Political Animal


December 01, 2012 12:30 PM The Art of Strategic Feedback Solicitation

By Jesse Singal

Marketing research can be pretty fascinating:

In an experiment, subjects were divided into two groups and directed to replicate the preparation of an “award-winning smoothie.” All of the participants were set-up to fail with poor quality food processors.
Half the group was made to feel the smoothie failure was their fault and the other half was told that it was likely a machine malfunction.
Participants primed to believe the failure was their fault rated the machine lower on a nine-point scale after complaining — 3.29 — versus the same participants who were not given the chance to complain — 4.31.
Participants primed to blame the processor rated the device higher after given the chance to complain — 4.02 versus 3 out of nine.
A further experiment showed that when self-blamers were provided with affirmative statements about their competence, they became more likely to rate a product favourably after complaining — 5.22 versus 3.36 on a nine-point scale.
“With companies turning to social media to communicate with consumers, the power of customer complaints has been amplified,” says Professor Dahl. “Our study shows that companies shouldn’t just let people sound off. They need to be stroking egos, as well.”

Anyway, how did you guys like this blog post? Before you respond, I should point out that if you didn’t like it, it’s definitely my fault, not yours—you are doing great!

Jesse Singal is a former opinion writer for The Boston Globe and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. He is currently a master's student at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Policy. Follow him on Twitter at @jessesingal.


  • c u n d gulag on December 01, 2012 1:00 PM:

    As a person who did Customer Service training for cable companies from '81-'83, '86-'91, and 2000-'08, it's been harder and harder through the decades to find CSR's who will field a complaint with even a hint of empathy, and now we want them to stroke the customer's ego's too?

    HA!!! Good luck with that!
    Computer whiz-kids are a dime a dozen. Ones who like poeple, and like to help them, are rarer and rarer.

    You might be able to find those kinds of CSR's if the starting pay for one of the toughtest jobs wasn't absolute sh*t. And I argued for better pay drawing better employees for years and years.

    But here's what the cable industry won't tell anyone (and I'm sure it's not the only industry)
    No one in cable really cares about customer SERVICE!
    They just want the feckin' phones answered. And, of course, THE MONEY!
    After that, they don't give a flying feck what happens to the customers - hey, the company did IT'S job: the feckin' phone was answered!!! What more can customers expect for their money?

    I finally got out at the end of '08.
    And you know what? As much as I hate not having a job for years now, I wouldn't go back there for double my salary. I really, really, came to HATE the whole cable industry.

    The only 'ego-stroking' allowed, is stroking the ego's of the CEO's and upper management.
    Customers are a necessary inconvenience on their path to wealth.

  • Dean on December 01, 2012 2:15 PM:

    What social rules are true today may not have been true 10 years ago or ten years from now - it is all fluid and we all evolve - just look to a Facebook timeline and see how everyone around you has evolved. Once everyone sees the gimmick, it goes to the next level of what hidden meanings and be pulled, deeper and deeper like a fractal, because that is what it is... the more you look, the more you will find. It is how to stay at the top of the highest wave and how to ride that wave to its furthest ends - capitalism has found ways to measure the waves in motion and ride the big ones for a long way but at the end of the day, people are people and wont buy a car when they need food on the table and a roof over the head - if they have that much. For most, the world sucks.

  • schtick on December 01, 2012 3:01 PM:

    Before I even buy a product, I usually go to productnamesucks.com to read the complaints and go to other sites that sell said product that allow product comments to be made. Of course, I try to talk to people that have that product and have owned for at least a while just to see if there is a pattern of the same complaint(s).

    I do feel that if a company will try to work with you about something that isn't right, they will get more respect for them at least trying. Good customer service can boost a company upwards, while bad customer service (aohell comes to mind) will push it down.
    And gulag, I've been lucky to have good results from my cable company (Time Warner). Of course, it's the only game in town (they bought out their competitor) and having friends that work there I know the company sucks and they raise their rates and charge for "extras", even tho they are supposed to be part of the "package" you get, just because they can and not because of cost.

    crapcha....capitol hinedya....fitting

  • gregor on December 01, 2012 3:20 PM:

    your post sucks, but it's not your fault.

  • HokieAnnie on December 02, 2012 4:35 PM:

    I had a sad/funny instance of this when I complained to General Mills after they cheapened/ruined their Liberte Meditterene line of yogurt. Originally the yogurt was all made in the Quebec plant the original company had built before being bought out. It was a little cup of heaven I'll tell yah. But after realizing that they had ruined yoplait with corn syrup and too much pectin, their answer was to try to foist the same cheapo crap made in yoplait's Denver plant rebranded as Liberte and at a higher price.

    They gave me a song and dance about the formula not changing and then they backtracked to saying they only made necessary changes. Bullshit. No amount of ego stroking will change what they did nor will it convince me to ever purchase another cup of my formerly beloved Liberte.