Are Employees Rigging Your Customer Feedback?

by Martha Brooke | February 26, 2014

An often-cited statistic is that 80% of CEOs believe they deliver a superior customer experience, yet only 8% of their customers agree. With an equally-alarming ACSI score of 77, it’s fair to wonder: are you sure you know what’s going on with your CX—is it possible you’re missing something?
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When your employees administer your customer feedback surveys, you may save money, but you sacrifice accuracy.

Ask employees what they want from a customer feedback survey, and all too often you’ll hear, “The top score!” When it comes to their conduct, that’s great, but when it comes to you getting accurate survey data, it’s a disaster.

Employees skew customer satisfaction survey results in a variety of ways for a variety of reasons. The main problem is that, explicitly and implicitly, managers often encourage employees to reach for the highest possible scores. While this is especially true when bonuses and promotions are tied to customer feedback, it happens even without a financial motivation, and it occurs across industries.

Service staff who have a personal investment in receiving favorable feedback are often the ones in charge of distributing, administering, and collecting customer feedback surveys. This incentivizes staff to choose customers for the survey who appear pleased and to avoid surveying customers who seem dissatisfied.

The most egregious example we’ve heard of with self-administered surveys is when, at the conclusion of a patient’s exam, a doctor turned to the patient, while still in his paper gown, and questioned him about how his appointment went. Talk about forcing a perfect score! In this case, the clinic knows even less about the customer experience post-survey than it did pre-survey. Before, the clinic had no information; now, it has bad information.

Because employees have strong incentives for high scores, they may skew results in their favor, making you less likely to uncover true customer insights. Employees can skew the customer feedback in a variety of ways. They can:

  • Choose pleased customers for the survey.
  • Fill out the survey for customers.
  • Toss out surveys with negative feedback.

With that in mind, here are a few ways to improve your customer feedback approach:

  • Explain to staff that you are truly interested in assessing the customer experience. Tell them that all surveys regardless of their scores are valuable.
  • Keep staff out of it. Don’t let your frontline staff decide who takes your survey. Use an independent third-party to make these judgments, or at the very least use employees from a different department.
  • Show customers that you don’t tamper with the evidence. For example, customer feedback cards and paper surveys can be turned in using a sealed envelope and a drop-box.
  • Proactively tell customers that you’re interested in hearing from them whether their opinion of you is good or bad.

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