Feedback questionnaires fail to cover the core issues

We live in a world of feedback; every experience matters and it’s a sad but true fact that many feedback questionnaires don’t hit the mark when it comes to drilling down into the core issues.

The internet has opened up a whole world of websites dedicated to customer opinions – and consumers are very vocal about their experiences, whether good or bad. Feedback can make or break. Reputations and livelihoods are protected or lost.

Event feedback is a useful tool – it’s great to know post event, what delegates thought, what went wrong and what went right. But most feedback questionnaires aren’t asking the right questions, or asking enough questions to qualify the responses and put them in context.

It’s only when you have the context of an answer that you get to understand its full implication and whether its findings are important. For example, when rating an experience, a company needs to also know the person’s expectations of the experience and whether that element of the experience was important to them.

A rating of ‘terrible’ coupled with ‘but I didn’t care, and I was expecting it to be bad’ is very different to a rating of ‘terrible’ and ‘it was really important to me and I was expecting it to be wonderful.’

The ‘terrible’ rating may only be terrible because the person expected it to be so high. Another person who wasn’t expecting it to be amazing may have rated it as ‘ok’. Expectation has a huge influence over our experience.

Expectation is also based on previous experience. If the diner had an amazing first experience of the restaurant, then the next time they dine there their expectations will be high. If the second outing is still good, but not as great as the first then they will mark it down.

If you know that your delegate’s experience failed to live up to their high expectations, that could be an issue with the marketing and communication (was the experience oversold?) rather than in the experience itself. If you know that your delegate was a hosted buyer last year, but not this year, then their experience may not be as good.

If that part of the experience was important to the delegate, then you can put time and effort into making it better, but if it wasn’t important than you can put your focus into other elements that are more important to them.

But beware of creating a feedback survey that’s too long, or people will abandon it before the end. We once created a survey with a button on each page saying ’I’m bored now’. On pressing the button, the part- completed questionnaire was saved (so at least we got some of the data) and then we got to know where the pain point in the survey was.

Context is everything. Make sure you get some in your next survey.

Simon Clayton, chief ideas officer, RefTech.