The fickleness of feedback

The customer’s always right, right?


Or at least, the customer’s opinion has to be taken with a large pinch of salt. Because frankly my dears, who can really be bothered with feedback?

But before you come over all high and mighty, get down off that high horse. I don’t mean that the feedback I get from my clients doesn’t matter to me. Quite the contrary. I place great value on useful and constructive feedback – it’s the single best method I’ve got as a sole trader for assessing and improving my own performance.

Sometimes the feedback hurts and is hard to take. But it needs to be heard and taken on board. A recent paragraph received made me mad as a hornet for a few hours, but once I’d come out of my silly strop, I was able to accept the suggestions seriously, dust down my ego and buff up my act.

But the sheer level of feedback we are being asked to provide as individuals day-to-day is beyond the pale. Recently I’ve been asked to provide my feedback on everything from what my cup of coffee buying experience was like in a certain high street chain, to a customer satisfaction survey for a t-shirt ordered online that hasn’t even been dispatched yet. I’ve completed an interminable feedback form about flying from Edinburgh to Madrid on a service about which I was hard pressed to find anything more useful to say than “nice”, and yet I wasn’t asked to provide feedback on a training workshop which was really helpful and very well delivered.

The fickle world of feedback has really made me begin to question the validity and value of customer satisfaction survey methodology.

You really have to wonder if anybody’s got the energy or inclination to say anything useful and constructive. And that’s before you even start to consider how seriously you need to take some of the feedback. Do you alter the shape of your service on the basis on one client’s articulate and copious feedback? Do you take into account their state of mind or psychological situation? Let’s not forget, some folk just like to be hyper critical and horrid.

On the other hand, lots of folk operate only on the “nice to be nice” set of behaviours, and wouldn’t hurt a fly let alone your feelings with anything other than warm words and good vibes. Being told face-to-face that your work is “brilliant”, “fantastic” and “really, really good” is excellent for the the old self esteem, and is wonderful when it’s offered with feeling and belief. But it’s maybe what’s not said that matters most.

And anyway, if my many of my fellow sole traders and I are anything to go by, we are our own harshest critics. I’m doing my level best to be good at what I do, but as this small business approaches it’s very first birthday, I need to know from those who have paid for my services, that I’m on the right (or wrong) track. So dear clients, if you can’t get no satisfaction, or even if you can, but not enough, I want to know about it.

You heard the lady. Hit me with your best shot. It won’t hurt, much.