Does Your Customer Survey Data Guide This Essential Aspect Of Your Organization?

Customer surveys have been referred to as a decision-making toolfor organizations. Survey results provide relevant information into the customers’ expectations, perceptions, satisfaction and loyalty. Organizations have launched innovation teams to examine products, services, channels, pricing and a myriad of other organizational aspects based on trends in customer feedback. Have you considered how valuable your survey data is when it comes to guiding the behavior of your employees?How your employees interact with customers will drive feedback. Negative interactions generate not only feedback in customer surveys, it also appears in social media. Positive interactions generate customer loyalty and advocacy. Forbes magazine reported insightsinto this with research such as:

  • American consumers will pay 17% moreto purchase from a company with a reputation for great service.
  • 81% of companiesview customer experience as a competitive differentiator.
  • 68% of customerssay the service representative is key to a positive service experience.
  • The top reason customers switch brands is because they feel unappreciated.

Fred Reichheld’s name might be familiar to you. He introduced the Net Promoter Score (NPS) 20 years ago. He has authored numerous articles for Harvard Business Review on the topic such as his 2003 article introducing NPS, “The One Number You Need To Grow.” He promotes the philosophy to enrich the lives of your customers.

When you think beyond the product or service your organization provides, you find yourself examining the ways customers interact with your company. Websites, apps, and… human interaction. The human interaction is a way to enrich the lives of your customers. What human behaviors from your employees are essential to your customers’ positive experiences? Look to your customer feedback management process and the survey data that informs you of the human behaviors that make a difference to your customers. It reveals what “right” looks and feels like to your customers.

Do any of these words appear in the questions asked in your customer survey:

Respect Courtesy Professional
Listen Empathy Kind
Fair Transparency Understand

The behaviors that bring these words to life create the human experience. Seth Godin tells the story about an activity Zig Ziglar would do with his audience that illustrates the importance of these type of words. Zig would ask the audience to list the attributes they would want in a co-worker, a boss or a partner. After Zig got 25 or so words, he asked the audience to help categorize the words into three areas: Gifts, Attitudes, Skills.

The discovery was the same each time Zig did this experiment. Most of the words fell into the Attitudecategory. Gifts are talents people innately have. Skills are defined as hard skills like abilities with engineering principles, or using trade tools that a person is trained to do. Attitudes are the human skills.  These are the skills that create feelings about the person and the company. When given a choice, audiences want someone who shows up as a caring human. Now, read the word “audiences” in that last sentence as “customers.”

Emotions are what moves us to action. For example, let’s look at the human condition of fight or flight. When the brain perceives any threat, it triggers us to go into fight or flight mode. The perceived threat generates emotions that create our responses. This is in an area called our primitive brain because fight or flight mode helped our very early ancestors know to choose to run if being chased by a Saber Tooth Tiger. Even though being chased by an animal like that is not something that happens today, our primitive brain still is actively perceiving threats for us.

Reexamine the list of words to look for in your customer survey that were listed earlier. This time, look at how a perceived threat can arise when the antonyms are added.

Respect / Disrespect Courtesy / Aloof Professional / Unskilled
Listen / Ignore Empathy / Indifference Kind / Cold
Fair / Biased Transparency / Closed-off Understand / Disregard

The question becomes: What behaviors generate respect, courtesy and the other words? The answer boils down to three tools that everyone has. It depends on how each person uses these tools to create these attitudes.

  1. The first tool is word choice. Words have energy. Consider the receptivity of a customer who hears “We can’t change the due date of the bill for you.” Versus “The due date is only able to be changed when we have more notice.” The second version aids the receptivity of the customer to the message. Words can quickly trigger a customer’s fight or flight mode or help the customer listen and be engaged with us even when getting news that is hard to hear.
  2. The second tool is voice tone. Voice tone can be described as positive, neutral or negative. Positive is the only choice to help customers listen. The good news is that positive has a range of sounds. It might sound happy, calm, warm, or firm. Using the right tone for the message is key.


  1. The third tool is body language. If you are in-person with a customer, body language carries the most weight in the message. Consider eye contact, smiling, head nods, and gestures as revealing to the customer how focused and engaged you are in the conversation and their issue.

As your organization makes decisions based on the input from customer surveys, consider the human factor and the associated behaviors that create your organization’s desired human reputation.