The dangerous allure of positive feedback


I often wonder why opinion polls are so often wrong. I wonder every time they are wrong and that means every important election.

My conclusion is that people tell others what they think is the “right answer” either out of guilt or fear. Many Labour votes voted for the Tories or UKIP at the last election. Many told the exit polls they’d voted remain when they’d voted leave and an awful lot of people tell events organisers they’ve had a wonderful time and then bitch the hell out of what they’ve just been through.

Which is why I take the line “but we’ve had wonderful feedback at the event” with a pinch of salt.

And it’s why I am scared stiff that Donald Trump will be the next President of the United States.

Would you tell the event organiser the event was rubbish? Here’s an anonymised email I got this morning

“Although I really should, I never bothered filling in the feedback form because I never believed that those running the conference would pay much attention to it”

So it’s not just the bad news that turns to good news, it’s the bad news that never feedbacks/votes that skews the views.

I fear we are under another imperative, the imperative to get another invite. Those who complain they got a bad service are least likely to be invited back.

Net promoter scores

A net promoter score records the percentage of customers who’d recommend a product/service to a friend. Those who analyse these scores assume the affirmative bias (those who will be nice whatever) and focus on those who so much as hint at dissatisfaction.

Those analysing this kind of feedback value the glimpses of honest dis satisfaction above disingenuous praise. There is no allure to the analyst in everyone being happy, unless it can be borne out by sales.

A fool’s paradise

I fear that much of what we consider to be working isn’t working at all. Osborne and Cameron thought Remain worked until the results from Newcastle and Sunderland.

I fear that many of us in financial services believe our own sales figures. But the lag between a product/service failing and the public outcry can be a long one. This is especially so in financial services, where our means to measure value for money is so weak.

I fear that many organisations (especially train and financial service operators) make their feedback/complaint processes so difficult that they get no feedback, and getting none- assume all is well.

We tend to find out we have bought a pup years after the purchase, witness endowments, pension transfers and most notoriously PPI. Till the point when things go tits up, we live in a fools paradise.

I’d urge those who are viewing their event feedback/sales figures- even their opinion polls to look beyond the headlines and examine the cracks.

A crack in everything

Ring the bells that still can ring, forget your perfect offering

There is a crack in everything -that’s how the light gets in.

About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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