Ask Your Customers, The Downside

There are many missed opportunities to engage and communicate with your customer regardless if you are a start-up, hospital, retailer, etcc…  As noted in the previous blog there can be great upside when engaging in brainstorming and improving your product.  But there can be a downside as well in how and what your customers will communicate.

According to a study published by Stanford University there is a significant downside to asking too many questions and even placing too much emphasis to the customer on grading the experience.   According to Itamar Simonson of the Stanford Graduate School of Business

…some popular survey methods actually put consumers in a negative frame of mind, hardly the results the companies paying for the survey had envisioned.

The study primarily highlights how creating emphasis on the review of the experience puts customers in a mindset to find fault and that asking questions in advance significantly skews the perception of the experience.  In conclusion  the article’s author Bill Snyder writes:

the costs of surveys taken in advance of shopping exceed the benefits of these surveys by introducing an unacceptable level of bias and producing negative evaluations.

A few suggestions for producing more accurate customer feedback:

1.    Don’t ask questions in advance.  As the study referenced above shows, consumers focus too much on finding the faults in the experience.

2.    Keep questions brief.  Unless you are paying people for their time, value the fact people are willing to share and ask less than ten questions.

3.    Measure what can be changed.  Although there is a great deal of interesting information that can be gathered for research purposes, but only measure what is most impactful.

4.    Ask peoples opinions.  Often surveys attempt to put people in a position to give feedback in an area they have no expertise.  Survey what people are experts in, their own experience.

Additional Reading:
Be Careful What You Ask Your Customers.  Stanford Graduate School of Business News, 2007.

Related Articles:
Why Not Ask Your Customer
Survey What Can Be Changed
89% of Reporters Finding Story Ideas on the Internet

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