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Are you approaching customer feedback the right way?

How much stock should we put into customer feedback? STEVEN VAN BELLEGHEM argues that the time has come to dig deeper into the feedback you receive from your customers.

During my career as a business consultant and customer experience expert, I have worked closely with many people who believe that customer feedback is overrated.

It’s common for these people to cite that hilarious quote from Henry Ford, the founder of the Ford Motor Company who once declared “if I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

The underlying idea is that consumers failed to anticipate that Ford would invent technology that would far surpass the value of a horse for transportation.

However, the forward-thinking Ford was an innovator and he ‘knew better’ and therefore, many people believe that the lesson from this anecdote is that listening to feedback is a waste of time.

I believe that these people are looking at feedback from customers the wrong way.

Dig deeper!

Feedback from your customers is not something that you need to take literally.

The challenge with customer feedback is to understand what people really want and to understand what brings them value. Extracting value from customer feedback is not a task achieved by ‘micro-managing’ or dissecting all the small details they present to you.

Yes, there may be some good suggestions, and in that case, it’s wise to see how you could turn these into positive changes as well as new products and services for your store.

However, you also need to remember that humans are complex and we are often strangely incompetent at voicing what we really want or need.

This is because we often don’t know exactly know what it is that drives us.

Writer Duncan Wardle brilliantly explained this concept with his example of the ‘multiple why’ approach.

Highlighting the way curious children often relentlessly ask ‘why’ when quizzing adults, Wardle says that in business we often fail to ‘dig deep enough’ with our questioning and that in that sense, there is something to be learned from children.

He offered the example of a survey of people on why they went to Disneyland on holiday. Most tick a box stating ‘new rides and new attractions’.

“The challenge with customer feedback is to understand what people really want and to understand what brings them value. Extracting value from customer feedback is not a task achieved by ‘micro-managing’ or dissecting all the small details they present to you.”

As a business, this may initially seems to be all the incentive you need to commit hundreds of millions of dollars to a capital investment strategy.

However, if you act like a child and keep digging deeper with multiple whys, you discover that there are more complex emotional attractions at play.

With further questioning, another common response to this survey is that a Disneyland holiday reminds adult visitors of childhood and that by taking their own children, they are ‘recreating’ happy memories.

With this insight in mind, the idea of spending hundreds of millions of dollars on capital investment becomes less appealing!

Instead, a cheaper marketing campaign focused on nostalgia can reinforce the strengths of the business more than merely ‘building new rides’ ever would.

Prepare for change

Artificial intelligence is changing the business landscape and in these times, I believe it’s crucial that we maintain our childlike curiosity and creativity, which is something that machines won’t be able to do in a very long time.

In the case of Ford’s example, people did not actually desire ‘faster horses’. They wanted to move faster from location to location, that was the underlying need.

Likewise with the example of Wardle and Disneyland. Customers may suggest that they are attracted to the venue for one reason, when there’s another more powerful (and valuable) truth beneath the surface.

The customer should not be expected to create or offer a solution to that need - that is the responsibility of the business.

It is up to you to figure out a way how you can deliver that value to the customers of your jewellery business.

With that said, it is my belief that you do indeed need customer feedback; however, you need to improve the way you translate this feedback into effective and actionable information.

Academic Clayton Christensen, made famous for his theory of disruptive innovation, called this concept of a hidden desire to be ‘the job to be done’ for all business owners.

It’s true that the time has come to move on from the ‘myth’ of customer feedback being the be-all and end-all; however, that only applies to surface-level critiques.

By digging deeper and asking more questions – searching for the ‘why’ beneath the ‘what’ you will uncover the answers you need to make profound improvements to your jewellery business.

Steven Van Belleghem

Steven Van Belleghem provides coaching, workshops and advice about social media and conversation management. Learn More:

Ellendale Diamonds Australia

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