STOP … gaming your feedback system!

Customer ServiceIf you have a customer service survey, formally or informally, it is subject to being “gamed.” If an associate asks a customer to “give me a 10 on a survey or I’ll get fired,” can you rely on the accuracy of that customer’s rating? This may be an extreme example of “gaming feedback,” but many versions of this behavior occurs frequently.

To keep gaming feedback to a minimum, it’s important to be explicit with associates about what the organization considers to be unacceptable behaviors. My research suggests high frequencies of these factors:

1. If you refer to a score, you cannot ask a customer to give you a score or mention any possible option on the survey. Here is an example of bad behavior: “Let me know if you can’t give me an excellent on any of the questions.”
2. Don’t mention specific survey questions or tell a customer about a specific question that they will be asked as part of the survey. Here is an example of bad behavior: “You will be asked to rate me on my knowledge.”
3. Don’t mention any consequences or tell a customer about the upside or downside that you or the organization will have based on the feedback that the customer gives. Here is an example of bad behavior: “If you give us a low score, then we will not make our bonus.”
4. Don’t say or imply that you will see their responses or let the customer know that you will see the specific information that they put in their feedback. Here is an example of bad behavior: “I look forward to reading your responses.”
5. Don’t intimidate customers to attempt to affect how customers will respond in their feedback, or keep them from completing the survey, whether implicitly or explicitly. Here is an example of bad behaviors: “Let’s have a coffee after you fill out the survey” or “Don’t bother filling out the survey, the company doesn’t look at them.”

Of course, keeping this bad behavior in check also requires the organization to appropriately implement and manage the system. The biggest mistake is tying too much compensation to a score. When you heavily compensate for a specific metric, associates will do whatever it takes to improve that metric, including “gaming” the system. The heavier the compensation, the more you are implicitly asking the associate to improve the score.

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James E. McClain is the author of Successful Career Development: A Game Plan, the book upon which some of our training programs are based. He has over 30 years' experience as a corporate HR executive, small business owner with ongoing experience in career development and as a college instructor. His educational background includes a B.S. and Masters degrees Education and Certification in Financial Planning. Our promise is that "you can pay more for training but you can not buy better training." The mission is to deliver the most effective and cost effective training and development programs.

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