I mentioned the story of my kayak guide asking for feedback before the trip was over in the previous post. It's pretty easy to see why we all provided something less than full and frank disclosure to this man.
- We liked the guy. Despite our gripes, we now had something of a social relationship with him, after several days of constant contact. SOCIAL INFLUENCES
- We were painfully aware of our abundant wealth compared to most everyone we encountered, including our guide. As right-thinking liberal minded educated persons, we didn't want to place inappropriate expectations on someone from a less developed country without our advantages. At it's worst, this pattern is the bigotry of low expectations. But I'm going to call it just CULTURAL INFLUENCES
- This person was in a position of significant influence. Not only was he cooking our meals, we were entrusting him with our safety in a wilderness environment. POWER INFLUENCES
- In a couple of days, we'd be on an airplane headed home. Why risk damaging the last couple of days of our holiday just to give him some feedback? RISK REWARD IMBALANCE
The other traveler in our small group assumed there would be an internet questionnaire when we got home. But there wasn't. So the guide, wanting feedback, was left to his own resources.
How to ask for feedback in person
In this situation, our guide could have obtained much better and more informative feedback by changing his questioning strategy.
First, he needed to leverage the social connection more to make us feel more obliged to help. For example, he might say how much he valued our opinion as the wonderful people we were, and how important it was to his livelihood to stay competitive.
Then, he could have avoided some of the other challenges by asking us for future help, not past commentary. His question might go something like this:
"I'm thinking about making some changes to improve this trip for next time. What things would you change if you were me? What things would you definitely keep?"
The strategy here is to focus on what can be changed -- the future -- rather than the past. Clearly solicit both positive and negative. Shift the discussion away from the person to the activity or behavior.
In coaching, this technique is called balanced feedback. You provide the positives, and you provide the "next time", future oriented feedback.
At the end of events I facilitate, I often ask people to put up sticky notes under three headings: do more of, do less of, do the same. Sticky notes create the feeling of anonymity. But inevitably, in the debrief, people will volunteer to explain their sticky note. The "do less" column is the negatives, of course.
If there are no negatives in your feedback, this is a big clue that you're not getting the whole story.
[Unless of course your customer experience truly IS perfect. In which case, please get in touch, because I'd like to interview you for this blog.]