How to Lose a Customer

Giving your clients the opportunity to voice their opinions after conducting business with you is a great way to express your interest in continuing to work with them. Just make sure you're earnest in hearing their thoughts and that you don't simply think this is accomplished with a survey alone.

While visiting a client recently, I rented a car at the airport. After I returned home, the rental company sent me an email with a link to a web-based customer satisfaction survey. Gathering customer satisfaction feedback is one of my pet topics so I’m always interested in looking at surveys to see if they have any of the most common flaws. Like many, this survey did.

One question in the survey asked:

    How likely are you to rent from this company again?

I had two minor grievances with the car – nothing critical – but also one grievance that concerned a major @#$%^ annoyance. So I checked the item that said “Not likely.”

The next page of the survey asked why I was unlikely to rent from the company again. The choices were:

    •     Cost
    •     Wait time in line
    •     Cleanliness of car
    •     Functioning of car
    •     Other

My grievance was none of these first four, so I checked Other. I assumed that when I clicked to the next page, I’d be asked to comment on what, exactly, my grievance was. But no. There were no further questions about my dissatisfaction.

So here’s clear evidence of an unhappy customer – and a complete absence of concern about why. Or maybe management only cares about grievances that concern cost, wait time in line, cleanliness, or functioning, a serious mistake given all the other things that can cause customer dissatisfaction.

If the survey had asked about my grievance, I’d have felt that management wanted to retain my business. If it had asked and then someone had gotten back to me about my grievance, I’d have become a customer for life. Neither happened and I don't want to risk a recurrence of the annoying situation. I’ve taken my business elsewhere.

A simple approach for this kind of situation is to skip the multiple choices and simply say:

    Please explain why you are unlikely to rent from us again.

Or do as many surveys do: Present the multiple choices, including Other, and follow each instance of Other with space for an open-ended comment. Either way, provide enough space to allow for a lengthy comment.

Are you doing enough in your surveys to understand the causes of customer dissatisfaction? After all, the customer you retain is one less you have to find anew.

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For more on this topic, check out my PowerPoint presentation on How to Gather Useful, Usable Customer Satisfaction Feedback on SlideShare.

User Comments

1 comment
Anonymous's picture

This annoys me also, but I think your view is tainted a little by US Customer Service, which in restaurants, bars etc is generally exemplary.

But in big business csat is run by computers, asking you to input free form text means a human has to be part of your emotional experience.

So yes, its down to cost or more likely they couldnt give a rats ass.


October 28, 2011 - 3:25pm

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