Shep Hyken's Customer Service Blog

Guest Blog: Your opinion counts – or does it?

This week on our Friends on Friday guest blog post, my colleague John Smart writes about how important it is to listen to your customers, not simply tell them your opinion. Shep Hyken

‘In my opinion….?’ ‘Can I give you my opinion…?’

Of course you can give me your opinion, but whether I will take it on board is another matter.

The problem with opinion is that it’s personal.  If you analyse how it is said it is almost always started with ‘my….’ when someone is offering it to you.

Though ‘my’ opinion of something may differ from ‘your’ opinion. You may like Italian food – I may dislike it (I don’t, but humour me). If you are eating an Italian meal in front of me, and I start saying that it’s awful, it’s not nice….. – that’s my opinion. However, you will carry on eating it – because it works for you and you enjoy it.

Those working in customer service are bombarded by people giving their ‘opinion’. In some customer service situations customers are encouraged to give their ‘opinion’. It will then depend on the organisation to filter out the personal from the constructive.  Therefore, an organisation, or an individual needs to be careful if asking for opinion. While the intention may be good, in most cases the opinion may not be acted upon because, as in the Italian food example, what they are doing works for them.

Opinion can sometimes be compared to a badly made cappuccino – all froth and no coffee!

What is needed here, is feedback, not in the form of opinion but good, effective feedback.

But how can this be achieved?

  • Well, don’t say ‘my opinion’ for a start or use associated terms like ‘In my view…..’  Focus on facts, not just personal views.
  • Unless the feedback is going to achieve the desired change – then don’t give it.  Otherwise it becomes opinion. In the Italian food example I didn’t change the other person’s view (perhaps only that the person wouldn’t eat Italian in front of me or order me Italian food).

If you do find yourself in the position of being offered (or told) the opinion of someone:

  • Listen
  • Ask them to clarify, to explain.
  • Listen

Example:

Customer: ‘In my opinion you don’t understand the problem here, if you did – you wouldn’t be doing that for a start.’

You: ‘OK, thanks, can you go into a little more detail? Just so I understand exactly what it is you require.’

They now have to clarify or explain the rationale for their ‘opinion’, and this becomes effective feedback.

It’s not to say opinion is bad, it has to be taken into context, and if your intention is to get that person’s personal view of something – then opinion is now in the right context.

So remember, when asking for someone’s opinion you will get their personal view, which may not match the view of others as a general rule. Also, that giving your opinion may not necessarily change or be acted upon.

Please note: this article is based purely on my opinion……..

John Smart is a development consultant, running his own consultancy. He has held senior management positions gained in Consultancy, SMEs and FTSE 100 companies, within a diverse array of industries. He is the author of PROUD – Achieving Customer Service Excellence.

 
  1. Great article. Actually this is the problem in trying to get an effective and informative feedback. Some customers tend to give out negative comments without elaborating much why they were dissatisfied. In coming up with survey forms, do you have any suggestions how to elicit a good feedback? Usually, customers refuse to elaborate on their answers.

    • Hi,

      Thank you so much for your question, and I’m glad you liked the article. To answer your question I would probably try to use ‘powerful’ questions.

      A powerful (or specific) question is different to a normal or general question; its power being that it cuts through to core of the issue. I use these a lot during coaching.

      If you ask someone, ‘How are you feeling today?’ the general reply will be ‘Great, thank you.’ But this is a general reply to a general question.

      If I said, ‘So, what’s so great about today?’ You would then come back with more specific information. The same technique can be used for feedback. You may throw out some general questions – e.g. ‘How was our service?’ ‘How was the food?’ How was your stay?’ Then build in or follow up with more powerful (specific) questions: ‘What did you particular like about the service?’ ‘What did you enjoy about the food?, etc.

      This is how I would approach it, but other readers may have their own ways. I hope that helps.

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