“You need to know about customer feedback that says things should be better.” – Bill Gates
In the traditional ways of shopping, customers would walk in to a store, shop around and make a few comments that would actually be feedback. It was immediate and provided first-hand information for the shop owners on how customers thought about them. A customer may say that the selection is not large enough or the pricing is slightly over or a certain product is not amply stocked and this feedback would allow instant reactions and remedial measures. A customer could also compliment the shop owner on cleanliness or the bright sprightly attitude of the sales assistants and the store owner would know what needed to be maintained. Using customer feedback – compliments and complaints, has and will continue to help businesses keep an ear to the ground and a finger on the pulse of customer behavior.
For companies that conduct business and solicit feedback online, through surveys and a range of other techniques, collecting feedback and data is significantly tougher. What matters however, is not the collection of massive amounts of feedback, but using customer feedback to improve service that is in line and exceeding customer expectations. Taking action and completing the circle of feedback with customers is important to let them know that their feedback was valuable and is translating in to every strategy and process aimed at providing superlative customer service and experience. When they can perceive palpable positive changes their trust and confidence in you as a company grows and when they tell others that as a company you are using customer feedback positively, it is almost certain that there would be others keen to give your company business.
Feedback – compliments and complaints – handled right maintain a healthy and strong relationship between customers and companies and result in changes that customers can see working for their benefit. These changes are the unspoken and direct benefits or gifts that companies can give to customers who take the time to provide feedback. We know that gathering customer feedback is important to:
– Keep the lines of communication between customers and companies active and open
– Online businesses find it hard to reach out to customers, and this is a great way to let customers know that they are valued and that their word is important to forge the company ahead.
– A way to understand directly from customers what they like, dislike and want to see more or less of. Feedback is a way to realize what is right with your company and what needs immediate improvement.
– Understand how to improve every customer interaction and experience to build a loyal and long term customer base.
It is an established fact that companies need customer feedback. So what are the most time and cost effective methods to get this feedback –
– The front end customer interfacing employees are best equipped to know what customers are pleased and displeased about. Training and coaching them to identify valuable and implementable feedback would be vital to enable more forthcoming customer feedback. Customers would be able to perceive that the first person they make contact with is receptive to feedback they would feel more at ease in sharing their thoughts – compliments and complaints.
– Collecting customer feedback is quite an administrative challenge and a time consuming arduous process. For companies that do not have the infrastructure or means to do this in-house, it would be prudent to hire the service of an outside agency to collect, collate and put in to usable format all the feedback received.
– Monitoring customer trends and behavior via the internet and social media is a great way to get feedback. Are customers leaving your website on a certain page? Which store is receiving more business and which is not doing so well, despite products and pricing being the same?
– Using customer feedback metrics is an effective means of gaining feedback – Voice of Customer, Net Promoter Scores, Call Logs and recordings and the likes. If properly monitored and used these metrics provide quite a detailed listing of customer feedback – compliments and complaints. Avoid leading questions on pricing for example as your prices may already be competitive and would be difficult for you to lower them further if customers suggest that you do.
– Monitor social media discussions. Have specialized staff to monitor these comments since they are critical to your company’s reputation. Social media is a very vocal and visible platform and comments and feedback here can be potentially detrimental or lead your company to greater heights.
– Sending out physical forms or email surveys also help but have their limitations as customers may not take time out to actually fill out these surveys or actually post them back.
Now that the feedback is in place what should you do with it? Unless there is action or a clear sign that you are using customer feedback, it is quite ineffective. The only affect it would have would be anger and frustrate the customers who took time to provide the feedback. If you solicit feedback, receive it and do not act on it, customers will slowly lose trust and will seek others who will listen to them. That is certainly not good for business.
– You need to act on the feedback. Segmenting the feedback in to red flags and nice to dos would be a good way to tackle the feedback. The red flags would be the areas that almost all customers have said need to improved and bettered immediately. Acting on these areas first would provide a clear indication to customers that your company is committed to serving them better.
Next would be tackling incidents that are not impacting immediately but ignoring them would mean long term deterioration and customer dissatisfaction. Suggestions that customers would like to see happen but are not hell-bent on having them implemented. Deciphering for your company what would work best using customer feedback appropriately would be a smart way to make your business grow.
– Every member of the organization must be made aware of the feedback and enlisted to help in implementing the changes mentioned. Once a buy-in is received, it is much simpler for companies to put the action plans in to practice.
– Brainstorming and taking suggestions from various department leads is a great place to start when trying to implement customer feedback. Testing all the suggestions to see which fits best with the feedback provided, understanding the costs and labor involved and finally devising a plan to use the solution. It would be wise to check back with some key and loyal customers on understanding if the solution is workable and if this is what they would like to see. Ask them to be part of the pilot testing to assess how best the target can be achieved.
– The pilot run went very well. Now what? Your company implements the changes. Did you remember to feed this information back to the customers? This step is indispensable. Letting the customers know of the strategic changes you made based on their feedback drives home a point that you are a customer-driven, customer focused company that is committed to serving customers with nothing but the best levels of customer service. Conveying this information must be done via all possible channels to ensure that it gets across to the customers and also serves as an invitation to other potential customers to give your company a chance to serve them as well. It is important to provide numbers and figures to compare before and after and if possible provide verbatim feedback comments with the action plans. Communication is most important and human beings cannot survive without it. Closing the loop with customers provides a well-rounded and effective communication cycle.
It is exciting to see the results of well-implemented customer feedback. Companies must remember to track and monitor the results that arise from the changes implemented. The other benefit would be that customers would be more willing to keep providing inputs and ideas that would serve to keep up a continual cycle of improvement. When customers participate in your growth, it seems highly unlikely that anything else can stop you. Using customer feedback is beneficial to companies in many more ways that seem immediately apparent.
“Champions know that success is inevitable; that there is no such thing as failure, only feedback. They know that the best way to forecast the future is to create it.” – Michael J Gelb