Getting customer feedback

Seek to understand...

In 'Surpassing the expectation, I mentioned the networking company that had failed to know their customer base before launching their membership drive, resulting in low membership applications. One recommendation I made to one of the principals was to prepare a feedback survey for all potential members who attended the membership drive but chose not to join for whatever reason...Indoing so, they would find out where they had failed to meet the expectations of those who did not find immediate VALUE in joining the network. His response was one of surprise. They had not thought of doing just that.

Asking for feedback from your customer is the best way to find out if your product or service is underperforming, meeting or surpassing the expectation of the customer. It is not easy to do since the response we hear may be ego-deflating. It is never easy to hear 'the truth' about our performance; but it is essential.

I recently managed a location for a retail company where employees in different departments did not have a clear concept of vendor/client relationships. It was clear that our store was not seen as a customer by the purchasing department, the Distribution Center and even some of the support staff at the main office. When given feedback on poor performance, the individuals that were our direct vendor/provider became defensive and took things personally. Their egos were bruised and they were not interested in fixing whatever was wrong but rather became defensive and proceeded to find blame for the mishap. Our store was even accused of 'playing-the-victim'.

While we were trying very hard to earn the business of every potential customer who entered the retail location, it was difficult to 'keep the promise' to our customers since other departments did not have the same view.

In discussing a disappointment to a customer with a customer service representative at the main office, we were told that the odds of the product arriving in our building as expected was '50-50'. This, after we had conducted the research that showed that the product was in-stock and readily available in our distribution center! 

In this example, if the confidence level of the customer service representative was so low, it was because she had experienced similar experiences in the company's other retail locations. As she stated; "it happens all the time!" What she failed to grasp was that  our expectation (as a customer of their department) was that we get the product on time. This expectation was just to achieve standard levels of customer service! We were not asking for exceeding expectations but merely meeting them.

The product, as predicted by the customer service representative, did not make it to the store on the expected date and we lost a paying customer because of it.

This scenario happens all over the United States every day of the year. Listening to customer feedback is ever so important; whether the customer is external or internal.

On to Dealing with dissatisfied customers