So often people are asked to give feedback on a given project or piece of work, or perhaps a service or product or experience they had. And so often you get the “On a scale from 1 to 10…” measurement.
And this is just a lie. No, it’s not a lie in the sense of actively deceiving someone, more a lie in that a number doesn’t reveal the truth behind the comment.
Numbers & Feelings Don’t Add Up
I am compiling a list of responses from a feedback loop we have built-in for our documentation projects at work. We use a 1 to 5 feedback scoring system and we allow the respondents (it’s all anonymous) to voice any concerns or ways they think we can improve our service. Inevitably the feedback we do get does not always match with the scores. We get 5 out of 5 on a bunch of criteria, yet the feedback people write in indicates otherwise. So why the discrepancy? Because people will click off numbers and don’t want to think about too deeply. But as soon as they can air their feelings or ideas, they do, and it’s much more insightful and can lead to really actionable feedback.
In short, numbers rarely convey feelings and often people don’t say what they mean.
So Why Measure Using Numbers?
Well, the short version is, it’s easily measured and evaluated. Sixty percent of respondents liked ‘X’, or the average satisfaction score was 4 out of 5. Great, but there is no nitty-gritty detail in that. The other reason is that the world is ruled by numbers guys. When you go in front of a manager who is giving you 30 minutes of his/her time, numbers make a bigger (and simpler) impression than do words. And while both are always open to interpretation, numbers “appear” to tell the truth. And we know that isn’t true. Also, it’s easy to grasp a number and not so much a feeling or a concept. Especially not in the IT industry.
What’s the Answer?
Look, you’re going to have to have numbers to justify your arguments, that is the way business works. But if you get a chance to either speak to your potential respondents in an face-to-face or telephone setting, or you can get a blog discussion going, you will get someone’s real feelings and ideas and that is the closest thing to the truth you’ll get. It will lead you down the path of taking feedback and incorporating it into whatever you do to make it better.