I recently agreed to meet my coworkers for lunch near our offices. I casually told them I would meet them “down there” after completing an errand. “Down there,” to me, meant the nearby food court. “Down there,” to them, meant the elevator lobby on the main floor of our building—big difference.
I ran my errand and walked to the food court. They took the elevator to the main floor and waited for me. Time dragged slowly for both parties. I thought they were late. They thought perhaps I had forgotten them, been held up by something, or was just dragging my feet.
We finally found each other at the food court. There was much laughter about what exactly “down there” meant. No harm, no foul. But this could have happened with a customer, or an important supplier or partner, and involved a much more significant issue than lunch.
As with my coworkers’ interpretation of “down there,” it’s easy to misconstrue generic customer feedback about broad themes like “service” or “price” or “communication”—the type of one-word answers that often arise from surveys. Take “communication”: Is the customer concerned with the frequency of the communication he or she is receiving? The quality? Is the communication poor at a senior level? Or does it need work within middle management? Is it the tone of communication that is a problem? There are lots of paths to follow within such an extensive topic. And lots of opportunities to completely miss your customer’s point.
This is why the most effective voice of the customer initiatives are designed around getting precise, granular feedback. Face-to-face/interview-style approaches maximize opportunities for clarifying participant comments in real time. Combined with structured interviewer education and training on probing techniques, a conversation-based approach will help you best understand specific customer concerns and avoid jumping to inaccurate conclusions.
At best, nonspecific customer feedback offers very little guidance in providing actionable, tangible solutions for your customer. At worst, money, time, and effort can potentially be invested (and wasted) in an area that isn’t even a primary concern.
Is your company’s feedback initiative structured to capture your customers’ actual challenges and expectations?