The Paradox of Feedback

Posted at October 3, 2011

“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”
- G. K. Chesterton

You’ve gotta have thick skin to receive anonymous feedback. And if you are actually sending out a survey, seeking out anonymous feedback, you might as well get your armor on. Not that all feedback is negative, of course. But from behind the veil of anonymity, your customers, attenders, members, or employees are liable to say just about anything without regard for your feelings or ego.

Most of them do it out of a genuine desire to get better service from you. Some are simply looking to throw a few grenades.

Time for Some Honesty

We just wrapped up a 10-day survey of our customers, seeking not just their feedback but also their input on our future development plans for SiteOrganic. We’re still digesting all of the feedback, but we’re pleased to report that it was overwhelmingly positive! We love our clients, and it appears that the feeling is mutual.

Our sample size is modest–about 135 churches responded. Within that group, however, we had some interesting/confusing paradoxes. For example:

- 78% answered that the amount we communicate with our clients is “exactly enough”, yet 44.6% were not aware that we have a blog. We mention our blog (and reference its articles) on Twitter, in our newsletter, and in the videos we send to our clients. This either means that folks aren’t paying attention, or perhaps some of our stuff is getting lost in their junk folders.

- Vastly different opinions on service quality, even though we work hard to provide the same excellent service to each client. For example, a handful (fewer than 5%) of commenters characterized service as “slow”, while a slightly higher percentage raved about SiteOrganic service being the best in the industry.  Could these two comments possibly be describing the same company:

“I have no complaints.  Responsiveness has been great. I can’t imagine it getting any better unless you never let your people sleep :) Keep up the great work.”

“I’ve never had such slow response time from a company.”

We even had one person tell us that we “never listen to survey answers” and we “obviously don’t care” what our customers think. Further down the survey, when asked if we could contact this individual about his or her survey responses, the answer was “no.” Oops! We did anyway. :)

Clearly we are most interested in areas where we can improve. (Any organization not constantly looking to improve has begun its descent into mediocrity.) So, we take all comments seriously, even if they can at times be polar opposites, amusing, or both!

Have you taken feedback surveys in your organization? If so, have you experienced similar, seemingly irreconcilable differences in the response?

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