Do You Know What Your Prospects and Customers Really Think?

Posted on by in Business, Communication, Customer Service, Learning, Managing Talent, Marketing, Pricing

When was the last time you really asked for and wanted honest feedback? Chances are it’s probably been awhile. Not just because most of us don’t ask, but because we don’t really want to know. In fact, we even have systems designed to avoid it, right?

For example, we might have customers fill out evaluation forms of their experience with our company–but then we have our sales people hand them out–people who have a vested interest in the customer rating them high (and they do say to customers, “Please give me a 10!”). Or we’ll only give them a few options. Or we’ll make it incredibly difficult for them to give feedback. Or we’ll have a strategic initiative to increase our customer service number by x percent, which, translated means, we don’t really want to get feedback that would lower the number.

However, the problem with all of those scenarios above is that they keep us from hearing what we need to hear in order to make the changes we need to make. To make this real, let me share with you an experience I had last week with a company, Power Windows and Siding.

My wife and I live in a neighborhood where the houses are 23 years old and every one of our neighbors has had their roof redone starting about seven years ago. We’ve been the lone holdout. So, this year we decided, let’s not push our luck, let’s get the roof redone. We attended a home show recently and filled out three forms for estimates  (one of which was Power Windows and Siding) to do our due diligence, plus we’ve contacted references from two neighbors.

Three of the companies were all very easy and professional to deal with. Sears was a little annoying with their call center, but their sales person was easy to work with and quickly assessed that I knew a lot and could skip through whole sections of his sales presentation pretty fast and get to the estimate quickly.

But Power Window and Siding was a whole different story. Their call center was the most annoying I’ve ever encountered. They called incessantly to confirm the appointment. I mean daily–which was annoying. I made an appointment. I keep my appointments. If they wanted to call the day before to confirm the appointment (which is a good practice), I wouldn’t have been annoyed. But to have their computer dial my number daily to confirm the same appointment–that was beyond infuriating.

Furthermore, when the computer would leave the phone number, it was always fast with a tagline like, “You know the number, RIng PWS!” Now, let me ask you, do you know what number R is? Or W? Or I? Names aren’t customer friendly. If I’m taking a message, I want someone to give me numbers. I don’t want to have to look at the dial pad and then have to figure out what the numbers are.

So, by the time the sales person came by, he was already in last place. Then as we sat down, he went into “sales mode.” You know what I’m talking about. He was trying to be my best friend. So tell me, where did you grow up? How many kids do you have? What are they doing now? Etc. He kept peppering me with questions, reflecting back my answers, affirming everything I said, etc. So much so that it all felt fake/plastic.

I kept telling him that I just wanted an estimate for my roof. My time is valuable and I didn’t need to bond. Then to get the measurements, he asked me to go out with him. Now, I’ve had four estimates before his and none of them needed me to hold the tape and walk the house with them (asking me more annoying questions).

Then when we came back in, he proceeded to go through the sales presentation which talked all about Power Windows and Siding and how great they are and how they were featured on Extreme Makeover, etc. — none of which dealt with me — or that I cared about. All I wanted was a roofing estimate.

He continued through the stock presentation even though I was telling him that I didn’t need to know all this stuff.  But he kept his head down, affirming, “I understand …” and then continuing to do what I was asking him not to do. Finally, when he got to the actual numbers he pulled out his calculator and showed me numbers that were about two and a half times higher than some of the other estimates we had received. Two and a half times higher! At that point, I said, “Listen, let’s save both of us some time. There’s no way we need to carry this conversation any further unless you’re about to tell me, ”Normally, this is what we’d normally charge, but right now we have a special going on where we’re discounting our normal price by over $10,000.“ He kept trying to move forward but I wouldn’t let him. Life’s too short.

However, to make matters even funnier, we’ve still been receiving calls daily from Power Windows and Siding since then. Finally, this morning I picked up the phone (I clearly recognized the number :-) to say, ”Stop Calling,“ when they guy on the other end informed me he was calling to schedule an appointment for a free estimate. Amazing!

But, here’s the point, I’m guessing that the people at Power Windows and Siding are pretty clueless about the feedback I just gave. In fact, right on the front page of their website, their CEO says

We work tirelessly to satisfy our customers, and our standards of quality, ethics, and integrity are unmatched.

Right! I’m sure, from an internal standpoint, they’re working on their systems to make things better from their standpoint. But if they really talked with customers, they’d find out something different.

  1. No one likes being called to death by call centers reminding them of appointments, day after day.
  2. No one likes alphabetical phone numbers (or, if one must, at least give a numbers option and repeat it twice).
  3. No one likes being sold or a salesman trying too hard. (fake bonding is bad)
  4. No one likes a salesperson who can’t read their customers’ verbals and non-verbals and then doesn’t adjust their sales presentation to what they’re seeing and hearing.
  5. And no one likes an outrageous estimate (after all, we’re talking about a roof here. No one says to their friends, ”Hey, come look at my roof! I paid two and a half times what I should have. Isn’t it grand?“)

So, how are you doing? Are you really searching for honest feedback from your customers and prospects? Are you making it easy? Are you getting feedback that isn’t filtering into some metric that makes you look good? Are you asking enough tough questions? Are you following up with lost sales?

Remember, sometimes the feedback from the sales you lose can be the key to making a whole lot more money in the future!

To your accelerated success!

P.S. Note: this is not to say that all feedback is valuable or true or that it should change what you do. However, if you don’t aggressively pursue honest feedback, then you just might miss out on those insights which are accurate and which you should take some action on!

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2 Responses to “Do You Know What Your Prospects and Customers Really Think?”

  1. Art Dwight 6 October 2010 at 4:39 pm #

    Great article, Bruce. When I got my car serviced, one guy told me to please give him a “10” or he might lose his job. Kinda sorta defeats the whole purpose of a survey.

  2. Bruce Johnson 6 October 2010 at 5:06 pm #


    Absolutely! What kind of leader would set up a self-defeating system like that? I think we need more NT Leaders (Myers Briggs) to step up and throw that kind of system out!


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