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Employee Feedback Gone Wrong




Employee feedback is important to the success of a company; simply put, gathering feedback from your employees can give insight into many areas of the customer experience, including:

  • Where employees feel they are not supported
  • Issues with morale, management, or loyalty
  • Great ideas and insight into ways to make the customer experience stronger – after all, employees are on the front lines and have a unique insight that upper management may not
  • Customer perceptions- customers like to talk to employees, and they may hear a pattern of similar concerns/strengths regarding the company during daily interactions

I’m a huge proponent of employee feedback and enjoy working with clients on an effective employee feedback program. However, when not done correctly, it can be a waste of time and money while tanking employee morale and loyalty.

Here’s a real life example of how an employee feedback program can go wrong (true story):

A company provides an annual employee feedback survey where topics range from coworkers, overall job satisfaction, management review, and a general feedback/comments section. The company houses an online portal for employees to track hours, request time off, and for continued online training. The company decides to use this online portal for efficiency and a streamlined process.

Each year before the survey is dispatched, they hold a staff meeting and remind employees that they survey will be live soon. They stress the importance of being honest and assure staff that the information will remain anonymous.

Bob, an employee who is eager to provide feedback, waits for the release date and then goes to the site to take the survey. He first finds that he has to login with his employee credentials. That makes him wonder how anonymous the survey really is. He is hesitant to provide completely honest responses to some of the questions, as he had had some issues with his direct supervisor. He has tried to resolve them in the past without success and isn’t sure if there would be ramifications for sharing this feedback with corporate. So, he continues on the survey without providing this information.

A week later he is working alongside Jane, a coworker. Their direct supervisor approaches Jane and says that her records indicate she hasn’t taken the employee feedback survey yet and needs to do so in the next three days so they get 100% participation. As the supervisor walks away, Bob and Jane talk about the fact that the survey is supposed to be anonymous, yet the supervisor knows who has taken it and who has not.

In the break room, conversation turns to the feedback. Some employees say they were completely honest in their feedback, though there were only a couple. Most say they were concerned about potential backlash and admitted that they gave high ratings across the board since they had to log in and they know that managers will know who said what.

What went wrong:

  • Management tried to assure employees that the survey was anonymous when in reality the employees had to log in to participate. As employees found they had to login to take the survey, they started off with a sense of distrust. This could (and in fact did) skew the results.
  • To further complicate things and show that the survey was not truly anonymous, the supervisors were seeking out employees who did not yet participate and remind them to take the survey. If they weren’t sure the survey was anonymous before, they realized it at this point.
  • By trying to obtain 100% participation in the form of supervisors and department managers reaching out to employees with reminders, it also enforced the concern that these managers were not only privvy to who took the survey and who didn’t, but would potentially have access to the feedback provided. If employees wanted to share negative feedback, especially about a manager or supervisor, or even how a department is run, knowing that this information could be easily accessed gave hesitation to being completely honest.

How can this be done better? There are some steps this company can take in the future to improve methods and ensure that employees are providing the most honest feedback possible:

  • Make it truly anonymous: while using the company’s online portal is likely efficient and cost effective, it would be better to find a way to use the portal but not require employee login to participate. This would give a sense of anonymity and perhaps garner more honest feedback.
  • Realize there will not be 100% participation: while the company’s procedure to remind employees to take the survey was likely done in good faith, wanting to hear from every employee, the way they went about it didn’t bode well. While 100% participation would be great, the reality is that this won’t happen. Encourage employees and offer general reminders (“the survey closes in five days; please take some time to participate if you haven’t done so already), but realize that not everyone will participate.
  • Offer options to take the survey outside of work: this company’s portal can be accessed by employees at any time, whether they’re at home or at work. For this survey, employees only had the option to take it while at work. Give them the opportunity to take it at their convenience. This will not only increase response rates, but will provide another layer to ensure results are anonymous.
  • Hire a third party vendor to conduct the surveys: employees may find it hard to provide feedback when they know their direct supervisors will see it, especially if there are significant issues. Hire a third party to execute the survey and aggregate results so the results truly stay anonymous. The company will still receive employee comments and performance ratings, but will only be tied to the store location and not to a specific employee.

More and more companies are collecting employee feedback, which is an excellent way to get insight into day to day operations. Employing best practices will ensure that it is money well spent and the data collected is as accurate as possible.


What Makes Consumers Want To Sabotage Your Brand?





20 million YouTube views, $180 million in damages to company shareholders….

This is one of probably the most extreme outcomes of customer sabotage. This happened back in 2009 when musician Dave Carroll had a bad experience with United Airlines. To express his dissatisfaction, he created a video he called “United Breaks Guitars.” The video went viral, and the damage started. United tried to reach out to Mr. Carroll, but their resolution was not satisfactory to the musician; thus, “United Breaks Guitars 2 was created.

While this is an extreme example, brand sabotage is a newer phenomenon, and one to be aware of, especially now with the ease at which social content can go viral.

What is this, exactly? Customer sabotage is more than a poor online review or posting negative content on a user’s (or brand’s) social sites. Sabotage is a deliberate behavior by a consumer to cause harm to a brand. In the case of social media, this could include a call to the consumer’s friends and followers to engage in some type of negative online behavior, create content to go viral and thus spread negative word of mouth at an alarming rate, or other similar activities.

Recently, I came across an example of this happening with American Airlines on Twitter. A young women’s conference was recently held, and a prominent speaker was to address the group of 400+ young women. However, his flight was canceled and he was unable to attend (he ended up giving his speech via Skype).

Twitter took off with posts including this story as well as attendees tweeting directly to American Airlines. The group attempted to mobilize to sink the company’s ratings and spread the story as far as possible. There were calls on Twitter to tweet to the company, post such negative reviews that their online ratings would tank, and otherwise disparage the company through social outlets.


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The group continued with similar Tweets and even others that tagged American Airline’s competitors to see how they could help or how they would react:


american air 1


Why does this happen, and what’s the difference between a dissatisfied customer and one who wants to sabotage the company’s reputation?

Research conducted at the University of Bern, entitled “When Hostile Consumers Wreak Havoc on Your Brand: The Phenomenon of Consumer Brand Sabotage” looked at the type of consumer who is outside the realm of dissatisfied to learn more about who this type of consumer is and what leads them to the point of wanting to sabotage a brand.

Outside of personality traits, the study describes the process that often leads to consumer sabotage:

  • The consumer experiences a product/service failure, or has a customer experience that conflicts with their perception of how they should be treated (or similar aspects).
  • The consumer internally assesses the significance of their experience to determine next steps.
  • The consumer may attempt to interact with the brand, whether it is online, via phone, or direct mail, and the interaction is not resolved to their satisfaction.

This is the point at which the consumer may attempt to sabotage the brand and decide how to go about it.

Notice the sentence in bold above; this one action (or inaction) may be the trigger point for a dissatisfied customer to make the leap to sabotage. Of course brands cannot stop all disgruntled consumers, but this study sheds some light on ensuring that basic customer service principles are upheld, especially online.

Below are some tips & key takeaways from this study:

  • Be aware of tough customers: employees cannot profile customers or even interact with them long enough sometimes to know if they may become one of “those” customers. However, when it does become apparent that a customer who may be disgruntled may also be one that is likely to cause a stir, it’s wise to take note of that. Watching review sites and social media monitoring data will shed light on a potential issue as it starts.
  • Make sure your brand has strong customer touchpoints: not only is this strong customer service, but it also refers to strong measures put in place to handle customer issues. As mentioned, the point of no return often happens when customers DO try to resolve their issue but it doesn’t work. Customer resolution processes should be air tight. No, you won’t always make every customer 100% happy, but the more you can strive toward this, the better off your brand will be.
  • Ask, ask, and ask again: it’s important to request feedback from your customers, but it’s also increasingly important to follow up after a customer has contacted your company with a problem. A follow up survey is a great way to check in and make sure their issue was handled to their satisfaction. It will be another data point to check your procedures, and will also help you find any holes in the service resolution path.
  • Monitor social media on a continual basis: not only should you have a team monitoring your brand’s social sites on a continual basis to respond to inquiries, handle issues, and engage with consumers, but a strong social media monitoring program should be put into place to monitor conversations about your brand across the entire web. This is a great way to make note of an uptick in negative content or a potential issue as it’s happening.

If, despite taking all proactive measures, consumers attempt to create a social media campaign against a brand, the best advice would be to address it head on. If the company engages in routine social media monitoring, it can be identified and addressed before it gets out of hand. Ignoring it in hopes it will “go away” may not work, especially if the consumer has a strong following on social sites and/or has the ability to gain traction quickly.

This is a new breed of consumers; it seems that social media has empowered consumers to a point where they believe they can control the brand’s destiny. Being aware of this up and coming trend is important – going viral is getting easier and it’s important for brands to be aware of online chatter before it becomes a real problem.



Spot Checks – A New Form of Mystery Shopping


SpotCheck logo 2016


Mystery shopping just got easier!


We are pleased to introduce our new Spot Check Mystery Shopping Program – it’s a mobile based, simplistic approach to mystery shopping.


We understand that each company’s needs are different, and we have heard requests for simpler programs for a variety of reasons, whether it’s to start a discovery program for those who have not used mystery shopping in some time (or ever) and want to see where they are on the most basic service points or if it’s a company that’s rolling out a new product or promotion and want to make sure all locations adhere to the marketing/presentation/talking points set forth.
We also understand that companies are pressed for time – starting a customized, more complex program takes time, and sometimes companies need quick data.


Spot Check Mystery shops serve both purposes – you can order shops on our self-serve portal and get started with no effort on your part. Your locations will be evaluated using a basic, standard evaluation form and shoppers will be deployed. From there, you and key company members will receive email notifications as shops are completed.


Take a look at our newest service offering or start a program to see how it works! There is no commitment on your part – order shops as needed or request that they happen on a regular basis.


Have questions? Please don’t hesitate to contact us to learn more about the Spot Check Mystery Shopping Program – we’re always happy to help!