We all recognise that feedback is key to our business. As investors or developers, we want to understand what drives our customers; as landlords and property managers we need to know what keeps our tenants happy.
The problem is that as occupiers or consumers we can feel we are being harassed for information, asked to fill surveys, click buttons or give ratings after practically every interaction, no matter how small.
‘How Did We Do?’, we’re asked as we go through border control.
‘Would You Recommend Us?’, we’re asked after a visit to the GP.
‘Rate Our Facilities’, we’re asked after a trip to the loo.
The UKAA’s September breakfast roundtable, hosted by JLL, had the theme ‘Residents’ Feedback: Lifeblood or Unwanted Gift’ and was facilitated by customer experience consultancy RealService.
As a company, RealService is very much in the feedback business, conducting independent qualitative and quantitative reviews to help inform and guide the customer experience strategy of major clients from all sectors of the property industry.
And so, the presentation from founder and managing director Howard Morgan revolved around the notion that those who want customer feedback should really have to earn it.
He said that it should be an easy process, completed at the convenience of the customer and requested only after a relationship has been cultivated through meaningful contact.
Basically, the customer giving feedback should be treated in the same way as the customer buying, or renting, your product.
“Business makes such wonderful claims about service but doesn’t always think about whether their methods for gathering feedback measure up to those claims,” said Morgan.
“I recently went on a cruise and almost as soon as I disembarked was asked by email about my experience,” he said.
The mail said the feedback would take about 10 minutes to complete but filling in the initial questions – how did I rate my cruise overall – led to a 32-page survey. The person who designed it was clearly not thinking about the customer.
Asking for feedback on washroom facilities, he added was “the height of madness”.
“Why would you have to ask how clean the toilets are? I am your customer, not your cleaning supervisor.
“Outsourcing feedback is too easy. We have to learn how to gather feedback in an independent, ethical way, without making it onerous for the customer.”
For those attending, volume of feedback was important, to weed out customers with extreme views, be they good or bad. Other points offered or raised included:
- Asking for feedback got a better response than simply waiting for it – generally it’s unhappy customers who give it unasked
- It’s hard to integrate feedback systems; for example, word of mouth with digital or electronic
- Uber’s 360-degree feedback is stressful – should the supplier really be scoring the customer?
- Verification is important; how do we tell if anonymous feedback is from a true purchaser?
- In the residential renting world might it be wise to include ‘responding to requests for feedback’ in the leasing process?
- The Build To Rent Sector is way ahead of other property sectors because of the realisation that ‘these people could be your customers for years to come’
Hannah Marsh, co-founder of digital feedback company HomeViews, said property was learning from the hospitality industry.
“Hotels wanted feedback but kept getting it from outlier customers – those with extreme views, which were usually negative,” she said.
Now they ask everybody because if you ask all your residents you get the people who might be happy with your service but wouldn’t write a review unprompted.
Sam Winnard, JLL’s Director – Residential Agency, gave an overview of their feedback methodology which included monthly email and telephone calls and residents’ forums. Google Reviews and Net Promoter Scores were used for benchmarking so JLL can compare itself with competitors and with scores from outside the industry.
“Our customers have all interacted with the likes of Amazon or First Direct and they expect the same level of service across the board,” he said.
The Net Promoter Score is a good way of finding out if your customers are passionate about your product and benchmarking their experience inside and outside the property industry, agreed Morgan.
“However, if you are going to be rated a nine or a 10 – the scores which suggest a customer will stay loyal and actively recommend you – there needs to be an emotional connection,” he said.
“After getting your scores, there are two challenges.
“The obvious one is to identify your detractors and proactively manage any issues they have.
“The second is to convert any sevens or eights – those who are passive – into nines or tens and to do that, you need qualitative information around what would make the difference.”
It must also be desirable to have that feedback collected and verified independently.
Wrapping up, UKAA CEO Dave Butler said: “Customers are essential to the success of our business, but we have a long way to go before we put people before buildings.”
If you’d like to know more about how RealService could help you to design a customer feedback programme, or measure and benchmark customer satisfaction, please contact Howard Morgan at firstname.lastname@example.org