Sharing Customer Feedback

Transparency breeds trust, both in the minds of customers and employees. Transparency is not subjective and must be practiced actively by companies to maintain that trust. So why does it unnerve senior leadership in companies to openly share customer feedback? Since feedback from customers is actively sought it should be a means to improve the overall customer experience. Only when the customer feedback process is complete – receiving, sharing and implementing all are in place – can it be successful and effective and prove to be a stepping stone for the company’s success.

Fear of sharing feedback arises from not knowing – just like all fears. Leaders in companies are unsure of what the customers will say and the feeling that customers would have been overly negative is predominant. They also fear that individuals maybe named giving rise to unrest and a sense of inadequacy within the company. The idea of receiving positive comments does seem to cross the minds of these leaders and very often the positive comments outweigh the negative ones. Leaders need to remember that negative comments are the customer’s way of providing the company a chance to improve and move things forward. So instead of fearing these comments, they must be treated with the same appreciation as positive acknowledgements.

Transparency in the sharing of customer feedback is a must. However, what is also vital is providing the right skills through adequate training and coaching for all staff, to understand the nuances of feedback. Not knowing how to deal with feedback could cause unnecessary strife for those who may have received negative feedback and or inflate the ego of those who have received good comments.

– Companies must ensure that the staff must be able to access directly the pointed feedback that customers have provided.

– The staff member must then be coached about how to view and receive such feedback. Making a selection of both good and negative feedback will help the staff member to understand the balance and also know first-hand what they are doing well and what needs to be focused on. Many a time people do not realize the impact of their actions and sharing customer feedback in a regulated and well-thought out manner proves beneficial.

– Ask the staff to focus on the words used by the customer to get a deeper insight in to the unsaid feelings as well. Sharing feedback of any kind must always be balanced to ensure that the receiver does not get demoralized or overly pleased at his or her performance.

– Set out steps for the future that would help them behave differently going forward. This is a great way to coach staff not just from a customer service perspective, but also from team building approach. It is possible that the negative characteristics of this person are causing problems for the team or the positive aspects are being undermined and just need some strengthening.

Sharing customer feedback with teams and individuals must not be confrontational but rather used as an opportunity to review how to work better and to make better what is being done well. Coaching for individual staff members must be done in private and never in a group, especially if there are negative comments. After delivering the feedback to the individual staff members, the customer feedback must be rolled out to the entire company minus names and teams. This way all employees get to see how they and their company are viewed and know the consequences of poor performance and rewards of great performance. There are many benefits for a company resulting from this kind of transparency and are sometimes pleasantly unexpected:

– Employees feel engaged with the company. They know that the company is not hiding or sugar coating anything and so are able to trust. They would also be better positioned to suggest improvements – imagine the number of ideas for business and customer service improvement ideas that are possible! Rather than depending on a select few to provide these ideas, you now have an entire task force that can suggest innovative and creative ideas that might benefit the entire company.

– Front line staff is always at the receiving end of customer comments and would have probably guessed most of the positives and negatives of the company. When it is actually written down by the customer it just validates what they know and or may have brought up earlier. Leaders can also learn to listen more actively to the voice of the employee.

– When taken as a coaching opportunity, staff members stand to gain significantly. They would be able to correct their actions in the future or develop their strengths. Since they now know what they are doing right and what is not going so well, it would be their onus to work on those areas.

While sharing customer feedback, companies try to filter some the comments. This should be avoided but in cases where customers may have used expletives they are best removed. Mostly there are two kinds of customer feedback – from customers who think that you are doing your best and from others who express grief at everything you do. Unfortunately the ones who are unsure don’t comment and often the negative ones are more in number and more vocal. This is a common scenario even if your company thinks it is doing everything to satisfy the customer base.

The fewer positive comments from customers are often ignored either because companies feel that they don’t need to do anything on it or have decided to only choose the negatives. This is not a balanced manner of receiving and sharing customer feedback. Compliments, like complaints, are words from customers and have a message for companies. Hearing and acting on them is equally important and ignoring them as unfruitful.

Irrespective of what companies expect from the feedback exercise, nothing ever prepares them or the staff for the blunt and sometimes very harsh comments from customers. These comments have the potential to blow up and result in a lot of anger, indignation and bitterness. These feelings lower employee morale and create strife between teams and individuals and is potentially fatal for team spirit.

Leaders must be ready and skilled enough to handle this and immediately put a damage control mechanism in place. The comments might have inappropriate usage of words and leaders must ensure that those words are removed so that the focus is removed from the words and brought on the actual meaning of the words. Staff and especially the customer service members work hard on a daily basis and could feel completely undermined if feedback from customers is not shared properly. Let the staff and teams decide on what they feel are the core issues and inherent strengths of the team and individuals. Let them come up with solutions to the customer feedback – they will take accountability and it will not make them feel like they are being put down.

Customer feedback is a responsibility – one that must be shared by each and every member of an organization. Leaders of a company must never make the mistake of keeping such feedback to themselves as this action makes all the feedback and the actions, their sole responsibility. Sharing feedback lets the staff know what to expect at the time of appraisals and increments. Company performance is how staff bonuses are decided – knowing up-front how the company is performing lets staff know what to expect from a bonus and not be in for any ‘shocks’.

Customer feedback and service may seem like a mountain loaded with a variety of elements. However, when handled intelligently it makes the path easier for companies to move forward. Customers and employees react positively to companies that are open and trustworthy and there is a feeling of belonging – it makes the whole experience more personal and rewarding.

“One of the great things about being recognized is that you receive this feedback from people. It is easy to see how sincere people are. It’s nothing fake or jive. They’re giving sincere appreciation. And it’s not that easy to express.” – John Astin

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