Message to CX profession – Transparency begets trust

I get requests to complete surveys quite often. They come from my bank, after in branch transactions, websites I visited, customer service of my credit cards and cable providers. caged bird tweetsThey all want to know how I would score whatever is important to them, and leave a little space for my comments. Some of these surveys are just 2 or 3 questions long, but others expect me to answer pages of seemingly repetitive and circular questions.

I have never seen a survey request that explains coherently why my opinion is so important to them. In other words, they never indicate what is going to happen after I have completed the survey, carefully answered all the questions, and provided very detailed comments. Presumably, if the tabulated scores are high enough, whoever created or sponsored these surveys, will high five each other and cash their bonuses. But what about my needs? Would my contribution help anybody to make a better selection? How would I know if my responses contributed to a better product or service? Sometimes a company proudly advertises their customer satisfaction success, but I wonder if  their claims can be taken seriously because there is no way for a consumer to validate them. For these reasons I stopped answering survey requests a long time ago.

Amazon is considered by many, the poster child of customer centricity. I have done business with Amazon for over 10 years and made hundreds of various purchases over that time. I cannot recall a single survey request from them, ever. Could it be, customer-centric Amazon does not care about the customer experience they provide? I think they don’t survey their customers because they understand the power of authenticity that is growing fast with the advance of social consumer. Amazon understood that consumers will never trust a brand more then they trust each other. A long time ago, instead of collecting self-serving survey ratings, they decided to enable their customers to share their experiences with each other in an open forum. Yes, over the years there were incidents of manipulation attempts. Yes, the Liekert stars are not particularly informative. However, overall the customer reviews are extremely valuable to consumers who learned how use the reviews to reduce the uncertainty of their purchasing decisions.

“Amazon does not make money selling goods. Amazon makes money helping customers make good purchasing decisions.”

According to Keller Fay Group research, two primary reasons customers write reviews and publish them online are:

  1. (90%) Help other consumers to make the right choice for them – kind of: “pay it forward”
  2. (70%) Help brands to improve their performance. Consumers rely on the transparency of their input to motivate brands to act

I can only guess that since Amazon does not survey their customers, they probably use the content of reviews, posted on their properties, to measure the level of customer satisfaction of doing business with them. There are plenty of very informative references in many product reviews that indicate how customers regard their experience with Amazon. Explosive and continuous growth of this company is also a pretty good indicator of the consumers’ affinity.

So why do so many companies still shy away from exploring the content, provided by their customers without solicitation? The answers I’ve been given by Voice of Customer practitioners over the years have a common thread:

  • Lack of control over the process
  • Doubts in authenticity of reviews
  • Fear of negative sentiments

In other words, it seems these companies do not trust consumers, who provide their feedback transparently. Yet, these very companies expect consumers to trust them with their feedback without any transparency at all. How reasonable is such expectation?

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4 Responses to Message to CX profession – Transparency begets trust

  1. Marian Trusca, Managing Partner at Whi Experience says:

    Gregory, I like very much the thought “Presumably, if the tabulated scores are high enough, whoever created or sponsored these surveys, will high five each other and cash their bonuses. But what about my needs?”
    That is my feeling too and you gave me a kick for not doing the same mistake with my clients for whom I’m asked to design surveys ☺.
    Amazon, indeed makes a great difference.
    Thank you!

  2. Michelle Batt says:

    Love this! We are max-ing out on surveys. They can of course be sources of trending & tracking and some organizations use them to operate and collect revenue (i.e., hospitals receive medicare reimbursements based on Quality and Satisfaction scores). After executing and collecting results, I worry that as you say the people responsible are “high-fiving…” Unfortunately, sometimes organizations don’t do much with survey results (don’t drill down, cross correlate with other data, etc…). I truly believe that if they are not doing anything and taking action, they should re-purpose that budget to other even more valuable methods of gathering feedback and insights. Go to various stakeholder groups, utilize online comments and other more qualitative sources of data, that will help guide decision making and action to improve the experience provided. I always say don’t forget about your own employees as a gold mine of rich data on your customers. Thank you for posting about this!

  3. Gary Lillian says:

    Great comments in you post.

    Do companies ever consider the “sampling bias” of listening only to customer who willing to overcome the time and trust barriers and actually complete a survey? Might their opinions be radically different from those who say: “Not worth my time”.

  4. Gregory says:

    Interesting point. In my experience most companies do not see it as a bias, if they control an entire process. Even when their sample base is much smaller than feedback available in the “wild”. In our studies the opinions, found in customer reviews, may or may not be radically different. However, they often provide insights that a company have never thought about asking in survey.

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