When is Customer Feedback a Really Bad Idea?

Phil Durand

Phil Durand

Author Bio

Director, Customer Experience Management

Author Bio

The other day I found myself in the slightly annoying position of being unable to procrastinate any further. I had to – finally – admit defeat and just well get on with a domestic DIY project that I’d been in varying stages of denial and avoidance over for a few days.

This meant writing a list. And working things out. And measuring things with a tape measure. I can do all these things, but I don’t particularly enjoy any of it and, as such, I’m not especially good at it. We have a curtain rail that is just off horizontal that should act as a daily reminder to all – and yet, still I am tasked with the odd job. Hurrumph.

Anyway, a list was written. It was verified. An online reservation was made at the local DIY outlet. I deliberately won’t say ‘store’ as that implies ‘shop’, which may conjure impressions of a ‘service’ – and as you’ll see, none of that would be appropriate.

I pick it all up. I take it home. I build the thing while working up a sweat that, frankly, concerned me. But the job was done.

And then I got numerous, repeated emails from the DIY establishment asking for my opinion through a survey. I was a bad person and didn’t respond to the first three emails so they hounded me into taking it seriously. They really needn’t have bothered. I read their note with increasing horror and mirth. It included the following:

I particularly loved two things about this.

Firstly, it asked me to imagine I was an ‘interested customer’ - an unwittingly accurate request. If only they knew even a hint of the duress I was under when buying this item. They really don’t want me to review anything on their website. They really, really don’t.

Secondly, it’s a nail. A nail. Not some complex piece of equipment where a user review would help someone make a purchase decision – like a workbench, or a set of wood-working tools, or some clever treatment for protecting an important surface from something or other. Something people will use again and again, making its design, longevity and overall quality something to consider. But what on Earth could anyone possibly want to know about a nail? How could my review of this deliriously simple item conceivably help anyone? I exclude people who have never seen or heard of nails before because, well, I imagine they’re infants and have no concept of DIY yet. Lucky babies. But everyone else … come on!

I decided it was probably best not to submit the following review:

“Well, it’s a small metal spike (as you can see in the picture). It’s 30mm long (as you can read) and there are enough of them fill a 200g bag (as you can also read). You can use them to help keep separate pieces of wood arranged in a pleasing or desirable shape. Or attach things to walls if you don’t have any wood-arranging to do.”

Like I said, probably best not.

There was also another phrase that tickled me in all this:

Fair enough. Why ask about that silly ‘customer experience’ thing? It’s all about the nails.

It was at this point I deleted the email.

I’ll try to salvage a modicum of seriousness for the end of this piece. Try. I think this falls into one of those moments when the desire for more information crossed over from “this is a useful thing to ask” to “Ooh, we could also ask this.” Something of a common sense fail.

Please. When designing a survey, remember two things. First, don’t use your survey to ask any random question just because you can. Second, the survey is also part of the customer experience. Don’t make it rubbish.