I've been in the business of guest and customer feedback for quite a while now – decades, I'm afraid to admit. During this time, I’ve witnessed and adopted evolving methodologies and approaches to gathering consumer opinions. Yet, a recent experience with an auto dealership starkly reminded me of how the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Several days after a routine service appointment for my car, I received the following text message from the dealership’s service department:
Dear Jeff, it’s John from [Auto Dealership]. Hope all is well. [Auto Manufacturer] just reached out to you with a brief 3-question survey, which is my PERSONAL report card. Hopefully, you are happy with everything. If you could help me with 10's and Yes's across the board as the entire survey reflects directly on me, it would be a tremendous help. If there is any reason why I did not earn top scores (10’s), please let me know before filling out the survey. If you did not receive the survey, it might either be in your spam folder or I entered in the wrong email address. Thank you so much!! Yours, John."
Now mind you, I’ve railed about this practice in the automotive industry for years - I wrote an article about it for a newsletter (before there were things called blogs); back then, they had only gotten as far as sending a paper survey by postal mail, and the sales representative told you about the survey coming before you walked out the dealership door (no texting yet, either). But the essence of the problem was the same then as it is now. If you dig into John’s text message above, he actually articulated the problem himself in this sentence, “If there is any reason why I did not earn top scores (10’s), please let me know before filling out the survey.“
Let’s get into why this way of asking for my “feedback” grinds my gears:
Anti- Guest/Customer Centricity: It’s in the subtitle to the blog post: you don’t care what my experience was like, you only care about yourself… this is a very bad look
Biasing the Feedback: Soliciting perfect scores undermines the purpose of feedback, which is to provide honest, constructive insights.
Personalizing Professional Assessment: While empathy towards service providers is essential, conflating personal rapport with professional evaluation can skew objective assessment.
Preemptive Problem-Solving: Asking for reasons for potential lower scores before the survey is completed detracts from spontaneous and unbiased feedback. The time for problem-solving was before the service experience ended; certainly before and separate from a request for feedback about it.
The Bigger Picture
This incident is symptomatic of a larger issue in customer feedback collection. The pressure to obtain high scores, often tied to employee evaluations or incentives, can lead to practices that compromise the integrity of the feedback process. This, in turn, can result in businesses missing out on valuable insights that could drive improvement.
Thankfully, I’ve rarely seen anything approaching this misuse of a true feedback loop in the hospitality industry. That said, here are some guiding principles of well designed guest/customer experience feedback programs:
- Every interaction (including the “ask” for feedback) with a guest/customer is part of the experience you deliver; be consistently guest/customer centric.
- Foster and embrace unfiltered honesty in guest/customer feedback.
- Use feedback as a tool for continuous, genuine improvement, not just as a metric for reward or punishment.
As I edge closer to another car purchase next year, I wonder if I'll see a new tune in feedback requests or the same old refrain from the automakers. A nod, though, to my colleagues in the hospitality industry who, on the whole, get feedback collection right. Here's to a future where sincerity in feedback is not just an expectation but a norm across all industries. May our quest for authentic feedback continue, driving meaningful improvements wherever we go.