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Are You Misinterpreting Your Customer Feedback?

40 Frequent Feedback-Gathering Flaws and How to Fix Them
A 26-page eBook in pdf format

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You can't address customers' grievances if you don't know what they are. Yet not knowing can spell the difference between satisfied and dissatisfied customers. Nevertheless, most organizations have inadequate feedback-gathering processes - or none at all. Of those organizations that do gather feedback, many do so in a flawed manner that leads to distorted and easily misinterpreted results.

As part of my work in Managing Customer Expectations, I've long been interested in this subject of feedback-gathering, and have delivered seminars and presentations on it, featured a chapter on it in my book, Communication Gaps and How to Close Them and written numerous articles on it in my newsletter, Perceptions & Realities

My objectives in writing this Guide are:

  • To alert you to flaws that can seriously degrade the value of your feedback-gathering efforts
  • To offer examples of many of these flaws
  • To offer recommendations for avoiding these flaws
Every one of these 40 flaws is one I've encountered in surveys clients have asked me to review for them or in surveys I've collected in my travels.

I've divided the Guide into four key categories of flaws:

  • Flaws in planning your feedback-gathering
  • Flaws in designing your survey
  • Flaws in conducting your survey
  • Flaws in interpreting and acting on survey results

Alas, these 40 flaws are not the only possible flaws, but by reviewing them, you will broaden your perspective of what to watch for in creating or evaluating your own surveys.

Here are some of the flaws addressed in the Guide:

    Flaw #2: Treat feedback-gathering as an event rather than a process.

    Flaw #9: Ignore service issues that are important to your customers.

    Flaw #11: Don't frame requests to encourage balanced feedback.

    Flaw #16: Use ambiguous terminology.

    Flaw #17: Use misleading yes/no items.

    Flaw #20: Seek feedback that's too vague to act on.

    Flaw #22: Include irrelevant choices.

    Flaw #32: Don't allow respondents privacy to respond.

    Flaw #36: Fail to close the feedback loop.

    Flaw #39: Don't anticipate the perceptual lag.

If you have questions about feedback-gathering -- or managing customer expectations, introducing change, or other issues that affect customer satisfaction -- please contact me by And if you'd like me to evaluate your surveys or feedback-gathering processes, get in touch and let's discuss the options.

Also check out these books and ebooks:
Presentation Skills for Technical Professionals: Achieving Excellence
Changing How You Manage and Communicate Change: Focusing on the Human Side of Change
Managing Expectations: Working with People Who Want More, Better, Faster, Sooner, NOW!
Communication Gaps and How to Close Them
How to Establish Service Level Agreements
How to Survive, Excel and Advance as an Introvert

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Karten Associates
Randolph, Mass., USA

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