When an employee asks a customer to “give me a 10 on a survey or I’ll get fired,” can you really count on the accuracy of that customer’s rating? This may be an extreme example of “gaming feedback,” but many versions of this behavior occur all the time.
To keep gaming feedback in check, it’s important to be explicit with employees about what the company considers to be unacceptable behaviors. Here are five rules that you should strictly enforce with employees:
- Don’t mention or refer to a score. You can not ask a customer to give you a score or mention any possible option on the survey.
- Example of bad behavior: “Let me know if you can’t give me an excellent on any of the questions.”
- Don’t mention specific survey questions. You can not tell a customer about a specific question that they will be asked as part of the survey.
- Example of bad behavior: “You will be asked to rate me on my knowledge.”
- Don’t mention any consequences. You can’t tell a customer about the positive or negative consequences that you or the organization will have based on the feedback that the customer gives.
- Example of bad behavior: “If you give us a low score, then we will not make our bonus.”
- Don’t say or imply that you will see their responses. You can’t let the customer know that you will see the specific information that they put in their feedback.
- Example of bad behavior: “I look forward to reading your responses.”
- Don’t intimidate customers in any way. Any attempt to affect how customers will respond in their feedback, or keep them from completing the survey, whether implicitly or explicitly, is not allowed.
- Example of bad behavior: “Let’s grab a Cubs game after you fill out the survey.”
- Example of bad behavior: “Don’t bother filling out the survey, the company doesn’t look at them.”
Of course, keeping this bad behavior in check also requires the company to behave appropriately. The biggest mistake I see is tying too much compensation to a score. When you heavily incent a specific metric, employees will do whatever it takes to improve that metric, including “gaming” the system. Think about it, the heavier the compensation, the more you are implicitly asking the employee to improve the score at any cost (see why Staples employees stopped selling computers).
So make sure that your incentives are focused on driving the behaviors that you want from employees, not specific outcomes like scores.
The bottom line: Use feedback primarily to improve, not to keep score.