Listening to customers via voice of the customer (VOC) programs and channels is extremely important.  But questioning them can become extremely annoying.  Companies must be mindful of the critical difference that converts promoters into detractors.

I was reminded of these differences as I read two recent articles.


I neglected Duolingo for 20 days after signing up. Here’s every email they sent me.  

Duolingo’s intent, no doubt was to encourage adoption – a key function (indeed necessity) of keeping customers.  But their approach clearly exceeded this user’s tolerance for being pestered.  After a certain amount of customer disengagement, the emails become an annoyance.  Eventually they even reached the point where they became comical (in a bad way).   

Recommendation:  The question Duolingo needs to ask itself is whether the reminders are for the benefit of the user OR of Duolingo.  If the former, then they should encourage rather than shame.  And they should account for user usage patterns and adapt.

Best Buy

I went to Best Buy four weeks ago. They still won’t let me go

Best Buy started on the right path.  The article details so many positives that Best Buy should certainly celebrate (and keep) those attributes of their customer experience.  They veered off the path, however, when their inquiries became too granular and focused on individual aspects of the service that are important to Best Buy (but less so to customers). 

To clarify, what the customer wanted was the ability to use their new appliances.  To be sure, the steps to reach that objective include things like (a) order simplicity/accuracy, (b) delivery communications and timeliness, (c) installation and configuration, etc.  But sending multiple emails at each stage of the journey demonstrates that Best Buy is focused on their departmental goal(s) rather than the customer’s goal.

Recommendation:  Best Buy should simplify their internal processes and improve the customer experience by sending a single survey after installation (i.e. after the customer’s objective has been met – a working appliance).  That survey could be broken into separate sections to address the order, delivery, and installation sub-processes.

Years ago, the majority of companies didn’t listen to customers at all.  So in some respects, this blog post is a sign of progress because companies have instituted VOC programs and listening channels.  But, as these examples show, too much of good thing is certainly a bad thing. 

The pivot point is to create a pathway for continuous listening and learning without persistently interrogating or annoying customers.  It is a fine balance, but one that is rather simple to strike when companies keep their customer’s needs/goals in mind.

(More recommendations for creating useful surveys here: Getting Powerball Results on Customer Surveys and Improving Customer Surveys)

Voice of the Customer – When does a Good Thing become a Bad Thing?
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