The Messy Roommate Bias and How It May Be Impacting Your Customer Feedback

One of the more common reasons for a company choosing against any type of market research or voice of customer (VoC) is the work is already completed in-house. We'll hear about organizations using sales representatives or customer service representatives to collect this feedback directly from customers. In many industries like manufacturing, these sales representatives have decades worth of history with their customers. As a result, this strong bond and relationship has helped them sell more but at the same time will create a problem when customer feedback needs to be collected.

This inherent issue with this type of relationship is whether or not these customers can truly be 100% honest and open about issues, particularly with the sales representative on their account. Yet the organization will still send the sales representative out and collect loyalty data and customer satisfaction data on a phone or tablet. This ranges from a simple, "how satisfied are you with this order" to "how likely are you to recommend our company" using the NPS scale?

Unfortunately, the awkwardness of this situation grows when the sales representative then asks questions about satisfaction with himself or herself. Questions such as "what about their salesperson could be improved?" "What is the likelihood to continue doing business with the salesperson?" How can this data be collected truthfully and honestly while the salesperson is sitting face-to-face with the end-customer or on the other end of the phone call asking the questions? The truth is, it cannot and it incurs significant bias.

The Messy Roommate Bias and How It May Be Impacting Your Customer Feedback


Using a third-party market research company helps customers open up and provide candid and honest feedback

When the results pour in for these types of customer satisfaction surveys, the results typically yield much stronger results than reality. It's human nature not to want to create conflict and negatively rate another person face-to-face, particularly if you have a relationship with them for many years. At Drive Research, we like to call this the "dirty roommate bias."

So when sales are down 12 months from now and the company goes digging into its customer satisfaction data, it's unlikely to find any major themes or commonalities. In most cases the end-customer likely shied away from sharing his or her true thoughts to the organization or salesperson. Some will be frank and honest, but most will not.


The Messy Roommate Principle

This factor is the result of a customer not willing to share honest and constructive feedback with a salesperson or organization due to the fear of conflict or negativity. The customer is uncomfortable sharing honest feedback because the results are not confidential and the salesperson and organization will identify who provided the feedback. So the roommate continues to live with the messy roommate in angst. Even worse, the messy roommate is completely unaware his or her roommate has an issue.

This analogy works well because if you have a dirty roommate, most will not talk to the roommate directly and share their thoughts with them openly and honestly unless it reaches a total breaking point. However, this person is likely to share some of these messy roommate stories with their friends, family, and sometimes complete strangers. Although they are unlikely to share the negative feedback directly to the roommate, they will be honest with others.

This principle is one of the major drivers behind why the market research industry as a whole recommends using a third-party to collect customer feedback.

The independent market research company serves as a middle-person, a mediator, an arbitrator, and an unbiased way to collect truthful and honest feedback from customers.

If the only reason you are using VoC is to collect high satisfaction ratings with no concern of identifying improvement areas, the messy roommate principle likely does not impact you. However, the idea behind VoC is to understand customer needs, wants, and understand how your product or service falls short of meeting those expectations. It identifies tactical and strategic areas to improve salesperson relationships and grow.

"The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service sells itself." - Peter Drucker


How Does a Voice of Customer (VoC) Survey Work?

The VoC process is engineered to follow a specific path. This path has been tested and perfected based on years of experience and certified training in the VoC field. Although VoC can come in many shapes and sizes, including qualitative and quantitative, we'll be walking you through the process for a typical online survey.

Step 1: Discovery meeting to understand VoC needs, objectives, and questions that need answers

Step 2: VoC market research company prepares a proposal (highlighting process, timeline and cost)

Step 3: Once approved, VoC company holds a kickoff meeting with client to launch project

Step 4: Creation of a project workplan highlighting tasks, dates, and deliverables

Step 5: VoC company signs NDA, and exchange of customer lists and contacts begins

Step 6: A draft online survey document is created for review

Step 7: Feedback is incorporated and firm finalizes draft for programming online

Step 8: The online survey link is sent to the client for testing

Step 9: The online survey starts with a soft-launch and pre-test of 100 invites or 1% of sample

Step 10: Full launch of fieldwork begins

Step 11: VoC company shares a passcode protected link with client to view live data

Step 12: Email reminders and potential follow-up phone call reminders are placed to boost response

Step 13: After desired number of completes are reached the VoC survey is closed

Step 14: VoC company cleans, analyzes, and reports on results for the client

Step 15: Draft report is sent to the client with executive summary of themes and recommendations

Step 16: Market research company debriefs with the client on the results, takeaways, and next steps


How Can Drive Research Help?

Drive Research is a Voice of Customer (VoC) company in Syracuse, NY. Interested in learning more about our VoC, CX, and UX market research services?

Contact us at info@driveresearch.com or call us at 315-303-2040.

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