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Wednesday
Oct242012

Timing is everything

It’s not as if there is not enough data in the world already (we should know) but there seems to be a current fashion for generating even more by canvassing opinions as soon as you open up any number of websites:   “We’re striving to improve and would appreciate you taking a few minutes to complete a survey.”  Give me a chance, I’ve only just arrived on your site and I don’t even know what you do yet!

If looking for 'whats' don't forget the 'whens' 

Now, over the years I have commissioned many customer surveys and what always strikes me is how, along with things like the precise phrasing of the questions and the people taking part, the results are dramatically affected by ‘when’ respondents are asked for their opinions. 

This observation was reinforced recently when I was invited to complete a customer survey for a major technology company.  You can probably guess it wasn’t a great experience and the reason for this blog is to hopefully stop you making the same mistake. 

I knew I was eligible for a new phone so I was expecting my current provider to ring bearing gifts and upgrades.  Sure enough, that day came three weeks ago. 

No such thing as a “free” signal booster.

We have all been there and after thirty minutes on the call, and a lot of me saying “I don’t need that,” I agreed to take a new smart phone.  It wasn’t the highest spec, but it was significantly better than my current phone.  And not only that, since the mobile phone signal where I live is so bad, I managed to wangle a “free” signal booster. So in summary, I had a new and improved phone, an improved signal at home and a lower price - happy days!  As I wasn’t around the next day to take delivery, we agreed it would be delivered two days later, on Thursday.  

For the first time in my life a call with a mobile phone provider was a really pleasurable experience and I was happy.  Of course, cutting a long story short, it went wrong. 

Thursday morning came (and went) and no phone arrived.  I tried to check progress on the courier’s website using the tracking number I had been given but no such delivery existed. 

I took a deep breath and rang my phone company.   “Oh dear, that order was cancelled and it’s not been replaced with anything.  I am sorry,” came the reply. “As a gesture of good will, we will upgrade it to a better phone with double the memory.  Could we deliver it tomorrow?” 

She was most upset when I said “No, cancel the order I will go elsewhere.”  It wasn’t an idle threat as I was with customers the next day and then flying to the US. 

However, two hours later I got another call from my phone supplier.   They were clearly more senior as they had got creative and arranged for the phone and the booster to be delivered to their store nearest my meeting.  To say I was cynical was an understatement, but in fairness to them it worked and I picked up my bigger and better phone plus the booster on Friday afternoon. 

I only wish that was the end of the story. When I got home on the Friday evening my eighty five year old neighbour knocked on my door saying that they had a parcel for me.  No prizes for guessing, but it was the original ‘cancelled’ order.   How many phone boosters does a man need?

Since the answer is ‘one’, the next morning (Saturday) I waited for twenty minutes on a call to the customer service department. I spent a further twenty minutes explaining what had happened and eventually I was told I would be sent a pre paid recorded mail bag so I could return the phone and booster. That was ten days ago and there has been no sign of it.  I’ve given up worrying.  I’ve got a phone (two in fact), the signal is much better at home and if the pre-paid mail bag does turn up I will happily return the extra phone.

Time for feedback

It’s not been a seamless transaction to say the least and I can’t wait to be asked to complete a survey because I will be able to give them a piece of my mind.  But wait, I completed a survey two weeks ago.  It was just after a more than satisfactory experience with their call centre.  It was a survey where, for the first time ever, I gave ten out of tens for everything.   Why haven’t I been invited to complete more surveys?  Clearly they think I am a satisfied customer – maybe even an ‘advocate’ for the company.  What a shame they didn’t wait before canvassing my opinion.  

And this is my point ladies and gentlemen, by asking customers what they think of you during a process and not waiting until you have finished,  you run the risk of generating biased data and remaining blissfully unaware of true feelings which will only come to light at the next renewal date – by which time your customers could be gone.

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