As a high-tech entrepreneur, I have strong engineering background but lack of sales and marketing skills. I struggled to get new customiers every day. Fortunately, my wife introduced me a book, "80/20 sales and marketing" by Perry Marshall and his 21 sales and marketing principles. Perry rarely steps out from his office to visit his prospects. His customers find him first through various channels, e.g., Internet search. By achieving the same, I could save tons of time and money; meanwhile I am better positioning myself as an expert instead of a solicitor. Isn't this the dream of all small business owners? Testimonials are a very important tool helping Perry to achieve this. He said that testimonial is extremely powerful to generate sales leads, but hard to get.
Why are testimonials or simply customer feedbacks so hard to get? As a consumer, I often purchase or use products or services such as home improvement, childcare, healthcare, electronic gadgets, however, I rarely respond to the solicitation for feedback from the business owners.
1. Lack of tangible, realistic, and instant benefit
The major reason why I don't provide feedback is lack of benefit. My time is valuable, why should I waste time and effort for nothing. The traditional rewards for providing feedback typically include discount for next purchase or service, opportunity to enter into drawing, earn points which never get redeemed, or symbolic kudos purely for getting high. None of these is attractive for me. I expect the business who asks me to spend time and effort can offer me more tangible, realistic, and instant reward. Shouldn't my time and effort get compensated? A good recent example is the class-action lawsuit from some reviewers of Yelp. The reviews demands monetary compensation for the reviews they post on Yelp. Badge or special permits are not sufficient to motivate me to post any feedback.
2. Difficult to set up and keep track
Many times when I receive email from feedback or survey companies, I need to create an account with them before posting any feedback. Signup may take up a few minutes to fill out a lengthy form. I normally drop there. Sometime, I have to answer many pointless questions such as my favorites or even my mother's maiden name. There's no way I would continue from there. If I, for some reason, did sign up, I get another account to keep track among my other thousands of accounts. Yikes...
3. Lack of specific instruction
As a business owner, I always give very specific requirement when I collect feedbacks, for example, "Did you get all the information you need from my email? If no, what's missing?" However, most of the requests for feedback I got from other feedback or survey companies are "I'd like to hear your feedback" or "Please tell us more about your experience". I don't know how to start my feedback, unless I have extremely good or bad experience. Most times, I've already forgotten details about their services. I keep my mouth shut.
4. Feeling of being hijacked
Last month, I received repeating emails from my rental property management company asking to provide feedback about their service. The company asks us to share my opinion and literally demands me to give them high rating. I was so reluctant to write any comment. I started to use the company for a short period of time. I really didn't know how they can perform in the long run. The service looked good at that time, but it doesn't mean it will be working fine in the future. However, I wrote something at last. There is a dilemma for me. On one hand, I hope they can take good care of my property. I am afraid that not providing what they want would discourage them providing good service, or even encourage them stopping proving good service. On the other hand, once I write and publish my temporary comment, I would have trouble to step back. I lose the leverage of pushing business for better service. I believe a large amount of testimonials are collected this way. Writing text feedback is very subjective and quite often misleading for other customers, since it inevitably includes personal and provisional judgment, instead of intrinsic quality.
5. Afraid of being judged
I am not used to voice my opinion publicly, especially in front of people who know me. Each time I commented on a very subjective topic, the first thing worries me is what would John or Amy thinks of me. Did I make a fool of myself? I don't like this feeling.
I am sure there are more reasons for not providing feedback. I don't think I am specifically challenging, regarding providing feedback. That's why it is so hard for business to collect feedback.
So I, as a business owner, want feedback and testimonials from my customers; on the other hand, as a customer, I don't want provide feedback. How can we close the loop here? I will talk about it in my next blog.