Leading the field

Who doesn’t like praise? We’d be liars if we said that unsolicited praise from a customer didn’t make us happy. We thrive on the recognition that we’ve done good, so it’s no surprise that I was thrilled when this email landed in my inbox (one of many I might add – I know, smugness is not an attractive quality).

“Hi Lisa, I just wanted to drop you a line to thank you for your excellent work. The report you have created in very insightful and gives us a lots of answers to the questions that we had. We feel well armed to tackle 2012”
David Langrish, Head of Marketing, Emap Connect

However, if you’re honest, you also want to hear from the customers who didn’t have such a fabulous experience of your product or service, those customers for whom delivery has been average, the people in fact, who are least likely to engage in feedback. It’s this group of individuals who are most likely to provide a route to product/service improvement.

The problem is lots of feedback mechanisms do not attract the ‘averages’ – think about it, as a consumer when do you volunteer your feedback? For me it’s when a product/service has excelled or bombed, if I’ve received average I’m less likely to bother and I’m not atypical. For many, if the service received is satisfactory, you are less likely to make suggestions for improvements or quick fixes that might move a product/service from satisfactory to outstanding.

Add to this the fact that many questions are designed to illicit a positive response, dare I say it, leading questions. That’s OK when the objective is to deliver testimonials, but if you want genuine feedback then you need to rethink your question design.

Look at this example and spot the obvious difference:

How likely are you to recommend [product/service] to someone who might be interested?
How likely are you to recommend [product/service]?

Which will illicit the most positive result? Sales techniques teach us that disagreement is generally uncomfortable for people – our natural preference is towards an affirmative response. That’s why many opinion polls will position questions in this way, e.g. Shall we have a referendum? vs. Do you want a referendum?

Biasing response through feedback design is easy but is also, often overlooked – if it’s intentional that’s fine, but what if it’s not? Subtle or apparently minor differences in question phrasing or language can make a dramatic difference to the results delivered.

Think about semantics in your question design, test understanding inside and outside your team – do different people interpret a question differently? If they do, the same will be true of your customers, try piloting a feedback mechanism before launching.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll always enjoy receiving positive feedback (Please don’t stop guys) but I’m also keen to hear constructive criticism which can help us grow and improve our service, after all as the saying goes that which hurts us makes us stronger….


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