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Feedback Fatigue – Is Just One Question Best?

October 8, 2019

Requests for feedback into my inbox have risen considerably recently. Invariably an email or a text will request my opinion for a product, service or even just a single phone call! This is frustrating and ironically can turn me off the organisation concerned.

That said, I firmly believe that feedback can drive up performance. Sites like Trustpilot, Tripadvisor and Google’s reviews should be enabling the consumer to have a voice, louder than the advertising and the cut-price offers that certain unscrupulous airlines, hoteliers and retailers have relied upon to attract naïve customers. We also know that asking just one question is more effective than asking several. That question being:

Would you recommend this product to a friend?

Also known as the net promoter score, this single question invariably provokes more people to respond and generates more honest and therefore accurate data. Why then do organisations persist asking multiple questions regarding insignificant interactions such as a single telephone call?

Employers are no different, every year we expect our people to complete a detailed employee engagement survey, ignoring the fact that results will be skewed by:

– Fear that negative feedback will be career limiting

– Only engaged staff will complete the survey, disengaged staff disengage from the process

– Disbelief that the process in anonymous

– Frustration that previous years surveys have had little impact

Wouldn’t it be better to ask just one question? Like the net promoter score for consumers, a single question that clearly indicates whether people are engaged. But what is that question?

Some mimic the net promoter score by asking:

‘Would you recommend working here to a friend?’

This works well until the role or the organisation is specialist. In which case, unless your family and friends are also biomedical scientists or property tax accountants then the question has limited impact.

We could ask:

‘Do you feel valued by the organisation?’

Or

‘Do you feel good about the work you do?’

Or

‘Are you proud to work here?’

Or

‘Do you often consider working elsewhere?’

All good questions but do any of them really get to the truth? I’m not sure they do. Engagement is fluid, variable and hard if not impossible to measure by a questionnaire. Maybe we shouldn’t rely quite so much on feedback tools and instead, engage with people one to one, have a conversation, ask whatever question seems appropriate and demonstrate that we care enough to give our time.

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