real purpose other than to publicly say ‘Yes we care about customer feedback’…

From a customer point of view how many people tap on the smiley face because they want to ‘play’ with the technology and don’t have any real issue with the service they received? In this case, are the feedback results a TRUE indication of how the customer perceives the business?

If the customer is on the receiving end of excellent or very poor customer service they often find a way to voice this opinion anyway, irrespective of a shiny App on display in the business.

We believe that true and honest feedback is the foundation on which to create a profitable and successful business. And true and honest feedback takes skill and patience to organise. Sometimes a nicely displayed App or digital platform will do the trick or enhance other forms of feedback, but in most cases a true and independent impression of your business requires more than an App.

Most effective feedback tools

If you are genuinely interested in obtaining third party, independent impressions of your business we consider the following tools to be essential:

  • Mystery shop reports

  • Customer focus groups

  • Customer AND team surveys (your team members are your most important customers)

  • Exit surveys

In addition, correct follow up and training based on the feedback is critical.

It’s simple. Jump on the digital bandwagon and use as many interfaces as you like to obtain feedback from your customers. But remember your real goals in obtaining feedback. Usually a mystery shopping report tailored to your business and your specific objectives is the most accurate way to capture true and honest feedback that can be used to enhance your business and improve your profits. 

Read more from Shopper Anonymous on making the feedback process easy for customers.



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