If They’re Talking, Listen Now: 3 Ways to Hear What Customers Are Saying About You.

How many times have you been told at a cash register “tell us how we’re doing” by taking a survey at the bottom of a receipt?  I’ve had two recent excellent experiences as a customer at retail stores where they might have capitalized on my excitement about an employee who goes above and beyond.  But after I told the managers about my great experience, instead of documenting it, I was told that I could really help that employee by calling the number on the receipt or taking an online survey and giving my feedback there.

Talk about feeling unheard.  

I took my time to provide detail about my experience and they wanted me to take more time to give that detail to an operator or automated response system totally unconnected from the local store in which these employees work.  Add to that, the expectation that I might care enough to prioritize calling their customer support line over any number of my own needs.  I got the feeling these retail “leaders” thought I worked for them.  The audacity.

Because I like juicy material for my blog (with the side benefit of a promised 20% discount on my next purchase), I took one such survey.  And my experience was not surprising:

It encompassed 37 pages of questions and took me 11 minutes to complete.  By the end I was frustrated (some of the questions were redundant and didn’t even apply to my in-store experience).   The pure length of time I spent online actually prevented me from having extra time to browse the store.

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If you want to have a deeper connection with your customers,  you need to remove any and all expectation from them to act or react.  Their feedback, in any way they choose to give it is a gift to you.  Here are 3 ways to listen to your customers and create a more meaningful experience:

1. When a customer gives you feedback on an employee, product or process in your store, accept it, document it and tell them who next will hear what they have to say.  If she takes  60 seconds or 5 minutes from her day to tell you how she feels, you sure as heck can take 5 minutes to make sure that important customer reflection doesn’t go into a black hole.

2. Do a video log of customer feedback.  Customers love to talk about their experience, not necessarily write it. Capturing their words and expressions through a webcam, iPod, or any simple video device at the point of purchase/experience provides not only their words but their context and emotional expression.  Ever try to decode an email from someone you don’t know?  It’s so easy to read it wrong. We humans need nonverbal as well as verbal communication to get the full picture.

3. If you insist on a take-home test, put the survey at the TOP of the receipt with a big fat smiley face or graphic of something cute or funny.   Put the value of their opinion at the top of your list visibly for them to see.  This subtle shift will subliminally go a long way.  Give the customer something significant for their time, not “a chance to win a $100 gift card”.  But be aware that the customer taking the survey could be more interested in the reward than giving you good feedback.


By the way, this applies to all sorts of customer relationships, whether they are buying your product or making a donation.  Don’t squander an opportunity to listen and learn!

If They’re Talking, Listen Now: 3 Ways to Hear What Customers Are Saying About You.

4 Responses

  1. My cynical self says that all of these surveys are just ways to capture data and your email addresses. They don’t care about the feedback, they just want your contact information. And they use their employees to get it. The surveys always promote this vague sense of guilt in me that the employees’ jobs depend on getting these good reviews, but I ignore them anyway!

    Claire Wagner January 3, 2014 at 12:37 pm #
    • Suzanne Oehler

      I hear you, Claire! I tend to believe it’s usually a feeble attempt to give the impression of customer service. The most important aspect of service is the most direct relationship.

      Suzanne Oehler January 23, 2014 at 10:56 pm #
  2. What about when you want to survey people about their experiences of say a mental health issue to inform your organisation. Again I am conscious of asking too much of people, but this is so important to inform our NFP and promote the extent of this issue. I don’t want to offer incentives as I need credible data (and to make sure people not completing for the reward). Any suggestions for getting people to contribute to this type of survey?

    Nicole Highet January 17, 2014 at 2:26 pm #
    • Suzanne Oehler

      Hi Nicole. Those that care most about what your organization does are most likely to give you their feedback. How about offering opportunities for those connected to you on Facebook to respond about feelings about mental health? Giving an option to respond either on the Facebook page, link to a form (survey is a very impersonal term), an email address or best yet – a phone number – can encourage those already connected to you to be real about the issue. This can apply to both your organization’s page and to your personal page (and those of your board members and staff).

      Suzanne Oehler January 23, 2014 at 11:00 pm #

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