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Thread: The threat of feedback

  1. #1
    Marketing Mentor Mikl is a Premium Member
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    The threat of feedback

    I just got back from a trip to my local supermarket. The staff there are normally very friendly. They greet you, they smile, they make eye contact. But today, the till operator was just the opposite. She didn't say hello, offer me any bags, or attempt to make conversation. In short, she pretty well ignored me.

    As I was leaving, I picked up one of the "How are we doing?" cards that the market hands out to elicit feedback. I also made a point of looking at the till operator's name badge. When she noticed me doing this, she immediately changed her attitude. She forced a smile, and even wished me a good afternoon.

    Is there a lesson here for those of us involved with marketing? Does the threat of negative feedback actually change employees' behaviour? And, to those forum members who employ customer-facing staff, do you use this kind of feedback yourself? How useful is it?

    In the end, I didn't bother to do the feedback form, mainly because I am not particularly worried by this type of unfriendly behaviour (I know some people who actually prefer it). But it did start me thinking about the wider issue.

    Mike

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    Kay (3 July 2014)

  3. #2
    Moderator Kay is a Premium Member
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    I also wonder how much of it is cultural and what people expect.

    "Have a nice day."

    Doesn't that make people want to puke because we all know how insincere it is?

    On one of my first visits to America, I went into a small shop and bought a bottle of shampoo. I thought nothing of it, but the sales assistant gave me a plastic smile and said:

    "Enjoy your product."

    I'd not been to the USA before and I kinda did a double take at this. She wanted me to enjoy a bottle of shampoo? I'd only planned to wash my hair with it.

    I wonder how much of this perma-smile plastic "customer service" has crept over to the UK. Even when I was a student (not recently!), I had a weekend job with a well-known furniture store (Mmm - there's a clue). I had to answer the phone and say,

    "Hello. This is Mmm, your friendly store. How may I help you?"

    Given that most of the calls were from irate customers who had been sold tables with three legs or some other crucial missing part, this "friendly store" spiel seemed to infuriate them. If only I'd not had to say that, I might have had some ability to solve their problems.

    It's about customer service really, isn't it? Service with a smile is nice but if it seems insincere then I'd rather not have it.

    Edit: Sorry, I just realised that I didn't answer your question

    A few times I've blogged about bad experiences (not necessarily on my own sites) and the business owner has been quick to make amends. I don't complain for no reason, but if something really is bad then I say so and quite often the management asks me to come back and try again to see if they can get a more favourable review. I think that management cares about these things, I'm not sure that staff would unless they're likely to be penalised for being sour faced.
    British Expat - helping people to live and work abroad since the year 2000.

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    Publishing Mentor dsieg58 is a Premium Member
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    I'm thinking about the Toyota dealership here in the states. Toyota is religious about seeking feedback about every aspect of the sales, service, parts, relationship. Toyota employees live in fear about getting anything less that 5 stars out of 5 on any aspect. When I had a problem I've been offered free tanks of gas, free oil changes, etc., if I wouldn't leave negative feedback. Toyota takes it seriously. I can only guess that it doesn't take very many less than steller reviews and that person no longer has a job. I mean those people bend over backwards.

    So to answer your question, I think in some businesses and companies, yes, it does make a difference. In others, no. I get negative feedback all the time and it doesn't alter my thinking or policies in the slightest. With most of those cards, I think they are filed in the circular file anyway. If I have a genuine complaint about poor customer service, I write a letter directly to the president of the company, citing names, dates, and particulars. And yes, I've seen action taken immediately.

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    David S (6 July 2014)

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    Marketing Mentor Mikl is a Premium Member
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    Kay and Dsieg, thanks to both of you for your comments (I almost said "for your feedback").

    I take your point, Kay, about the insincere "Have a nice day" syndrome. I agree completely with what you said on that point. But the situation at my local supermarket is somewhat different. There, the staff really do seem to be friendly - not because they are following some sort of pre-defined formula, but because ... well, that's the way they are. That's why I was surprised to be served by someone who seemed just the opposite.

    To digress slightly: Would you agree that, in any business, the "friendliness factor" seems to be a function of the business rather than the individuals? In other words, either all of the staff are friendly, or none of them are. I've often noticed that in shops, restaurants, pubs, etc. I wonder if that's because the management go out of their way only to hire friendly employees. Or if there is a sort of "culture" built into the business: in other words, the people at the top are naturally good-natured and helpful, and they thereby set an example to all those below them. Or am I just imagining the whole thing?

    Another point: I suppose there are some customers who actually prefer staff not to be too friendly. They just want to pay for their purchases and get out of the shop as quickly as possible. I could understand that attitude. In fact, I find it quite irritating when employees are over-friendly - especially if I don't feel like chatting myself.

    Mike

  7. #5
    Publishing Mentor dsieg58 is a Premium Member
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    I think it depends on the business. All businesses have to engage in customer service. Some more than others. My business, along with all other internet businesses, isn't engaged face to face with the customer. That allows me a little bit of leeway. On the other hand, I also have a bricks and mortar day spa which DOES directly engage the customer face to face. The customer service there is completely different. While I wholeheartedly believe in customer service and delivering a superior customer experience, I also have to draw the line at reality in both businesses. There are some customers I DON'T want. I don't want their money, or their business. In both cases the customer deserves, and gets, professionalism, courtesy, and respect.

    Currently I'm looking for a lawyer for a problem I'm having. I started out by outlining on paper my side of the story, the circumstances, the outcome I was looking for, my strengths and weaknesses in the case and I had about 10 questions for the lawyer regarding their experiences in these matters and that I was interviewing a number of lawyers. I contacted 3 lawyers who looked like a good fit. I specifically told them to contact me by email because of circumstances, I'm not available to come into their office. One lawyer called me back and left a message. I returned the call and again told him email was the best way to communicate. He called me back. He told me he wasn't giving "free email advice." I told him I wasn't looking for advice and that my questions related to his experience, not my case. He seemed in insulted, I would even question his experience. I told him I wasn't comfortable sharing the case with him and hung up. I could tell right away he was uncomfortable that I had researched, as well as put together the case for him. I was going to be in control, not him. I wasn't going to be buffaloed and BS'd by a slick lawyer.

    My point? Some people, and some businesses, aren't a good "fit" for each other. Whether it is an impolite staff member, or a badly cooked chicken, businesses, like people, sometimes just don't get along. The "vibe" is wrong or there are conflicting business/personal personalities. So in getting and evaluating feedback you also have to "vett" it terms of usefulness. While some feedback is useful, a lot is worthless. A larger business with multiple employees it is easier to say "the customer is always right." But down in the trenches, you need to be able to draw the line real quick or you'll be chasing your tail endlessly.

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    Chabrenas (7 July 2014), Mikl (9 July 2014)

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    The first thing I want from supermarket checkout staff is that they are clearly concentrating on the job in hand. I have to allow a bit of leeway here in rural France, where they chat to friends and other staff in the middle of scanning my purchases, but I admit they haven't yet made any mistakes while they're doing it - and they're just as chatty to me.

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    Mikl (9 July 2014)

  11. #7
    Marketing Mentor Mikl is a Premium Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by dsieg58 View Post
    One lawyer called me back and left a message. I returned the call and again told him email was the best way to communicate. He called me back. He told me he wasn't giving "free email advice." I told him I wasn't looking for advice and that my questions related to his experience, not my case. He seemed in insulted, I would even question his experience. I told him I wasn't comfortable sharing the case with him and hung up. I could tell right away he was uncomfortable that I had researched, as well as put together the case for him. I was going to be in control, not him. I wasn't going to be buffaloed and BS'd by a slick lawyer.
    I wonder if his attitude was because lawyers don't expect people to shop around for their services. Either they have an established pool of clients, who go to the same lawyer for advice every time without giving it much thought. Or they are approached by new clients in "distress circumstances": people who are about to be sued, or have just been arrested, for instance.

    That said, his attitude was definitely wrong - at least, from a marketing point of view. He clearly didn't make the effort to listen to what you were telling him. And he certainly shouldn't have felt that you were insulting him because you were trying to find out about his experience.

    I certainly agree with your point that 'Some people, and some businesses, aren't a good "fit" for each other.'

    Mike

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    David S (10 July 2014)

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    A lot of lawyers and doctors don't like dealing with me. LOL. A lot of these people it is ingrained to take control immediately, like cops. You are to sit there and shut up, and do what they say. That was what the lawyer above was trying to do. Take control. I take an opposite approach. My feeling is I'm hiring a professional for advice, not to tell me what to do. I'm capable of making my own decisions and taking responsibility for them. As far as I'm concerned, they are employees. I'm usually very well prepared. When I ask questions, especially in the beginning, I usually know the answers. But the one thing I look for more than anything is someone who you are paying hundreds of dollars an hour to who is either taking advantage of an emotional situation for their own personal gain, or BSing you because they don't know the answer to your question. I have no problem firing either one. I can get another with a phone call. Most of the time, most of them can sense it in the first few minutes (like the lawyer above) and the ones with control issues usually find a way to turn it around so it is my fault. As far as I'm concerned that is what the "free consultation" are for...weeding out the idiots. But there is nothing worse than paying a quack or a charlatan 100's of dollars an hour and getting royally screwed because you did so. The good ones usually welcome a well informed and a completely professional client or patient.

    Or maybe I'm just a prick.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mikl View Post
    I wonder if his attitude was because lawyers don't expect people to shop around for their services.
    It probably depends on the lawyer, and maybe even the type of practice. I never have a problem talking with a potential client for free when the objective is to explore whether there is a good fit. Dealing with businesses, I do expect that people are shopping around. A large percentage of calls I get from potential clients are from people who have obviously read my practice description on the internet. Since a search on nearly any search terms turns up plenty of lawyers, I can only assume that I am not the only one that they have looked at.

    I do, however, want to make sure that we are on the same wavelength in terms of what the conversation is going to be about. A significant percentage of calls I receive are from people who want advice on how to proceed. Although some may understand exactly what they are doing and are simply angling for legal advice without having to pay for it, I do believe that many simply don't have the experience to understand that a 'free consultation' with a personal injury lawyer is very different from a 'free consultation' with a business lawyer.

    A person injured in a traffic accident is not usually in a position to take the advice of a PI attorney from an initial consultation and use it on his own, since no one in his right mind would attempt to try a personal injury case without a lawyer.

    On the other hand, people business law issues often do exactly that. For example, I regularly get calls from people who want me to sit down and explain what the pros and cons of various entities are as a "free consultation" when they might very well walk out the door and form the entity on their own or go to a site like LegalZoom. I actually encourage people with limited funds to consider forming their own entities since the forms themselves are very simple. However, they can't expect a lawyer or accountant to take time to learn about the individual's own particular needs, assess the pros and cons and make a professional recommendation, all for free. If they want to do it one their own and save money, they have to do it ALL on their own and not expect to get all the advice for free just because they are taking the few,easy last steps on their own.

    For those and similar situations, I have developed a one hour reduced fee consultation that is about 2/3 of my regular hourly rate. An individual or small business can come in and lay out any problem, show me any documents and get the best advice I can give them based on more than 35 years of experience. While I hope that they decide that our services and fees fit their needs on an ongoing basis, there is no obligation on their part - or on our part - to take the representation beyond that stage.

    By the way, the "fit" works both ways; I often tell people that we are not the right firm for their work. Sometimes it is personality issues, sometimes it is a likelihood that they won't be able to pay, sometimes it is because they need expertise that we can't bring to the table and sometimes it is simply that they don't need to pay someone with the level of experience and skill that we have, and that we need to charge for. Unless you are a highly paid hand model, you don't need to go to an expensive plastic surgeon to have a wart removed from your hand that any decent dermatologist could do blindfolded. The hand model, however, may be risking her livelihood if there is the slightest imperfection. The same thing hold true for legal work. Not everyone needs are at the same level.

    As for dsieg58's comments, I wholeheartedly agree that a business relationship with a professional, whether it is a lawyer, accountant, marketing consultant or so-called SEO expert needs to be managed. I have no problems with a client setting reasonable parameters on the representation. In fact, I welcome it. I also have no problems with a client choosing to ignore my advice. Like dsieg58 said, the client is typically hiring me to hear my advice, not for me to tell them what do. I only object if a client expects me to take an action which I feel is both contrary to my advice and which may reflect on my own professionalism. In that case, the fact that they are paying my fee is meaningless to me. They are free to take action which is contrary to my advice but I am also free to end my representation.

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    Publishing Mentor dsieg58 is a Premium Member
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    Well said. I agree completely. You're a professional. Want to take my case? (just joking.)

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