Saturday, May 28, 2011

What is your feedback worth ?

I was taking a look at Deutsche Post DHL recently published Sustainability Report called Living Responsibility Report 2010 and came across their way to encourage readers to give feedback.

I wonder why Deutsche Post placed a cap on the number of feedback forms that would qualify for the Euro 5 donation (up to a limit of Euro 1,000) ? Were they worried that more than 200 people would provide feedback requiring them to donate horrendously large amounts of Euros to Plant-for-the-Planet? If 1,000 people took the time to read the report and fully complete the questionnaire, this would amount to a donation of Euro 5,000. Believe me, if 1,000 people genuinely took the time to do this, I believe it would be worth far more than Euro 5,000 to Deutsche Post. What do people think when they see this offer? Does it incentivize them to respond? Would they wonder if it is worth bothering to fill in the form, because if they are feeder backer number 201, no cash is thrown in the pot? Is the donation any form of motivator?

Deutsche Post is not the first reporter to offer incentives for providing feedback. OneSteel offered a 16 MB iPad for filling the survey response form on their first standalone sustainability report for 2010 (a much sexier offer, if you ask me :))

Of course, the problem with providing feedback on sustainability reports is that they always seem to end up in some black hole and you never quite know whether anyone ever read the feedback or did anything with it. This is one of the big breakthroughs of the SAP and the Guardian online report execution - feedback is open and online and gets a reply.

Most companies make a plea to receive feedback but it is hard to tell if this is lip service or genuine interest in what people have to say. I tend to get about a half 'n half response from the companies I write to directly with feedback - half respond, half don't.  I never get a response to any of the specific feedback forms I submit.

I believe that the best incentive for encouraging stakeholders and report readers to give more feedback is not the promise of an iPad or even the possibility of a donation to a good cause. It would be the promise of ACKNOWLEDGEMENT. I believe people want to see their feedback acknowledged and responded to. People provide feedback because they want to make a difference. They are not just taking the time to generously provide free advice to companies for the greater good. They want to have influence and impact. So come on reporters, if you want people to respond to you, make an upfront commitment to valuing their feedback. Let people know you are serious.

I found a nice example from Berhad, a Malaysian mobile and internet service provider. In their Sustainability Report 2009, they offer us the possibility of getting a response to our feedback. (I haven't tested this out yet, but let's give them the benefit of the doubt for the time being :)).

Of course, reporting companies could always make a commitment to respond, a promise of a Euro 5 donation to a good cause AND an iPad for the winning feedback..... throwing in a pint of Chunky Monkey would make it really effective.

elaine cohen, CSR consultant, Sustainabilty Reporter, HR Professional, Ice Cream Addict. Author of CSR for HR: A necessary partnership for advancing responsible business practices  Contact me via  on Twitter or via my business website  (BeyondBusiness, an inspired CSR consulting and Sustainability Reporting firm)

1 comment:

James Farrar said...

Elaine --

Great post.

The idea of reward for feedback on line is not a good one. It kind of takes the focus off the point of the whole thing and ends up in a quantity versus quality problem. (seem to renmember saying something similar at that infamous GRI conf break out session last year).

I wonder if the 'acknowledgment' transaction is not without risk. Companies are often really good at acknowledging all sorts of stuff. You're right to couple that with response.

The only caveat to all this is whether panels should be paid. I'd like to see panels paid but only once the formal governance mechanism and terms of reference behind the panel is made transparent and there is assurance that the panel acts independently.
Otherwise the risk is too great.

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