Be a good king, be a good customer!

    The customer is king – but what makes a great king? Here’s a story about such a royal. Because of my profession, people often tell me their horror stories about customer experience surveys. A close friend of mine recently joined this club:
     
    “For the past two years, I have been working with a company that provides interim professionals for my division. I have had a number of problems with this company. Some of the professionals were not as good as advertised, the account manager is hard to reach and they seem not to care what their customers think. Recently something different happened. They sent me a new interim guy that I had never seen before. He did a very difficult job for me AND he was brilliant. Truly inspirational, highly professional, delivered on time – this man was really good. Here’s the strange thing: the day after that guy finished his job, this company sent me an invite to a customer experience survey. When I read the invite, I realized I was only allowed to comment on the performance of this last professional, not all the others. So I did the only right thing: I didn’t complete the survey. I mean, they never asked for my opinion for two years, not in a survey, not anywhere. Then they send me somebody who is really good and all of a sudden they are interested in what I think of them? No way. I am not going to let them pretend I am a happy customer.”
     
    After telling this story, he asked for my opinion. Now you might expect me to argue that you should always complete customer experience surveys. Of course you should! But that was not my point. I told my friend that his reaction was wrong. Why? Because he did nothing. The key to customer experience surveys is that they should lead to action. By simply not completing the survey, he sent no signal whatsoever. My advice to my friend was this:
     
    Call up that professional who did such a great job. Tell him how pleased you were with his performance. Then apologize to him with the explanation that you currently have no intention to complete the survey, as his company has been exceptionally poor at soliciting feedback. Then ask him to contact his boss with this story and say that you will only complete the survey once his boss starts a real conversation about your customer experience.
     
    There is a bigger point to this: improving customer experiences depends on two parties. Clearly the supplier is at fault here. They should have asked for feedback much sooner. Yet my friend is also at fault. By not providing feedback, whether solicited or not, he received a suboptimal customer experience. Many customers act like my friend. They believe that simply not doing anything or not renewing a contract is a signal. Yet the much better way is the one above: tell suppliers what you need. Ask them for it. Have a dialogue. Then make your decision.
     
    The customer might be king – but to be a good king, he should not just wear the crown but act accordingly. A generous, communicative king gets more done than one who just sits on the throne and waits for his subjects to kneel before him. So: be a good king, be a good customer! 

Niels Berndsen

Director Customer Strategies
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