Don’t ambush your VoC contributors – they are not idiots!

Posted by Mike McMaster

December 1, 2014

dont-ambush-your-VoC-contributorsThe suburban idyll at Chez McMaster was disturbed over the weekend – and the upset was caused by a Voice of Customer survey.

Unusually, it wasn’t me getting wound up by the industry, but Mrs Mc - a genuine customer attempting to be helpful and provide some useful information to one of her favourite brands.

Ocado delivered our weekly sustenance on time and with a cheerful smile (as always), and followed up within 24 hours with an email survey – fairly quick, with a mail-merged name, and a nice, personable request for some information.

So far so good.

The survey itself was...interesting. Following the link landed us on a screen with the slightly ominous title of “Fish Survey”. But Mrs Mc is made of stern stuff – these were not words to strike fear into the heart of a highly motivated and enthusiastic brand advocate – so she pressed on!

A few really pointless questions about age and gender later, (the email was correctly addressed to Mrs Mc – so WHY ask for gender?) and then by question 7, we were into the fish questions.

Lots of fish questions.

A few silly mistakes (picking “I don’t buy it” for a question, but still being forced to provide follow up data in the next 2 questions) but other than that not too bad – if very fish focussed.

And then we get to question 21.

“Have you looked at the Young’s shop within the Ocado website?”

The first hint of what was really going on. Because two questions later, the survey ended rather abruptly, and dropped us straight into the Young’s Seafood section of the Ocado website.

No “thank you”. No “Would you like more information?”. Not even a pretence that all the information we had just provided matters in any way to Ocado, or that they were doing anything at all other than banging on about fish quite a lot, and then trying the least subtle market-research-to-online-sale ambush I’ve seen in ages.

Or, as the Ocado customer herself said, when she emailed them directly to complain:

“This is not a survey ... It is an advert for Youngs fish with a clumsy "exit through the gift store" ending. I wanted to be helpful but now feel you have wasted my time.”

Wow – what a fantastic result for a Voice of the Customer survey! Turning an enthusiastic brand advocate into a fairly scathing critic in under 5 minutes.

I suspect that Ocado spend a fortune on getting deliveries to our door on time, in full, and with a customer service smile and a chat.

I am very sure that they managed to undo most of that good work in seconds by treating their customer like an idiot.

If you ask your customer to tell you what they think, then take them seriously – VoC is not just another direct marketing channel and leaving customers feeling that you have wasted their time or misled them will do far more damage that the sale of a few packs of fish fingers will easily recover.

In fact, that headline question on their invitation email was actually the only thing that Ocado’s Voice of Customer process needed to ask. Because a passionate customer (happy or unhappy) only needs a single, simple question and they will tell you exactly what you need to know about your business, and how they feel about it. So drop all the demographics (you already know the answers) and cut down on the fishy fifty, and just ask the first, obvious question. A nice open invitation...

“Tell us what you think”

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Topics: Customer Feedback, Blog, Voice Of The Customer, VoC

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