As business people we’re all very keen to gather information from our customers and to ask them what they think about us.  It all makes good sense. I do it myself.

As a customer, however, I sometimes get very irritated when companies seek this information, particularly if it takes too much of my precious time or makes it harder for me to do something.  A quick, non-scientific survey of colleagues and friends shows I am not alone in this.

Let me give you some examples. Last Christmas we purchased a new coffee machine and we were delighted with it. Now we could enjoy a consistently-good single cup of coffee without having to use the cafetiere which can be wasteful. The machine came with quite a few capsules which was great. When I came to order more, however, the experience became slightly tarnished. My cursory reading of the website indicated that I had to join a “coffee club” and this involved creating a password.   I assume the company wants me to join a club and create a password so it can collect information about my purchasing habits and make me feel “part of the family”. Whilst I like coffee I don’t want to join a club and I don’t want to be part of their “family”.  I just want to order coffee.  Being disorganised, I couldn’t remember my password and this created further irritation the next time I needed to place an order. Joining “the club” has also led to unwanted junk mail which involves my time in throwing it out (well, recycling it). I still like the coffee but the purchasing experience, for me, at least, is not attractive. This is presumably not the result the company wanted to achieve.

I don’t mean to turn this into a rant, but I have also felt inundated with questionnaires and requests for feedback recently following the purchase of a new car and the booking of an exhibition stand.  Far from endearing me to the companies concerned I tend to feel an irrational dislike for them.  It seems to me that companies that are forever sending out questionnaires exude a lack of confidence and that those requiring me to join their “clubs” are arrogant.

Now, I may appear grumpy but I don’t think I’m the only one. The lesson I take from this is to consider more carefully how my actions may be perceived by my customers and whether the benefit I gain is worth it. I have, myself, been guilty of sitting behind my desk and saying “wouldn’t it be interesting to know……”  without thinking exactly how I would use this information and how it would come across to my customers. In the quest for information from and about your customers you are in many cases asking them to give you their time. It’s worth remembering that.

So some questions to answer before you act: –

  1. Do I already have some of the information (date and product purchased / name date and flight number)? If so, it should be provided and not asked again.
  2. Is the purchase important to my customer? It may be to my business but if this is incidental to my customer they won’t want to join a club
  3. Am I genuinely asking for feedback? Or am I just collecting marketing information? The former is acceptable, the latter annoying.
  4. How many questions should I ask?
  5. If I take the data, will I act on it and respond if the customer has an issue?
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