In a recent HBR Blog Network posts he lays out five sins of dealing with customer feedback. Prominent among them is an approach that could be called aggregate and dump. Boiling feedback down to numbers and then ignoring your clients’ specific comments is generally wasteful, he argues:
This common mistake completely obscures any individual customer’s voice and prevents employees from linking the feedback to a particular event, behavior, or action they can remember. Yet there’s something irresistibly seductive about numbers that seem so rigorously mathematical. “Congratulations! Customer satisfaction increased 0.431% this quarter! Great job!” Of course, most companies try to figure out what drove the improvements by breaking down each summary score into dozens of “drivers,” but the typical result is that employees get lost in a sea of analysis and numbers.
Coming up with a number sounds clean and scientific but relying entirely on such a score and disregarding words entirely, means you lose the human voices behind the statistics, which have huge value, Marke insists. That’s why he also recommends customer surveys not be ade up exclusively of multiple choice questions, and instead offer customers the “chance to share their feedback in their own words."
But missing out on actionable areas for improvement or specific opportunities to delight your customers isn’t the only reason Marke is an enemy of excessive aggregation. It also generally takes awhile to boil all that feedback down into metrics, he points out, and when it comes to learning from customer complaints, speed is key.
Because it’s time-consuming to aggregate feedback, "many companies distribute summaries of what they hear from customers six, eight, or even 12 weeks later… How well do you remember each of the many conversations and interactions you had six weeks ago?" he asks. "Chances are your employees don’t either -; which makes it awfully tough for them to remember what they did that might have contributed to variations in their customers’ feedback."
JESSICA STILLMAN is a freelance writer based in London with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist. @EntryLevelRebel