The Personal Approach To Collecting Feedback

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I have a confession to make. I never, ever fill out surveys. I feel irritated when any business interrupts my day with an email seeking my feedback. The impersonal nature of the questions, the idea that I’m just a source of data to be collected, the time it takes to respond — all of these things push my buttons. It’s not that I don’t understand why businesses do it and how the information they gather is useful; I know it’s so that services can be better tailored to consumers. But I can’t help feeling that the cost of filling out a survey, no matter how short and sweet the survey might be, isn’t worth the benefits I reap.

That’s why a recent Q&A on IHRSA’s blog caught my interest. The association asked two club presidents and a chief executive officer what methods they use for eliciting feedback from members. Each of the respondents said they use email-based surveys to gather information about customers’ experiences.
I know not everyone feels the same way I do about responding to questionnaires; some people are more generous with their time and opinions. But I also know that I’m not alone. We’re all overwhelmed with emails all the time; how many of the people who receive a request to complete a survey actually go ahead and do it? How many hit the delete button and move on?

I was pleased to see that email surveys aren’t the only methods clubs are using. The respondents to IHRSA’s question also reported using suggestion boxes throughout their facilities, including “give us feedback” links on their websites, and training employees to make note of customer opinions and share those opinions with management. It’s this last method that speaks to me the most. If I’m at the gym and a smiling employee approaches me and asks how I’m doing, how my workout is going, and whether she can talk to me for a few minutes about my experiences, I’m going to be all ears. And mouth. That is, I’m going to happily talk about it. This is the personal approach to collecting feedback.  A human being genuinely interested in how I feel and having an actual exchange with me rather than half answering cookie-cutter questions — that feels worthwhile to me.

If your club has the resources to invest in in-person information gathering, go for it. It’s by far the best method. If not, or if more details than can be gathered that way are needed, try a mix of methods: email surveys, web-based links, old-fashioned suggestion boxes, and opportunities to interact with staff. Whatever you do, don’t just rely on email surveys alone. You’ll be missing out on the thoughts and opinions of a significant portion of your membership if you do.

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