March 01, 2018 /
Comments Off on When to use customer feedback, and when not.

When to use customer feedback, and when not.

It’s tempting to ask for customer feedback and then make strategic decisions.  The problem is, you will probably make the wrong decisions.

A customer might still give a 10/10 for service although your staff were NOT wearing a name badge, they did NOT close the sale, they did NOT upsell, and they did NOT mention the loyalty program.

Profit driving activities are usually invisible to the customer, so they won’t tell you if they were missed.

The table below explains where customer feedback is appropriate, and when it’s not.

Don’t be myopic. Get the whole picture.


Complaints are uncontrollable,
and in fact, the number of complaints is a base measurement in itself,
regardless of their contents. However, rarely are complaints categorised or
even tracked over each customer contact point.


Complaints and customer
feedback forms are not regular because they are received at the discretion of
the customer.


Complaints tend to be subjective,
especially as a bad event can be over-exaggerated and taint the whole
relationship. Customers often get “on a roll” when they start complaining and
bring up as many trivial points as possible to “make a point.”


Complaints and feedback
forms tend to be specific about one event and do not address anything else
that happened.


Complaints and feedback
forms tend to be more verbose than binary. It’s difficult to measure words.


Complaints are directly
actionable when they reference an event. If a customer directly complains
about an employee, it is not difficult to address the issue with the employee


Complaints and feedback
cards are emotional and therefore open to exaggeration, compromising the
accuracy. For example, a wait time of two minutes can be “honestly”
remembered as five minutes.

Staff Interaction

Complaints and feedback
are an excellent way to capture the staff interaction as it pertains to a
particular event.


Complaints and feedback
can predict the future direction of sales in a limited way, but not the
quantity. Decreasing complaints may indicate sales will increase, and vice
versa. But they can’t predict by how much.


This form of data
collection is very unstructured and therefore can reveal surprisingly trends that
were unforeseen (e.g., a spike in complaints about a promotion not being

Consumer Insight

Complaints are usually
so mixed with emotion that the emotion buries any insights towards buying

Feedback forms can give
an indication of future customer behaviour if the questions are asked
directly and correctly. But the answers must be treated cautiously. Asking
whether you would be willing to buy in six months may sound like a valid
question, but it gives no assurance that it will actually happen.

Operational Insight

Complaints and feedback
give direct operational insights but only in pockets. They often don’t report
the 99% of operations that are happening quietly, and efficiently.

Real Customer

Feedback is provided by
real customers who have transacted with the brand.

Customer Conversation

Customer conversations
tend to be centred on the initial customer contact and a single response. The
conversations rarely go beyond those two events.

Brand Insight

Very little brand
insight is provided because the communication tends to be for a single pocket
of events for a small group of people. It does not provide any brand insight
to the majority of people who didn’t have problems.

Feedback forms may be
designed to give some brand feedback, but care should be taken in taking the
answers too seriously because customers may not share the truth about their

Right Context

Complaints are received
within the context of a real situation relative to the situation.

Feedback forms are
usually broad and not in the context of a real situation. However, modern
feedback loops through email and apps can now allow more immediacy and data
within the context of a real transaction.

Lifetime Measurement

These measurements are
not lifetime measurements and tend to be limited to a specific event.