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Faux Feedback – Are You Doing Customer Surveys Wrong?

Authors: Jay Baer Jay Baer
Posted Under: Customer Experience
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Faux Feedback – Are You Doing Customer Surveys Wrong

The most overrated thing in business—and in life—is praise. Praise makes you feel terrific, but it’s not very illuminating because you almost always already know what you’re good at, don’t you?

Criticism is the petri dish of improvement. Without awareness of what you could do better, you are unlikely to actually do it better, right?

Why then do so many companies go to the trouble of asking customers to complete surveys, but then invalidate the responses by incentivizing the wrong behaviors?

You know what I mean. Lots of industries are guilty of faux feedback but the most egregious is probably the automobile business. If you’ve purchased a vehicle in the past five years or so, you almost assuredly have been told by the salesperson:

“You will be receiving a survey in the mail in about two weeks, and I’d really appreciate it if you gave us all 10s.”

Maximum awkward, especially if the service was definitively not a “10.”

So the survey comes, and because the person specifically asked you to rate them highly, it makes you think twice about providing accurate, candid feedback.

Many (perhaps most) dealerships and their employees are financially rewarded high survey scores and receive extra bonuses for all “10s”. This is EXACTLY the wrong way to incentivize feedback. The dealership doesn’t benefit, other than creating for themselves a false sense of excellence. Every time you create incentives (financial, execution, or otherwise) that cause customers to provide anything other than the truth, you are doing your company a disservice.

The better way to structure these feedback programs would be to incentivize the employees for survey completion rate, not high scores. That way, the conversation with the customer could be shifted to:

“You will be receiving a survey in the mail in about two weeks, and we desperately want your honest feedback. In fact, our dealership is rewarded every time a survey is completed, so I’d appreciate it if you took just a few minutes to tell us the truth about your experience.”

Not awkward. Awesome.

Just last week, I had that experience. Not at a car dealership, but at the Atlanta airport. As we went down the jetway to the plane, a woman handed out little cards (pictured) and said:

“We want to be the best airport in the world. We really want your feedback. Good or bad. Good or bad, we want to know.”


If you are using surveys to collect customer feedback, great. Most companies don’t even do that, so bravo for being ahead of your competitors. But if you’re going to ask for feedback, embrace REAL feedback. Don’t have a survey program that is designed to skim off the positive and leave the criticisms souring at the bottom of the bottle. You’re hurting nobody but yourself.

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