Do you only hear what you want to hear?

Jul 26 2006 by Andy Hanselman Print This Article

A recent flight to Europe from Doncaster/Sheffield airport (yes, there is such a thing!) revealed an interesting approach to customer feedback. On the trip out, all went well; a trouble free check in, a nice breakfast in the airport and we got off on time. An hour into the flight the stewardess came round with customer feedback forms explaining how important it is to have our views and could we please rate them on their service.

Positive ticks all round, some nice constructive comments, and then back to struggling with my Soduku puzzle in the paper.

Coming home was slightly different. The flight was delayed by an hour; we were told it would take us an extra hour to get home. Nothing major, but a little frustrating.

However a group of 21 customers who had been 'bumped' from their flight home to Manchester 12 hours earlier in the day were less happy. No information, no apology and a flight back to the wrong airport.

As you can imagine they weren't pleased, and there was a clear feeling of discontent, with each ready to give their forthright views when asked. And - surprise surprise - they weren't! Not a single feedback form was issued,

Call me cynical, but is there a link here? When things go well please tell us; when they don't, then don't bother.

Truly customer focussed businesses ask for feedback, good and bad. They use it to improve their business. Some use it to incentivise and reward staff. Incidentally, what's the reward in your business for 'going the extra mile' for a customer? How do you even know when it's happened?

Asking customers what they think can do a number of things:

  • Tell your customers you care and you value their opinions
  • Tell you what you're doing well, and vitally what you're not
  • Tell you what you need to do better
  • Help you spot opportunities

If it doesn't do some (or all) of these things, then don't waste your, or more importantly your customers' time. It should not be a cosmetic exercise – if it is, stop doing it now!

Getting customer feedback can also show your own people the value you place on customers' views, and the impact they have on the customers' experience, good and bad.

Amazingly, in too many businesses, this feedback is never actually passed on to the frontline staff! In others it never gets past them – they collect it, and edit it accordingly before it gets to senior managers.

In the best businesses, feedback is collected, analysed and maximised. There's a constant stream of information coming from the 'nerve endings' of the business to the decision makers. They in turn translate the information and help front line people do their jobs more effectively. Oh, and motivate them by passing on good news and praising them when they do well.

So some questions to end with:

  • How do you get regular 'honest' feedback from your customers?
  • Do you ask when you know the response will be negative?
  • What do you do with the information?
  • Do you really use it to improve performance?
  • How do you spot your 'Star' performers?
  • How could you do it better?

Don't just 'Hear what you want to Hear' – leave that to government ministers. Give your customers a damn good listening to…. And take action as a result!

While you're at it, add some feedback below – it's the best way to make my articles better!

more articles

About The Author

Andy Hanselman
Andy Hanselman

Andy Hanselman helps businesses and their people think in 3D. That means being Dramatically and Demonstrably Different. An expert on business competitiveness, he has spent well over 20 years researching, working with, and learning from, successful fast growth businesses. His latest book, The 7 Characteristics of 3D Businesses, reveals how businesses can get ahead, and stay ahead of their competitors.