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customer experience
Shaun Smith
  • By Shaun Smith
  • Feb 13 2017

To Fly to Charge - Part Two

How not to collect customer feedback

I published a blog last week relating to a recent experience of British Airways and their new policy of charging for food and drink.

It generated a lot of interest and comments, with over 8,000 people reading the post. So I thought readers might be interested to hear the rest of the story. (No, it didn’t end there!)

Shortly after my unhappy experience I received an email inviting me to participate in a customer satisfaction survey. Now, as I am sure you will agree, as consumers we are constantly bombarded with requests to complete surveys on a whole host of brands and, if you are anything like me, we ignore most of them.

We generally only respond because:

1) There is an incentive to do so.

2) We have had a terrific experience and want to acknowledge it.

3) We have had a terrible experience and want to vent.

Whichever of these three reasons is the primary motivation, the company runs the risk of collecting skewed data because response rates are usually very low and the longer the survey, the lower they are and the more unrepresentative the data becomes of the customer base as a whole. It is critical therefore, that the survey design guards against this.

I clearly fell into the third category but, because I have been a loyal customer of BA for many years, I wanted to provide helpful feedback and so decided to complete the survey.

The survey opened with the classic NPS question ‘On the basis of your experience how likely are you to recommend BA’. I gave a low rating and from memory, the next question was something on the lines of ‘Why did you rate this way?’ and offered an open text field. I wrote in some detail about the experience I had on my recent flight. Because of my background in airlines and Customer Experience l like to think I was able to offer some insightful and objective feedback that would be of value to BA.

With modern text analytics, that was all BA needed - my likelihood of recommendation and the reasons for rating that way. I tried to submit the survey at this point but it didn’t allow me to do so. It went on for page after page asking me about every single touchpoint in excruciating detail. I have seen some poorly designed surveys in my time, but this one by KPMG Nunwood is one of the longest (and worst). I struggled through the first few pages but then got completely bored and answered N/A for everything else.

So what can we learn from this?

1) Behaviorists like Daniel Kahneman, tell us that our memory of an experience is most influenced by the peak of pleasure or pain and how it ends. My flight experience of BA ended on a pain point because I didn’t get my coffee. The end experience was then made worse by this survey that introduced a further touch-point that simply served to reinforce my feeling that BA cares more about its needs than the customer’s. So think about your VOC system as a touch-point, in and of itself. One that should reinforce the brand experience and deliver the promise. And most importantly, don’t make it painful!

2) Don’t force your customer to follow your process; make the process work around them. If they want to submit feedback without answering all of your boring questions they should be able to do so. Force them to answer everything and you are likely to get respondents bailing out halfway through, high levels of N/A responses or false answers through pure frustration.

3) Don’t confuse genuinely listening to customers with using them as some form of unpaid quality controller to audit the minutia of your operation. Make it easy for them, not for you. Allow them to feedback using whichever channel they prefer, and in as much detail as they want and then acknowledge it. Interestingly, to that point, despite my tagging BA when I tweeted about the post, there has been no response from the airline so far.

Finally, if you must use customers to audit your operation then make it representative by selecting a number of customers at random, providing a thank-you of some kind for giving up their time. In the airline business, recruiting your frequent flyers as a source of more detailed feedback can work well and acknowledges their status at the same time. You can also use more innovative techniques to engage your best customers like this latest app from the Service Profit Chain Institute.