If we are not willing to be honest as customers how can we expect businesses to get better?

If we are not willing to be honest as customers how can we expect businesses to get better

Today I wanted to tell you a story about customer surveys. Normally, I write about how I think many businesses either don’t survey their customers enough, in the right way or make their surveys too long or complicated and then complain that they don’t get the response rates that they want.

However, today I want to turn the tables a little onto us, as customers.

Anyway, yesterday I got home from a set of meeting in London quite early and as I arrive I switched on the TV to catch a bit of the news and sit down for five minutes before I spent a bit of time catching up on emails, comments on the blog, comments on other blogs, tweets etc. As I was looking to see what news was on I came across the end of a programme called ‘Four in  a Bed‘ on Channel 4, here in the UK. This is nothing saucy but one of those business reality TV programmes, where four Bed & Breakfast hotel owners throw open their doors and take turns to stay with one another – and pay what they consider fair for their stay at the end of the programme. I’m happy to say that I didn’t watch all of the programme (not my cup of tea) but when I switched it on there was a section where each of the hotel owners (husband and wife teams) had just stayed at one of the other participants B&B and they had to fill in a feedback survey form.

Now, what I then saw was a lot of discussions about how somethings were ok, good, not good, disappointing, made them feel uncomfortable etc. But, then I watched how the scoring process seem to go with participants giving scores or 8 out of ten for something that they were happy with and then 5 out of ten for things that they weren’t happy with.

In this case, there may have been some competitive shenanigans going on but I have noticed this type of behaviour before ie. not giving someone top marks or not marking them down when they truly deserved it. And, to compound it, when they were delighted or disappointed not taking the opportunity to tell the business why.

This got me to thinking.

Why do we do that? Do we have a block when it comes to marking someone down or giving them great marks when completing a survey?

Think about it this way. As a customer, if you give someone 5 out of ten then in many exam terms that still means they passed. But, is your 5 intended to mean pass or fail?

As businesses we have to encourage and educate our customers to be as honest as they can with us. Otherwise, why don’t we just exlude the bottom (and top) of our scales.

Do we avoid giving criticism and praise? Why is that?

Thanks to hfabulous for the image.

11 comments On If we are not willing to be honest as customers how can we expect businesses to get better?

  • If we are not willing to be honest as customers how can we expect businesses to get better? http://bit.ly/fOpdy8

  • Great read! RT @adrianswinscoe: If we're not honest as customers how can we expect businesses to get better? http://bit.ly/fOpdy8

  • Adrian,
    I have spent years dissection traditional CSI surveys, customer engagement surveys and on-line reviews. What I have learned, is that the data is meaningless unless the customer actually goes out their way to say something beyond the scope of the survey. There is only one reason why a customer, you or I, would do that. We would really have to experience something that was unexpectedly good or bad. We would have to “Feel the Difference.” so to speak. Human nature being what it is, most of us will avoid confrontation at all cost, so as the late Jim Rohn would say, “It’s like the seasons, you don’t change it you deal with it.”

    Here is my bias: I think, forget the surveys that are typical and focus on the ones that say something beyond the check-marks. Those will validate weather what you are doing is working or not for the customer, everything else is irrelevant. Regardless if you believe your customer is telling the truth or not, you have to look beyond the metric and find the “rose.”

    I was fortunate to have a 3rd party vendor that provided my company with customer engagement analytics based on customer remarks not “would would you refer family and friends.” Those insights were game changing for my company, it shifted our entire business model as it related to how we interacted with the customer during the “sales cycle.”

    P.S I don’t like to use the term “sales cycle” but I’m tired and took the easy way out:)

    My .02

    • Hi Bill,
      Great comment and I agree that the way forward is to re-invent the current surveys that are, generally, used.

      I’d be interested in hearing more about your story, the 3rd party vendor, what you did, what they did and how it changed how you do business with your customer.

      Interested in writing a guest post on this subject?


  • Adrian,
    I’ve never done a guest post before, let me know how it works and I would be happy to dive into the topic.

    Thanks for asking!

  • Hi Adrian,

    While surveys can be a great tool I think they can make feedback a bit “Black and White”or “All or None”. Personally I prefer it when someone takes the time to ask me the questions which have been set out and dig a little deeper.


    • Hi Wendy,
      That’s a great suggestion but I guess that may only work for companies that have customers where they only have a manageable number of customers and where they do business face to face.

      How would you propose to mange it if the company has a large number of customers that it cannot meet face to face? Over the phone? Via a more open-ended approach?

      Look forward to your thoughts,


  • Good to talk with you in person about this post at the Brighton Tweetup on Friday 🙂

    Definitely food for thought, and I’ve been known to “over-rate” on surveys in the past…maybe because I didn’t want to “upset” the person/business I was giving feedback to. Totally unproductive of course, as we don’t learn much when we don’t realise either what we are doing really well or things we could improve through change.


    • HI Kate,
      Thanks for your comment and great to see you in Friday too.

      I think you are right that there is something about how we respond to conflict in there and that we may equate giving someone or something poor marks on a survey with having a potential for creating a conflict situation.

      On the other hand, why are we also reluctant for giving praise where praise is due?

      Do you agree? But, then

  • RT @adrianswinscoe: If we are not willing to be honest as customers how can we expect businesses to get better? http://bit.ly/fk2ZBS

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