Friday, February 5, 2016

Voice of the Customer (revisited)

Voice of the Customer (revisited)

I have written on the subject of customer/consumer/complainer voice many times (see for example: ).  Asking for, and acting upon input from those that use your product or service is about as Deming as you can get.  Without that input there is no “S” for PDSA.  

Without feedback there is no Crosbian Quality until it is too late.  If you don’t ask, then the only way to discover that you are not meeting customers’ requirements is when they walk away.

So asking is not only important, it is critical, provided that you do it in a way that invites the responses that you want and need (see: ).
But for every “ointment”, there is always the probability of the “fly”.  (Said another way, for every silver lining, there is always the dark cloud).   To stretch this analogy sequence one more time, what do you do when you send out your party invitations and still nobody shows?  
My point is that writing the perfect survey doesn’t cut it when nobody responds.
So let’s go through the possibilities.

Personal error:  You created the survey but forgot to actually send it out.  Oops – dummy!

Technical error:  You tried to create the survey but copied the link to the survey incorrectly, so that people who tried to respond could not find the survey.  Oops again – dummy dummy!!

Tactical error:  You created the survey and sent it out correctly, and yet many did not receive it.  That actually can be more common than you think.  There are some (many?) employers that do not allow surveylinks  into their email system. 

Selection error:  You picked and focused on the wrong audience.  Folks who are one time or sparsely intermittent users are rarely sufficiently interested in giving an opinion, although that may be a really important group to try and nurture; what is it about what you are trying to do that elicits indifference.  And is there something that you can do to change their attitude and interest?

This is actually a long preamble for me to express my own personal frustration.  I work in a world with a lot of folks interested in Quality.  We have that in common.  I provide a service for which they or their employers pay for them to participate.  That should make many of these folks “motivated customers”.   I know they receive the invitation to participate and I know the link works, but if I get a 50 percent opening up the survey rate, that is an exceedingly rare event.  Indeed it is rare that I ever exceed 33 percent.

Frankly I don’t get it.  We promote the survey only and with the information on why it is important.  The survey takes less than two minutes to complete.  The vast majority of information can be addressed by choice buttons, so that they don’t have to write anything.  There are multiple ways that their anonymity is protected.   Any yet not only do they not respond,  many don’t even open the survey.

Being involved in Quality usually means being interested in expressed opinion – of theirs and others.  In my experience, Quality oriented folks are rarely shy about expressing their mind, and inviting others to do the same.  And yet many, (far too many in my opinion) are comfortable in bypassing an open invitation to be involved. 
But let me be really clear.  Of the folks that do participate, we are really pleased with their opinions.  Most (YAY!! ) and pleased with what we are doing, others maybe not so much (kind of yay).  While we can’t respond directly back to the critical or positive folks (the downside of anonymity) we can be collectively transparent by sharing the results, which we do.  

Sometimes I speculate about sending out a survey to discern the characteristics of survey responders versus survey non-responders, but that would seem to be a hopeless jump down the wrong rabbit hole.  

When there appears to be no solution, does that mean give up and move on?  

Not very likely!!!


  1. Guilty as charged. I know the importance of surveys as a tool for continual improvement for an organization. Problem at times is procrastination until the survey is closed.

  2. Thanks for your comment. I agree procrastination is a common and constant challenge. We have to "shock" folks out of the comfort of non-reporting.
    Over the last few years we have taken to reminders at least 3 days a week often not coming from ME. Sometimes we find that the second voice can be more successful than mine.
    PS: Prize offers don't help


Comments, thoughts...