The 5-Second Pause

Business woman evaluating job candidateI recently read an article on LinkedIn that recommends interviewers pause for 5 seconds after an interviewee answers a question. This allows the interviewee additional time to elaborate on a response and perhaps show a bit of themselves that they might not have normally let through, had the interviewer proceeded too quickly. The article argues that interviewers are too impatient, anxiously wishing to press forward, and not giving themselves time to listen fully.

I have to wonder if the same flub is plaguing us in text analytics. Are we listening well enough to customers, or are we forcing them to answer within constraints of a predetermined question list? In the market research world, it’s easy to guide respondents into this list of questions and not request their unfiltered feedback: “Did you like your experience with your account rep?” “Why not?” “Did you like our hardware?” “Why not?” We direct them on how to respond, without pausing and allowing them to speak to us.

We need to remember to pause – give the customers time to speak. Give their unguided feedback a chance to surface. I’m not necessarily suggesting that we nix all specific questions in a survey – sometimes it’s good to get targeted responses – but that we don’t forget to ask for general feedback. “What would you like to tell our leadership?” “Do you have any comments for us?” “Any additional feedback?” Opening our questions gives us the chance to figure out what’s weighing on a respondent’s mind, potentially opening the doors to feedback we wouldn’t have originally received.


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