As a customer of lots of different B2C companies, I find the current crusade to get feedback and referrals more than a little bit irritating – in the B2C world (for an auld cynic like me at least) any mass communication from a company that sells confectionary/gadgets/shoes/whatever, suggesting that they really care about my thoughts/feelings/hopes/dreams doesn’t fill me with excitement – that and I just don’t believe them!

I have no desire (or time) to go online and rate my customer experience from 1-10 every time I leave a shop; I could make suggestions about how my razor could be improved (make the blades cheaper and stop adding more!) but I doubt anyone will pay attention. I don’t want to go online and fill in a survey about why I bought drink A instead of drink B and I don’t want to answer three short questions about my visit to the Cinema. I don’t care about them and I really don’t mind that they don’t care about me. I am pretty happy with this relationship and I don’t want it to change - the problem is that they keep trying to pretend they do…

Levity and cynicism aside, that’s life for a lot of large B2C companies, it’s hard to sound like you really care when your customer is buying a chocolate bar or can of fizzy drink. You don’t need them to love you, you don’t need them to like you. You probably don’t even need them to know you made whatever they are buying, you just want them to like the taste of your product. It’s unlikely that you will create evangelists that go around telling everyone they meet that chocolate bar A changed their life for the better, but that’s ok!

The trouble is, that the glut of feedback forms, referral templates, requests to fill in forms and answer surveys is having a negative impact on our perception of feedback and the value of referrals. By the time you get to Thursday each week, you have been asked for feedback from 50 different companies and frankly, you just don’t feel like doing it any more – if at all.

In the world of B2B a huge percentage of business comes via referrals and evangelists, and those customers that are delighted with your products or service. The leads they bring to you are better qualified, more interested and further down the buying journey than anyone you bring in by other methods. Referrals from people that know your business (and they don’t have to be customers! ) are still likely to be more powerful than your marketing and sales messages, because people trust the word of people they know more than the word of people they don’t know.

Referrals, recommendations and feedback are the lifeblood of many B2B companies, a single happy customer referring your b2b company to a contact of theirs is astronomically more valuable than someone filling in a form to rate their experience in the lavatories at Heathrow airport. A single customer giving feedback on how you can tweak your B2B product to make it better is way more useful to you than a person who thinks Crunchy bars are too crunchy is to Cadburys.

 Does the vast quantity of feedback we are being asked for by consumer brands is having a negative effect on our willingness to provide feedback to us and refer our products and services? Should we simply trust that our customers to do the right thing? Or does it simply mean we have to work harder to delight our customers to get them off the bench? I’d be interested in everyone’s views…