Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in Customer Service

The military service practice of “Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell” has an interesting message for customer service practice. If you don’t ask customers for their feedback, they won’t tell you how to improve. Ignoring their issues may reduce the conflict, but it also reduces the learning. And, today those customers with a problem will steal away in the night without warning. Why do organizations fail to solicit feedback in a meaningful way? Most fear the customer’s ire if that Pandora’s Box is opened – better to leave well enough alone.

The truth is that simply asking has a big impact on the customer’s perception that an organization cares, even if nothing changes. Granted, continually asking for feedback without change that customers notice will ultimately erode their trust. Customers know you are not perfect and do not expect you to be. But, they do expect you to care.

One organization sent out feedback postcards to randomly selected customers. When the cards were returned, the company filed them away with reading them. The next time that company did a customer survey, the customers who had received feedback postcards gave the company higher customer satisfaction scores than those who did not receive a postcard! What are you doing to make it easier for customers to register their feedback? What steps can you take to enable your front line employees to ASK in manner that encourages customers to TELL?

Chip R. Bell and John R. Patterson are customer loyalty consultants and the authors of the best-selling book Take Their Breath Away: How Imaginative Service Creates Devoted Customers. They can be reached at