How To Use Feedback
In today’s competitive marketplace companies are spending a lot of time, people and money trying to improve customer satisfaction. This is predicated on an age old understanding that it is cheaper to keep a customer than to acquire a new one. Customer feedback is the tool most widely used to gauge customer satisfaction.
For a long time only the big, wealthy companies could afford to get customer feedback by paying for focus groups and customer feedback sessions. In the last 20 years technology advances have made it less expensive to interact with customers. Now we have the ability to survey customer with questions specific to the product they bought, where it was purchased, the sales person they interacted with, and the specific time and date of the transaction.
Today there are immediate feedback options. At the end of a phone call you can be asked to take a brief 2 question survey. If you linger too long – or too short – on a specific web page a popup will appear asking if you found what you were looking for.
All of these feedback tactics and tools are excellent advances for customer service, but they can be misleading because they narrowly focus on the immediate interaction that just took place. For example, any question that begins, “Based on your most recent experience with this company…” misses the bigger question of, “Based on your lifetime experience with this company….”
Another blindside of survey questions is they pinpoint specific touchpoints with the customer and ignore the entire purchasing lifecycle. You can get a specific score for selling a product, delivery and activation touchpoints. But what is happening to the customer satisfaction between each of these events?
Avoiding the Blindspots
The way to avoid these blind spots is to look at your customer satisfaction through a lens of the whole customer journey. What is her experience from the moment she discovers your product until she’s finished using it?
Looking at a customer experience as a journey requires intentional focused effort to solicit customer feedback throughout the entire lifecycle. However, this is not enough by itself. The company has to be committed to using this data to change the way they interact with each customer. Here are 5 ways to do it.
- Put customer experience measurements in your performance metrics. Decide what are the most important customer experiences you must have. For a restaurant it could be a simple 4 part evaluation: ease of parking (accessibility), cleanliness, food quality and taste. Once you define what experiences you want your customers to have infuse the company performance metrics with those measurements. Reward accordingly.
- Build organization culture around the customer experience. Starbucks built their entire company around the customer experience. In contrast, the DMV has a reputation of making the customer experience so painful that people dread having to visit their office.
- Infuse customer feedback into daily activities as quickly as possible. Coaches correct athletes in the moment to maximize their effectiveness. During practice they stop play, do drills at walking speed and review an athlete’s movements in excruciating details. You need to approach customer experiences the same way. Ideally the experience for customer 1 will change the experience had by customer 2. Get as close to real-time feedback and implementation as possible.
- Leaders must implement and foster an attitude of continuous improvement in every layer of the organization. Once a company grows larger than a one person organization everyone will need to be on the same continuous improvement train. This is especially important on the front lines where the interaction between customer and employee happens most frequently. Otherwise customer feedback will be wasted.
- Customer feedback is used to drive change and not simply meet a metric. In 2008 Starbucks was on the brink of collapse. Years earlier the founder, Howard Schultz, had stepped away as CEO and the company stepped away from its laser focus on customer experience. With only months left before the company would run out of cash the board elected to bring Schultz back as CEO in order to turn around the company. He immediately put customer experience at the center of every company initiative. Since then Starbucks has rebounded to become an international heavyweight. They did this by changing the focus from customer feedback as a metric to customer feedback as the marching orders of change.
In today’s marketplace the competition is too fierce and the cost for consumers to switch so low that you cannot ignore the customer experience. If you take your customer’s experience seriously you, too, can create an immense customer loyalty that will guarantee you win the market.