Why crowdsourcing customer feedback doesn’t always work

Crowdsourcing customer feedback

Crowdsourcing, the concept of giving a task to a crowd to complete (most often using online tools) has been around for 4 years now, and has recently spawned the term ‘communitysourcing’. Communitysourcing takes crowdsourcing one step further – where your immediate community is the best place to generate ideas, and that they should also be the ones to immediately benefit from those ideas.

It strikes me that nowhere is this more pertinent than in the world of customer satisfaction. OK, so involving your community of customers in the development of your business is nothing new. Focus groups and annual client reviews have been doing it for years. Various firms, especially online or technical ones, use forums and blogs to gather and test ideas from loyal fans. All this works well.

That’s true, but given that only about 1% of any community actively contributes (the others just read) aren’t businesses missing out on 99% of the feedback they could have? What if companies asked for feedback in a respectful manner at a point that made sense to the purchaser, rather than interrupting them with lengthy surveys during the browsing, buying and cart process?

I think the disconnect between a customer buying something online, and it being delivered offline, is becoming more and more critical. Whilst there are numerous people rating their cart speed and transaction experience, who actually cares if I got what I ordered? The online forums and crowdsourcing methods work well to improve online service, but what about where the rubber hits the road?

I can’t remember the last time an online business which delivers goods in the offline world cared whether I was satisfied or not, can you? When was the last time the grocery delivery service emailed you after you got your groceries to check you were happy? The last time you bought air tickets online did anyone check with you after the flight if your experience was great, or awful? Just because the business model’s all online doesn’t mean that the transaction stops and starts there.

I appreciate that asking a random crowd for its feedback can be terrifying, frustrating and sometimes unrewarding. The Gap logo fiasco is a case in point. But what about asking the people with the biggest vested interest, your customers? What about asking all of them how they feel about your delivery. After the fact. In the real world?

With the advent of increasingly remote forms of communication, it’s important to keep regular tabs on how your customers feel about your real world delivery. It’s easy to rely on customer forums, let time tick by and assume everyone is OK because you aren’t hearing otherwise.

But all that time, if your real world delivery isn’t up to scratch, you might not know. And if one of your competitors is talking to them in more depth than you are, and caring more about what they need, you’re in dangerous water. By proactively asking customers how they feel regularly you’re involving them. They’ve got skin in the game and are often pleased to have their opinion sought. I would urge businesses, especially the ones whose customers are remote or handled by contractors, to regularly ask how they feel – to take a constant temperature and act accordingly.