Recently, I saw a tweet from my second favorite baseball team, the Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers). They wanted my feedback!  As a SiriusDecisions analyst focusing on the customer experience (among other things) and a baseball enthusiast, I thought this offer was right in my ballpark.

While this is a B2C example of gathering customer feedback, all organizations can learn from the Dodgers’ example.

Using Twitter to engage their 412,000-plus followers, the Dodgers were looking for broad relationship-based feedback.  At least that’s what I inferred based on the short description constrained by Twitter’s 140-character limit (even shorter because it also included a hyperlink).

I was happy to step up to the plate and share my feedback.  Eight pages into the survey, I abandoned it, feeling a bit baffled – sort of like the Dodgers hitters this postseason against the St. Louis Cardinals.  Hard to believe that Kemp, Gonzalez, Hanley, Crawford, et al. were unable to score more than two runs in four of the six National League Championship Series games.  Anyway, I digress…

After a day of thinking about it, I went back to complete the survey and then examine what went wrong (the survey, that is – not the baseball games) and what all marketers need to do to build an effective voice of the customer initiative.

Here’s how the Dodgers struck out on customer feedback:

Strike 1:

Expectations weren’t set up from the beginning.  As it turned out, the survey was primarily about my interactions with the Dodgers on Twitter, not with the organization in general.  Had that been clearer, I wouldn’t have wasted my time starting the survey, as I’m not heavily engaged with them on Twitter.

Strike 2:

The survey was too long.  Clicking through page after page after page, I felt like I was stuck in an extended rain delay. It’s great to want to learn from customers, but let’s not try to squeeze them for every last bit of information all at once.  In the age of 140-character tweets and six-second Vine videos, having more than 20 pages of questions is just way too much.  It’s highly likely there were countless other fans like me who abandoned the survey along the way.

Strike 3:

It missed a golden opportunity to identify loyal advocates.  A famous study by loyalty guru Frederick Reichheld found that the single most important predictor of growth is the willingness of a customer to recommend that product or company.  If you are going to ask only one question, make sure it’s this one.  The good news is the Dodgers did ask how willing the customer would be to recommend the Dodgers’ Twitter account to others. The bad news is that the question was buried 15 pages deep in the survey.  By that time, survey responders were long gone or potentially negatively impacted by the length of the survey – possibly even pushing down their “loyalty” score.

I commend organizations like the Dodgers for seeking customer feedback and altering the way they do business based on customer needs.  However, it’s essential to set the right expectations for customers and make it easy for them to give you feedback that focuses on what really matters.

Hey, there’s always next year…