The Half-Life Of Customer Feedback

When it comes to customer surveys – ask quickly or forever hold your peace…

Do you remember what you ate for lunch a week ago?

 

Probably not.  Yet many businesses seem to think that consumers have such incredible powers of recall.

 

Take, for example, the hotel I stayed at earlier this month.  One week after I checked out, they e-mailed me a customer satisfaction survey.  They asked me to rate everything from the speed of their internet service to the cleanliness of their common areas to the quality of their bellperson staff.

 

For real?  I mean, I had trouble even remembering the name of the hotel (a syndrome any frequent business traveler has probably experienced).

 

Many businesses never even solicit customer feedback, so let me give this hotel a little bit of credit – at least they asked.  But the fact that they asked a full seven days after my visit illustrates a common error that undermines many companies’ customer feedback programs.  They fail to understand that customer feedback has a half-life.

 

The phrase, a physics term — typically used to describe the amount of time it takes for half the atoms in a radioactive substance to disintegrate — actually has relevance here.  (Regular readers of this blog may recall this isn’t the first time I’ve used physics to make a point about customer surveying – see “Quantum Physics and Your Customer Feedback Program”).

 

Barring extraordinary circumstances, people’s recollection of events starts to decay pretty quickly.  If you’re looking for feedback on detailed elements of your customer experience, good luck getting it after 48 hours.  By that point, the quality of people’s memory recall will have degraded to the point where – if you actually get them to respond – the data will be suspect.

 

So avoid the tragic mistake of investing in a customer feedback program, but then making it practically worthless because of a ridiculously pregnant pause in your survey triggers.  The sooner you reach out to customers for feedback, the better.  Their memory of the interaction will be fresh, and in turn, the insights you gather will be far more valuable and actionable.