It’s seemingly impossible these days to conduct any simple business transaction without the company asking for your feedback as a customer.  Whether it’s a non-fat latte from your favorite coffee shop (that would be Peet’s in my case:-), high-speed Internet service from your ISP, or buying a new car from a dealership, everyone wants to know about your customer experience. But do these companies genuinely care about you and your experience as a customer?

My experience is a resounding “No”.  All too often, the service provider is working harder to influence your survey feedback then actually delivering a quality customer experience.  Why?  It’s partially attributable to the almighty dollar, as many companies provide bonuses, spiffs and have MBOs tied to customer satisfaction metrics and survey results.  What’s to prevent the service provider from not submitting survey results that aren’t positive back to their company?

Human nature is such that we always try and “crack the code”, particularly when we stand to profit from doing so (Exhibit A: major Wall Street scandals every decade).  Let’s reverse engineer the algorithm to determine how we can maximize the financial gain.  That inherently taints most customer surveys and feedback as something that is biased or influenced by the service provider.

The second cause for not genuinely caring about your customer experience is that companies are using the surveys, feedback and data to sell you more stuff.  And selling you more stuff is not necessarily aligned with improving your customer experience.  Cross selling, upselling, customer retention rates, the lifetime value of a customer are very familiar terms to marketing and sales leaders because that is how they are primarily measured.  Big data and its associated analytics are all about figuring out how to sell you more stuff, not improve your customer experience.

How do you know if your company really listens to your customers and cares?  It starts with the ways and how you listen to your customer.  Do you ask open-ended questions that are objective, not rhetorical?  Do you use customer feedback to improve the customer experience?  Cite specific examples of this that don’t relate to selling more stuff or being a self-serving customer service metric that is used primarily for promotional purposes.

Most customers are smart, stop treating them like they are idiots.  No one likes condescending communication, as it’s incredibly offensive.  Smart customers will quickly figure out if you/your company genuinely care about them and their experience, or if you don’t.  Successful companies understand that every day they are business and that in every business transaction they conduct they must consistently prove to their customers that they listen and care.  That is the foundation for trust and a long-term business relationship.

Think about your service provider relationships as a customer.  Why did you buy three new cars from that same dealership?  Why have you stayed with the same high-speed Internet service provider for the last 5 years?  Why do you stop at the same Peet’s coffee shop to get your latte every morning?  Trust, consistency and relationships with people and companies that have proven to you that they care about you as a customer.