Sitting in a restaurant for lunch recently, the server and the restaurant manager each asked me for feedback. But in both instances, the way they asked the question suggested that they really didn't want my opinion at all. The server asked me, "Is everything tasting good?" and the manager asked, "Was everything all right?"
Both of those questions required a simple "yes" or "no" and didn't really invite feedback, either positive or negative. Eye contact was minimal or absent and it almost felt as though both were just checking a box, especially when the easy answer (to encourage them to disappear) was, "yes."
Most companies these days seem to be in relentless pursuit of my opinion and attitude, yet the questions on the spot they ask really don't encourage conversation and dialogue. Sometimes they just ask me to log on and "complete a survey." Neither approach encourages any deepening of a relationship. This behavior is rampant. Every time I bring my car in for service or call my internet provider, the reps practically beg me to say that they were excellent and rate them with highest marks when I'm asked about my experiences in a follow-up; otherwise, they say, they'll get a bad mark. Most of the time, they are just doing their job, so unless they have gone above and beyond, why would I say the job was exceptional? And doesn't it defeat the purpose when you tell me what my response should be?
For a while, I would fill out every survey that hit my inbox and answer questions on the phone. But now I ignore them all. Why? Because none of this feedback ever really makes a difference. Service reps routinely quote me the wrong price for service. Phone "advisors" rarely fix the problem. They always want to know what else they can do, and I'm left with the almost irrepressible urge to tell them to just do their jobs.
If companies really want feedback, they ought to take the time to talk to their customers and clients and ask three questions:
• How was your experience?
• What made it good, bad or neutral?
• What might we have done differently to make your experience better?
These three questions nurture dialogue. They encourage clients and customers to think about the service and why it is good or bad. They ask for me to play a meaningful role -- emphasis on the "meaning" -- in helping the company be better. And they promote the kind of responses that fuel analytics that the company then can act on.
These kinds of responses, if tallied, can help consultants like us work with our clients to respond to and repair customer relations problems big and small. They can help improve customer or client response and drive loyalty. And they can build the bottom line.
Please don't ask for an opinion if you aren't really going to listen, or worse yet, are unwilling to change. Asking for feedback is step one of good communications. Acting on it is even more important.