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What I've Learned About Feedback as a 16 Year Old

Mon,Apr 03,2017 @ 10:30 AM

I’m not the type of person who complains about any customer service error. If a cashier is rude to me, it’s not a big deal; they’re probably having a bad day. If something I order online takes way longer to arrive than the website told me it would, I live with it. If the meal I order isn’t exactly what I receive, I usually just eat what I get.

That said, a couple weeks ago, I called American Eagle about a problem with a pair of shorts I ordered online. I hoped they would send me a new pair because one of the pockets seemed to be super shallow, making them look strangely lopsided. I described this to the customer service representative, who patiently listened and clearly tried to understand the issue. She suggested that one pocket might have been lightly sewn to the inside of the shorts to prevent it from ripping while in transport, and the tailors may have forgotten to sew the other one. When I turned them inside out, I found that this was exactly the problem. I told the rep that she had been right, and I joked about how embarrassing it was that I’d totally jumped the gun on calling her. We both laughed about the incident for a few minutes before ending the call.

After hanging up, I found a short feedback survey on the American Eagle website. I described how kind and funny the rep I talked to was, and I said that I was kicking myself for never having asked the rep’s name because I wanted her to be recognized for doing her job well. A few days later, I received an email from an American Eagle representative in reply telling me that the she had had figured out which rep I talked to and shared the message with her and the rest of the customer service team. She thanked me personally for sharing positive feedback with them.

So why am I telling you all this? Am I trying to make you think I’m a great person for leaving nice feedback? Am I secretly being paid by American Eagle to promote their brand? No. This experience shows that more often comes out of sharing a positive experience than complaining about a bad one. A lot of people are eager to make a fuss over a small problem but won’t celebrate when a company does something really well.

People that work or have worked in customer service can likely attest to the fact that customers are often report what is bad about the service they provide but rarely report what is good about it. Despite how frustrating this can be, a lot of people with customer service experience exhibit the same behavior. Before noticing this inconsistency, I did the same thing. I would be angry about a rude customer at work and then be a rude customer just a few hours later. Contradictory behaviors such as these occur because most people are simply unaware of their tendency to point out the bad over the good.

Recognizing what an employee does well is, although less common, usually more impactful than criticizing what they do poorly. It’s more memorable (I could list tens of times customers were especially nice to me, but I only recall a few incidents when customers were notably unkind), and it’s likely to earn them praise by their superiors. The email American Eagle sent me about my feedback said that my comments had been shared with the rep I spoke to and the rest of their customer service team. This reinforces positive behavior, making it more likely to both continue and spread throughout the company.

This can be applied within companies as well. Managers can point out what an employee does well in front of several other members of the company in order to provide an example of ideal behavior. This encourages the employee in question to continue what they’re doing well, and it shows other employees what they should be doing. The possibility of being made an example of what staff should do incentivizes trying to do a great job, while worrying about being called out in front of colleagues may make employees afraid to call attention to themselves at all.

It’s always better to recognize people for doing remarkably well than for the little mistakes they make. It makes them keep up the good work, their peers want to do as well as them, and customers want to continue their relationship with a company. So next time you’re about to make a derisive comment to a waiter who writes your order down wrong, perhaps thank them for politely handling their mistake instead. Rather than scorning an employee for an error in front of their coworker, acknowledge another employee for doing something well so that others can learn from them. Try to appreciate the good others are doing whenever possible to brighten their day and promote their actions.

Tim Hagen

Written by Tim Hagen

Tim Hagen founded Progress Coaching, a Training Reinforcement Partner Company, in 1997. His entrepreneurial career began in college leading to positions in sales, sales management, and sales training for small and large corporations, and eventually ownership of several training companies. Tim is often a keynote speaker at companies teaching the value of coaching and conversations in the workplace. He possesses a unique combination of hands-on experience, academics, and innovative insight to solve the industry’s most common challenges specific to workplace performance. Tim holds a bachelor’s degree in Adult Education and Training from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.

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