Are you seeing what your customers are saying… or feeling?

Do you sometimes find customer feedback difficult to believe? You’re not alone. When it’s about your business or service, something you’ve spent hours thinking about and honing, if a customer doesn’t get what you’re trying to do, it’s exasperating. Unbelievable even. They must need an eye test. Or a hearing test. Or to get over themselves.

It’s frustrating – and often infuriating.

I have every sympathy – but I strongly believe there’s much power in this kind of feedback. When we learn to read between the lines we gain invaluable new insight and perceive how we might do things differently. And that can give your business a real edge.

When we hear or read about experiences through other people’s eyes, it’s easy to dismiss them as trivial, exaggerated or even just plain wrong (especially when it’s related to us in person or our hardworking business.)

We all perceive and experience the world differently but it takes a very conscious effort to step into anyone else's shoes and try out their perspective. We tend to live in our own self-justifying existence and focus our time and energy trying to persuade others to see, hear or feel things from our point of view.

But the fact remains, many people have many different points of view. As customers, our opinions of the service we experience depend on what we notice or don’t. For example, some of us can go into a restaurant and spot clutter and dust from twenty paces but will be oblivious to the music. Some of us will point out a spelling mistake within three seconds of being given the menu. Others will let that go, but complain, when given the bill, that a service charge has been automatically added, despite it being underlined on the menu. Some can find a team member to be brusque, while others will say they found them to be perfectly amenable.

So why is this? Why is it that something which is blindingly obvious to one person can be completely off the radar of another?

The answer is simply that we have each grown up with different experiences that have shaped the way we learn, think and behave. We notice and remember the things that are important to us or make us happy. By the time we are adults we have unconsciously chosen to disregard the things that have made little impact on our emotions - good or bad.

Another factor is learning style. If you assume that everyone learns that same way you do, of course you’ll get frustrated when something that seems obvious to you goes over the heads of others. So if you’re mainly a visual learner, you may put up lots of posters around the restaurant or staffroom about promotions or meetings. And you may find it hard to believe when people say that they didn’t see them. If you’re an auditory learner, you may tell people about a process and then be surprised when they fail to remember. If you are kinaesthetic you may think you’ve made your hospitality plain by gesture and expression - it will be infuriating when a guest says you didn’t welcome them.

Just as you lean toward being more visual, kinaesthetic or auditory (VAK), so does each individual customer. That’s why some customers will not be experiencing your marketing or service in the way you assume they should be and why your staff are not all taking on board the learning you think you are imparting!

If a customer complains about the music being too loud, or that the food was poorly presented, even if you don’t agree, you can safely assume that they are not the only customer that has that view. And if you can act on it without making others unhappy, you’ll satisfy and delight more customers.

Our Silent Customers (aka mystery guests) focus on delivering subjective narrative feedback because it reflects their own genuine and honest customer experience. It’s sometimes hard to take. That’s why some owners and managers find it difficult to believe all of what their Silent Customers are saying. But those who do consider the feedback carefully and use the opportunity to look through different eyes have the power to deliver an outstanding experience that’s literally beyond their own expectations.

Try this quick fun test to find out if you are Visual, Kinaesthetic or Auditory.