By Kimberly Nasief-Westergren
People always ask me where technology is headed in the world of customer feedback. You can go to any number of sites and get news about the next big MP3 player or tiny laptop computer — there are even sites dedicated to nothing but rumors about technology — so when it comes to technology that could actually affect the success of your business, that would be big news.
The first customer feedback was given face to face, informally, before people had the Internet to hide behind. (Can you imagine?) Happy customers might even have brought gifts or invited shopkeepers into their homes to thank them for great service given throughout the years; a bad experience would have been met with a frank discussion or maybe even a showdown on dusty Main Street.
After that came the comment card. We all remember those, the little cardstock numbers with lines to fill in your feedback and a lockbox near the exit to drop your feedback in. How often did anyone fill those out? And did anyone actually unlock that lockbox to see what was inside? Could the businesses actually read what was on the cards? (I think of my mother’s handwriting and shudder for whoever was assigned that task.)
Then came mystery shopping, a big step up in the world of customer feedback. And as consumer technology expanded in general, the process evolved. Soon, shoppers were taking secret audio recordings, then secret videos of their experience. The biggest leap here was not in the technology itself, but in the process: shoppers get a list of criteria to base their experience on, and a third-party business parses all the data collected into a comprehensive, actionable report.
Today, some customer feedback is going mobile as people start using text surveys to give their feedback. These surveys are a comment card gone digital, and they provide instant feedback to businesses who use them. They’re so fast, that you can even solve a problem while the customer is still in the store or restaurant, rather than pulling the card out of the box three weeks after it was put in there.
And what’s next? For the last couple years, social media has been shaping the future of customer feedback, a formalized process beyond what we already have in Yelp.com reviews, viral Twitter comments, and Facebook status updates and photos.
This is already starting to lead to apps dedicated solely to customer feedback, as we start crowd sourcing — letting lots of people have input — our mystery shopping and customer experience management. Thanks to the explosive growth of mobile phones and social networks, we’re going to see a sea change of customer feedback options. Will you be ready for it, or are you still using comment cards and locked boxes by the door?