In the past year and a half, I’ve purchased a new car and a new cell phone. While they are completely different purchases, there was a common bond in the experiences. Both times, the salesperson indicated I would be receiving a survey from the corporate level about my experience with them. And both indicated that their corporate office considered anything less than a five out of five a failure and they hoped if I planned to rate them lower than five, they would have the opportunity to fix it before I filled out the survey. I even got the sense that their commission on the sales depended on getting all fives.

Rather than actually listening to customer feedback, brands are simply checking the box and creating a fantasy world where everyone is always completely satisfied. Take my cell phone purchase as an example. While the salespeople did an excellent job in working with my wife and me, when they set up our new phones, my contacts ended up on my wife’s phone and her contacts ended up on mine. We discovered it about 10 minutes down the road, turned around and got it fixed. In the end, everything turned out ok, but it was an extra half hour to go back and have them fix the issue. Still, they had done a fine job otherwise and I didn’t want to punish them for what was an honest mistake. So when the survey came, I gave all fives like they asked.

So what unspoken feedback are brands missing because they are too scared to get anything less than a perfect score? The phone store might need to come up with a better system for transferring data to new phones for families buying multiple phones. Can you imagine if a teenager’s information accidentally ended up on mom or dad’s phone … OMG!

The social Web has made customer feedback into a vital tool for consumers when making a purchase decision. Most agree that if they only see positive reviews, it’s seen as not a true representation of the product. Yet when it comes to internal surveys, big brands continue to believe the lie that it needs to be all fives.

To some customers, giving a four out of five might be exceptional and mean they are a customer for life. But being guilt-tripped into giving a five means they think twice about returning. And in other cases, brands are missing the whole point of customer feedback: to value a customer, listen to feedback and constantly improve the customer experience.

What brands should really strive for is customer feedback instead of creating a culture that creates a false sense of perfection as customers lower their expectations.

—Tim Wieland