Had a meeting last week with a very driven businessman. He was airing his frustration about the customer feedback survey he’d received from his agency.The survey questions they’d used had been constructed so tightly they offered no new insights, following a simple YES/NO formula based on statements written by the team. Funnily enough the majority of the feedback was highly positive and supported what he was doing. He didn’t fall for it.This is a man who regularly takes off his director hat and plays the part of the customer, doing walk throughs and scrutinising the customer journey, trying to find where he’s falling down. He’s contributed everything he knows.

‘Those answers tell me nothing. I don’t want to know what I already know. I want to know what I don’t know’

I get what he means. He knows he can do better. He wants to know what he’s missing.Finding that out though surveys is difficult. People don’t always mean what they say, and what they say will depend on how the survey is structured.

I sat through a Boots survey yesterday, patiently filling in the radial buttons, reading through statements which measured my perception. Felt a bit robotic doing it, its so logical, dry. Then came THE BOX, presented to me so I could expand on why I had chosen ‘Strongly Disagree’. After all the reading, trying to find statements and answers which best matched my opinions and experiences I then had free reign to say exactly what I wanted in my own words. So I did. I had issues with too many products on the shelves (stress!) and the pushing of card points at counters (none of which the survey covered) Boots are probably going to get a lot more from that one box than they will out of the reams of questions I’d laboriously filled in. I had the freedom to express myself. The devil is in the detail.

It’s the little things people say and do which highlight gaps, uncover truths and reveal things you didn’t know. Facial expressions, body language, eye contact, tone, the unique way someone describes a situation or experience will reveal more than a tick box ever will. To make the right decisions, most businesses will realistically need to use multiple methods, including surveys, to determine what their customers really want.

Technological development is now advanced enough to offer ways of enhancing customer feedback making it more refined and ultimately more valuable.

I’m fascinated by RFID. Who’d have thought keeping track of cows would develop into an exciting data collection and interaction tool? New and innovative ways of using RFID are emerging on a daily basis.Its no longer viewed as a replacement for barcodes. Using RFID to integrate events with social media is fast becoming the norm – see Ushuaia. I have clients who are using RFID wristbands to get more value from their events, building up better pictures of their client base by overlaying what they say they’re interested in with what they actually do at events. If you’re curious about RFID see RFID24-7 – lots of examples of how it’s being used in different industries. 

Millward Brown has formed a partnership with emotion-measurement technology company Affectiva to add facial expression analysis to its TV ad copy evaluation tool, Link. Graham Page (pictured), executive vice president of Millward Brown’s neuroscience practice, said: “Describing feelings in detail is never easy. By adding facial expression analysis to Link, brand owners can get at the emotional response that people might not be able to articulate in surveys.” 

Miituu allows customers to post survey feedback using video. Content collected on the offline version of the app revealed when people are given privacy and editorial control of their responses face to camera responses are candid and less guarded. The online version will allow brands to post surveys and have their participants record their own responses in their own way.Saying what you think is much easier than selecting what you may think or the best fit.  

We’re definitely getting closer to what we don’t know.