Common traps of customer reviews II.

Common traps of customer reviews II.

As was presented in the first piece of this series of articles, we are about to give a bit of a headspace to our personal experience about customer review queries and processes, mostly with the purpose of providing some generalised advice on how to do that right and meaningfully, once you so decide. We began with a general advice: not to do it only for the sake of doing it. 

As you already know, we acknowledge that receiving feedback from the customers is key, at least if you take continuous improvement seriously. Consequently, we strongly believe that to require, collect and process the information is also key to generate a meaningful outcome. An outcome, which is suitable for building the right internal decisions/procedures on it. Provided that not only the definition of the objectives but also the implementation, their translation into practical steps is key. let us focus now to the following important matter: 

#2. Be clear about the subject

Well, it seems obvious for the first glance. However, according to our observation, almost four out of five customer review requests are unclear, or – at least – confusing. In general, there are three types of queries: (a) about the company, the product or service provider, (b) the product or service, itself, (c) the customer service, in particular. In the letter case, one may only be requested to opine on the quality of the service provided by the particular customer service representative, or the effectiveness of the solution provided. Those who are ready to take some further challenges may also ask for suggestions, in the form of e.g. ‘tell us how we can do better’, or similar. In relation to this latter, unstructured, free style comments may be expected, which are even more challenging methodologically to be processed properly. But leave those questions for another article. 

Instead of shooting for comprehensiveness, let us be practical, and take a look at a very common situation. For illustration, let us assume that you sell a device, for the operation of which you are also selling some particulars and provide product support. You also have customer service in some form (especially, if you are obliged by law). In order to differentiate yourself on the market (and collect some valuable data, in parallel), you start a sales campaign and give a pack of free particulars for those who register on your website. Everything seems to be running smoothly, until the first customer cannot register, can register, but does not receive the free pack of particulars, receives it but it does not match the device, or anyhow defected or not suitable. Bingo. Here is your first case. If you are lucky, the customer contacts the customer service and  asks for help or files a complaint. If you are not, they keep their opinion for themselves, which surely will not be overly positive. 

Assume that you are lucky and there is a contact from the customer, so you get aware of the problem. Things can go, basically, two ways: (a) you solve the problem smoothly and win back the trust of the customer, (b) you cannot solve it according to the expectations of the customer (let us not even work with the possibility of not solving at all….). As a next step, your instant query is going out to the respective customer with the query of …. What exactly? 

Majority of the cases something like: ‘rate your experience’. Well. Which experience, exactly? The one with the device, the failed delivery, the customer service function, or the individual, who got into contact with the customer? The sentence, the question, the query may be different, but the issues may still apply. Going further down this road, even if you receive some feedback, you may face the next difficulty: what to do with it? Shall you improve the website, the logistics, customer service or what exactly? 

We cannot do much else, than point back to the suggestion above: be clear on the subject, at the very beginning, such as the the followings: 

– what is exactly the target, meaning what your query points out to, 

– if the customer is in the position to form an opinion on that matter, meaning e.g. if you ask about the company, if they had enough time, information, connection, relationship, whatsoever to opine on that, 

– can you expect unbiased feedback, and if not, how you may deal with it, 

– more broadly, how are you planning to process the received information and what would you like to use it for. 

Obviously, this is a very simple approach, and simple with a reason: to make our arguments clear and easy to follow. By the help of understanding the fundamentals, you can adjust it to your own, more complex situation. 

At last, let us draw your attention to one more thing which leads a bit further away from economics and even law, and dip our toes into behavioural sciences. We would strongly advise to consider not only what customers ‘say’, once responding to a query, but also what they do not. That may also be an immanent part of the whole picture. 

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