“The second rule of Fight Club is: you DO NOT talk about Fight Club!” - Tyler Durden, Fight Club
The Second Law of Net Promoter is “You MUST talk about NPS!”
Well, maybe not, but not far off. Actually, it’s more like “you must act immediately on customer feedback”. This is a little unkind because everyone acts, to some degree, on customer feedback. And “immediately” is quite subjective, isn’t it? But it's the spirit of the second law that we should focus on.
If you asked people what they least liked about taking surveys, they might come up with:
- “Too long. I successfully cultivated a small stalactite cave while filling in the answers”
- “Stupid questions they should know the answer to already. Did I stay in a hotel that they are asking me to rate? If I didn’t it was an amazing lucky guess on their part”
But, in the context of this blog:
- “What’s the point?”
Sure, we say we are grateful for their feedback. But we don’t reciprocate. Worse, we have trained people to expect nothing, so why should they invest in us? In ancient times, before 140 character limits meant something to a writer (yes I’m that old) researchers would gather data by making lots of phone calls. Consumers would welcome these calls, as this coincided with a low point in domestic culinary expertise and the decline of quality TV journalism, so having your dinner or TV show interrupted by a stranger was a welcome break. How the hours would fly by, helping the hapless researcher (for it is they) understand exactly why we could use a firmer door latch on our Frigidaire Rollermatic. We would end the call confident that our opinions would be represented in the form of a detailed annual report that, in a pinnacle of decisive momentum, the CEO of the firm would pound the table demanding action or heads would roll!
This never happened.
In reality, we have systematized the lack of serious action around customer feedback. Not through deliberate neglect, although I’m sure there are cases where this happens, but partly through process, and partly through the genuine difficulty in making the kind of hard decisions customer feedback entails. The process problem stemmed from the original, research driven goal of voice of the customer data. Even in a good research process, the transmission mechanism from feedback to action is too slow and disconnected for your average customer to perceive. In an era where systems respond within minutes, or days, these processes often are simply too slow. Watching the Google+ beta in action show us just how incredibly responsive a company can be to making changes in their product in response to feedback – in close to real time. That’s the kind of bar that we have trained social media era customers to expect.
Data gathering and analysis – along with the insights that come out of it – is well designed to turn a big ship slowly in very deliberate and well reasoned moves. Customers want instant gratification.
The good news is this: customers are still so impressed with a company that indicates any responsiveness to their survey input that they will forgive much of the lack of content in the response. In other words, you can still get points for trying! Of course, this is not my prescription. If you don't have a plan to respond rapidly - hours or days, not months - with some kind of indication of learning, you are probably best not asking for feedback at all. But absent a good answer, at least provide evidence that you are listening. It's respectful at the very least.
This will change. As systems become more responsive, expectations will adjust. The other day, I sent an enquiry for a demo to salesforce.com. Now, we are already a customer, so this should have set off a whole series of interesting actions - and it did. Within an hour I had a voicemail and email from a sales rep making sure I had what I needed. If companies can be that responsive to a sales opportunity, we had all better be ready to be that responsive to feedback.
P.S. note from the year 2015 to myself in 2011: being hyper-vigilant and hyper-responsive to tweets but un-responsive to solicited feedback didn't sit well with customers in the long run.