Have you noticed how large-chain retail salespeople and service personnel from leading brands suddenly seems very concerned about your feedback? When they attend to you, they try to go the extra mile and then turn around and say – “Sir, you’re going to get an SMS with a link for feedback, please give us a good rating.” At first, I thought nothing of this. I mean, sure why not. Maybe the brand wants to capitalise on positive customer stories. The reality is probably that these companies have tied their livelihoods to generating positive feedback. Kind of like driving initiative at gun point if you ask me. But here’s the point, you really need to know when it is wise for you to ask for feedback. Here’s the problem though. There is a huge difference between rewarding one-off initiative and codifying it into a process. Every customer interaction is not an opportunity to garner positive feedback. Sadly, sales staff don’t realise this and some of them have a strategy to maximise their feedback points by asking everyone every time. Little do they know that the ire some customers feel at that instance probably negatively affects their overall feedback score. Here are just two examples that have happened to me in early 2023. Sadly, these are not the exception but the rule these days.

Home Centre

I was queued in line waiting to pay for my product. Two counters were open. Yet there was a holdup when I finally came to the counter. I can’t quite recall, but there was something wrong with an item I had picked up. I think a product was missing its correct price tag. Or perhaps it was entered incorrectly in the system. A person was dispatched to find the right item, or to find the floor manager. While I waited patiently seeing customers processed faster in line next to me, the cashier started his spiel. He’d noticed that I was a frequent customer at the store. Truth, I was relocating, and this was the closest store to me with home essentials so I had been frequenting the store. Perhaps he felt I was prime target for getting positive feedback. He politely told me to give him a good rating. While still holding me up. He wasn’t lacking in nerve; I’ll give you that. I just gave a vague nod. Finally done with the ordeal, I thought not much of it, since I never got the SMS or link to provide feedback. But I remember the gall.

Cut to a few months later and I did have a positive story with Home Centre that was probably worthy of some feedback. I picked up a painting in the discount heap and paid for it for at a nice discount. Apparently the price was actually for a pair, with the other painting missing. For the price, I didn’t really mind. So, I picked it up and sauntered home. A good few hours later the manager called me. Lo and behold, they had found the missing painting. Could I come and collect it? I did since the store was round the corner. It became clear why the pair had been discounted, this particular missing painting was fairly damaged, someone had accidentally spilt white paint on it. The other painting which I had picked up, was showing signs of touching up. Still Kudos to the team at Home Centre Marina Mall to find the painting. Perhaps the reason why the painting was discounted was because if this damaged painting was placed side by side to the one I had picked up and customers were forced to pay for the pair, they likely wouldn’t due to the extent of the damage. Still as someone who has painted before, some of the damage might be rectifiable. I expected the cashier to remind me to give feedback, and like clockwork they did. I was slightly more inclined in this case, but I guess I just don’t get those SMS messages.

Amazon Retail

I have an ongoing problem with Amazon and its Audbile service. I am no longer able to sign up for the INR 200 membership. Which meant I couldn’t get access to the free catalogue. I have no idea why. I’ve raised multiple tickets. And to no avail. I’ve spoken to international help desk twice. And finally, an Indian one. Who placed the responsibility solely on my bank. Though I politely explained that I was using two separate bank cards and in both cases I had the same outcome. As you can expect, this engagement ended with the person asking for – you guessed it right, a positive feedback rating. I’ll give you this, it is slightly easier to get in touch with Amazon and Audible’s customer service team than it is to get in touch with SBI Card’s customer service. I had to try four times just to get a complaint registered.

When your service is your brand

Interacting with customer service or sales personnel tends to have a very large impact on your perception of a brand. It is a very human connect and the experience tends to leave a lasting impression. This is why it is critical to imbibe brand values and empathy in the staff who handle this. Unfortunately, these are often the least trained and least well-paid of staff. Worse even is when the entire function is outsourced to a third party. These people who manage your ‘brand service’ are the face of your brand. A brand that does do this well is Apple. In countries where there are Apple owned stores, you will find them manned by the infamous blue shirted ever helpful Apple employees who either sell Apple products or attend to service matters. These are people who handle a high volume of queries and complaints and who must navigate internal Apple systems on a fly. They do this with aplomb while ensuring that the customer is at ease. I’ve experienced this both in Singapore and in Australia. The later experience left me pleasantly surprised at the speed of service in the Perth Apple store as the salesperson was able to identify that I was entitled to a free replacement of my original iPad Pro keyboard even though it was out of the Apple Care period. And I was able to collect the replacement right there and then. Now that is service. And she never once verbally asked me for ‘feedback’.