I’ve held discussions with four different clients wishing to ‘pick my brains’ on issues relating to gathering feedback. Here are five of the key reasons I shared on why actively seeking customer feedback works with a focus on the hidden benefits arising from the fifth of these points.
1. Taking the time to ask customers shows that you don’t take their business for granted. If you act on their suggestions it demonstrates that you really do value their opinion.
2. Positive responses give you the opportunity to ask permission to use their comments as testimonials. If they say you do a great job, this is far more believable than if you say it.
3. Negative comments are the schoolbooks from which we learn. They give us a chance to improve. They also alert us to unexpected customer perceptions and provide an opportunity to test whether other customers share their views. We can then work on influencing these perceptions.
4. The act of asking a question rather than purely giving information engages a different part of the brain and gets customers more actively thinking about the potential benefits of being your customer.
5. Customer surveys can be used to cement in the customer’s subconscious that dealing with you makes sense – This is the psychological principle of consistency.
Let’s explore the last point because it’s one you may not yet have thought through and used to your advantage.
In his groundbreaking book ‘Influence Science and Practice’ Dr Robert Cialdini outlines his 6 principles of persuasion. One of these is ‘Consistency’.
He quotes some great examples including where a university’s research team surveyed residents of a suburb on community issues. One of the questions was to ask them what they would say if approached by the American Cancer Society to spend three hours collecting money on their behalf. Not wanting to sound uncharitable most people said, “Yes” (easy to say when there is no ‘cost’). When the American Cancer Society called people who had said “Yes” a couple of weeks later and asked for their help in collecting in their neighbourhood the response rate was in excess of 700% higher than in neighbouring suburbs where the initial survey hadn’t been carried out.
The same survey strategy has been used in the US (where voting isn’t compulsory) to encourage people to vote. By asking citizens to predict whether they would vote on election day, researchers have been able to increase significantly the turnout at the polls among those called.
So, the research of Cialdini and others is telling us that people typically prefer their behaviours to be consistent with their pre-existing attitudes, statements, values and actions.
In a follow up book that he co-authored with two other experts, ‘Yes! 50 secrets for the science of persuasion’ Cialdini points out that long term customers often forget why they chose you over the competition in the first place. This can mean that if a competitor comes up with a good deal they might be tempted to switch. So, you need to get them to remind themselves why they chose you. Feedback surveys (usually with an incentive for completion e.g. “Go in the draw to win...”) in which they are asked why they like doing business with you are a great way of achieving this.
The authors say that this process will strengthen your customers’ commitment to your organisation by reminding them that the continued relationship is rational rather than just habitual.