Feedback’s gone crazy

Lavender founder, Will Lavender
By Lavender founder, Will Lavender | 27 July 2016

Whether you call it customer satisfaction or customer happiness, there’s no doubt that the contentment of the customer is currently a hot topic in marketing – as it should be.

However, the way customer happiness is currently evolving is very much ‘the tail wagging the dog’. In an effort to be customer focused, the businesses we transact with, or merely contact with an enquiry, are leaping into hot pursuit of feedback – as if they’d earned it, or as if the interaction was so meaningful that we’d want to give it.

These ever-increasing feedback requests occur, for example, after simply making a phone enquiry to an insurance company – this single, short call can evoke an online questionnaire. Or when you stay for just one night in a hotel – you’ve hardly unpacked your suitcase before being asked to rate the hotel and spend unjustified minutes explaining what they got right or wrong.

Call a telco or a bank and while you’re waiting for someone to talk to, you’ll be warned to stay on after the call to answer a few short questions. When you visit your hair salon, they follow up with a program they’ve been sold which is seeking your feedback and asking you how happy you are with their services. And if you do not respond to any number of these requests to ‘check that you’re happy’ or ‘to make you feel valued’, there’s often a follow up, just to be sure…


This is not customer focused. This is customer harassment.

Our industry should not fall into this ill-thought through and annoying approach. We should be thoughtful, sensitive and intelligent with our contact. 

Brands need to have a well-planned, strategic approach and ask for feedback judiciously – in proportion to the engagement.

It seems we’re getting confused between customer research surveys (where customers usually receive something for investing their time) and ‘satisfaction’ checking, where customers are contacted to make sure they’re happy with a service or product – with steps then being taken to fix the problem, if it exists.

NPS (Net Promoter Score) has much to answer for this ill-conceived development. Many boards are focused on their NPS scores – with bonus money at stake. As a result, much effort is made to determine and measure NPS. But NPS, or survey-orientated contact, is not always customer driven, it’s often research driven.

Customer-driven satisfaction management, done well, is about finding your unhappy customers and doing something about it.

Ideally, this occurs promptly after customers have made a major transaction – and they aren’t given time-consuming and arduous forms to complete. Instead, a quick check-in, a one-click experience, a light call or a Y/N style SMS should be employed.

Happy customers tend to respond and tell you – because they like you. Unhappy ones tend not to respond – because they don’t. It’s human nature. You don’t want to speak to someone you’re unhappy with. If you care about your customer, you have to work harder to find out how they feel. Valuable customers who don’t reply should be assumed to be ‘unhappy’. This should trigger a listening pathway to verify and solve. The key purpose of customer satisfaction checking is to search out unhappy customers and fix their issues.

When an unhappy customer is unearthed, everything within the case management armoury should be used to make them happy again. Having a pre-determined strategy – a business plan – for each customer empowers customer-facing teams to know what they can do and say to fix the issue.

It’s natural for businesses to want to improve customer satisfaction – and to measure improvement. But you need ‘listening tools’ and customer ‘business plans’ to do more – to turn these situations into positive brand experiences – as opposed to time-consuming customer annoyance.

After all, a customer whose problem is solved well becomes eight times more loyal than a customer who’s never had a problem at all.

By Will Lavender, founder of Lavender

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