What does an Electric Razor and a new car have to do with Psychotherapy?

In the last week, I have made two major purchases; a new car and a new electric razor. “Hooray for you” you might think, but I check out your website for insights into psychotherapy, not for you to brag about new stuff … get to the point”.

Both of these products gave me the opportunity to give feedback as the client. One of their approaches encouraged me to give feedback and the other couldn’t have made me less likely if that was the express intent of the exercise.

As a trainer in psychotherapy with a particular emphasis on outcome tracking and feedback systems I am often told by clinicians that they already ask for feedback, but either they know they are doing a great job because all their feedback is positive, or that their clients hate being asked for feedback so they don’t do it. I invariably answer by saying that there are many ways of asking for feedback and it’s possible they aren’t doing it properly.

Let me illustrate …

In purchasing my car, I dealt with 4 different professionals at the dealership;

My honest appraisals of the 4 are as follows

Salesman – 9 out of 10. He was personable, not overly pushy, and at least created the illusion of helping me work through my priorities to choose the correct vehicle. He loses one point because he was factually incorrect about the differences between two different models and thought a model had a feature that it turned out it did not.

Business Manager – 6 out of 10. He was nice enough, but really given that all I needed was his account name, BSB, and account number the 45 minutes of maing polite small talk and attempts at upsell really was a waste of everyone’s time.

After Sales Person – 7 out of 10. In no way do I believe that a modern car needs $2500 worth of paint protection in order to safely go out in the rain. But once I made it clear I would not be purchasing a bunch of low value rubbish, the process was polite and perfunctory

Delivery Salesman – 4 out of 10. In his defense we had zero rapport having not already gone through the process of purchase, however his attempts at building rapport were so poor as to be embarrassing.

Yet, in a customer survey that I received from the manufacturer 48 hours later, I gave the dealership a 10 out of 10 and listed no areas for improvement.


Because when the delivery guy handed over the keys, he told me there would be a survey coming, and it is important to understand that the way these “Japanese corporate types” work is that a score of 9 out of 10 is viewed as a fail, anything short of perfect, and someone would get into trouble.

I may not have warmed to him, but I didn’t want to get him fired, and certainly did not want my feedback to reflect negatively on the other three for whom I had mostly positive feelings.

An opportunity for learning by the organisation and the individuals was lost.

Now, to the Razor. Although in truth its less about the Razor and more about a small company in Sydney I dealt with after purchasing the razor. Let me explain.

Many electric razors now come with docking station that both charge and clean your razor. This is quite convenient, but also incredibly environmentally wasteful as once a month you are expected to put a whole new “Pod” of cleaning fluid into the charging station. Given that the cleaning fluid consists entirely of Isopropyl alcohol, I decided the environment would be much better served by me simply refilling the pod.

I looked online and found a company who for the princely sum of $25 sent me 5 Litres of the stuff or enough for about 3 years. The online checkout was smooth, my card payment went through quickly, I got an immediate invoice sent via email, and a few hours later I got a link to the shipping company that was sending my package.

The delivery company they used were also incredibly efficient, including automated SMS updates, and requests for permission to leave at the door.

I didn’t think much of it, other than briefly thinking that I wish a few of the other things I had bought online over the years had been processed so smoothly.

Now here is the brilliant part.

24 hours later, I received an email from the company and it was so good I would like to quote the key bit

Thank you for your purchase of XXX from XXX

Should you have any feedback or questions regarding your purchase, please don’t hesitate to contact us by replying to this email and we’ll be happy to assist you.

Did you know that many improvements to our products have come about from customer feedback?
Please take a few minutes to share your thoughts.

By writing a Product Review you’ll be helping other customers with their purchases.

Well I want to help other people don’t I?

The difference between how I felt about the request for feedback from the two companies couldn’t be starker. The only thing stopping me from giving feedback to the Sydney company is that I don’t have any. They are one of the best online retailers I have ever dealt with, my only feedback is that I wish they sold products than simply industrial solvents, as they would become mygo-too portal for any online purchase. But I bet I know how they got so good. They asked the question, so they got the feedback and then they acted on it.

So when you are next sitting with a client at the end of the first session and wondering if they are going to coming back, or at a stuck point in therapy, ask yourself, are you coming across like the kind of person who wants the feedback so they can do a better job for this client, or are you coming across as someone who fears the repercussions of feedback. If I was a gambler, I would bet real money that the more positive feedback you get, the more your feedback style is like the car dealership.

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