Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Tradition can be a constraint. When working in industry many years ago, I worked for a company that had been in business for 125 years. Needless to say, the company was loaded with "tradition." The favorite response to any desire to improve the business performance was "but we've always done it that way." I would walk down the brick-lined halls and I could feel the walls quietly saying "we've always done it that way." In many ways industry has become filled with tradition in the ways that we measure customer satisfaction and loyalty. Different measures of satisfaction and loyalty arise and become popular only to fall into the abyss of time when another measure is announced. As Yogi Berra said, it is deja vu all over again. We have been using mail surveys, phone surveys and most recently Internet surveys to gather customer information. The response rate seems to relate to the importance of the product or service to the customer. Surveys at McDonald's will not get the same response as surveys on cat-scan equipment at the hospital. Usually the survey response for the retail industry (such as McDonalds) falls far behind the response rate of B2B.

Well, a small company in Windsor, Ontario, Canada has developed an innovative method for dramatically increasing response rates for surveys. The company, Tellbob, Inc. collects instant customer feedback for retailers, businesses and institutions on web-based terminals (computer kiosks) and hand-held mobile units. The customers are instantly rewarded with either a coupon that can be used immediately or some other form of reward. The kiosk-based technology and mobile units with touch screen technology makes it easy for the customer to answer questions and submit comments before printing out a coupon.

The system gives immediate feedback on questions shortly after the point of sale. The obvious benefit is that the data is up-to-date without the time lapse that results when the customer answers a survey at some later point in time (filling out a response card or answering an Internet survey). A secondary, but no less important aspect is the survey can be modified quickly to capture customer trends or major problems before they get out-of-hand.

The preliminary results reported by one of Tellbob's customers, Marble Slab Creamery, indicated a redemption rate of 85%. Wow!!!

The bottom line is that the customer can give immediate feedback in an easy to use way and is instantly rewarded. This is definitely a step forward for the companies that deal directly with their customers face-to-face. I like it.

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