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The Feedback Loop

The Feedback Loop: More Data Doesn’t Always Mean Better Customer Service

Management, April 23, 2014
The Wharton School
University of Pennsylvania

It used to be that restaurant goers who were impressed by a particularly attentive waiter or waitress could praise that person to the manager or leave a generous tip. This kind of transaction is still available in many places of business, but increasingly the feedback loop has become more tangled and impersonal.

Many restaurants now include an automatic tip of 18% to 20% on the bill. And rather than give immediate feedback on a particular service, customers are often urged to go home and fill out an online survey in exchange for a free latte or car wash. While more customer service data is being gathered than before, is this emerging system of impersonal, arm’s length feedback better than a face-to-face encounter?

According to Wharton management professor Iwan Barankay, tools like online surveys may be easy to fill out, but it is hard for them to be constructive without a two-way conversation about the service being reviewed. “Customers look for a genuine experience, a real interaction with people. I think that is always going to be true,” he says.

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