The idea of openly and transparently sharing live customer feedback always seems to create an aura of fear among senior management. However, implemented sensibly, complete transparency of customer feedback can be a key plank in the success of your transactional customer feedback process. For instance nib health funds, have always allowed all staff to view their personal feedback.
So important is feedback transparency within the business that Renee Farnham, nib health funds, says:
Transparent sharing of our transactional customer feedback has been a key plank of our Net Promoter success.
The most often cited reason for the fear of feedback transparency lies in not knowing what customers will say in their feedback.
- Management are concerned that there will be overwhelmingly negative comments from customers and are worried about how staff will react ; or
- Management are concerned that individual staff will be named and negative comments posted about them so and have human resource concerns.
In reality our clients find that there are far more positive comments posted than there are negative ones. So, in general these fears are unfounded, however, there will be some negative feedback so you need to roll out the process thoughtfully.
Rolling out Feedback Transparency in a Thoughtful Manner
Implementing transparency in your transactional customer feedback program is not a matter of just opening the flood gates and telling everyone everything with no training. You must train people in how to receive and understand the feedback otherwise there will be hurt feelings and misunderstandings.
At a CustomerGauge User Group Meeting Georgia Gonis from MYOB and Karen Moffitt, then at nib health funds, laid out similar best practice approaches to coaching staff to better understand the feedback:
1. First ensure that all staff have direct access to their personal feedback, i.e. feedback that customers have provided about them individually.
“The more people see it the more people can get the most out of the program, which is the whole idea… Now everyone in nib … sees it in one form or another.”
2. Then work one on one with individual staff members to review their personal feedback. Select some positive and some negative items of feedback and coach them through what the customer is saying. Help them to unpick what they did well (to get good feedback) and did poorly (to get negative feedback).
At this point do not focus on the score itself but on the words that customers have used. Make sure to include positive and negative feedback so that staff do not get an overly negative or positive view of their performance.
“In the beginning our team leaders used to sit with the guys so that there were no surprises.”
3. Lastly, work through how they would react differently in the future.
“We have found that it works really well as a coaching tool. We’ve listened to the call and said, you know what there isn’t anything else you could have done or why don’t you try this next time.”
Remember that it can be confronting when people think they are doing a good job and see a negative comment from a customer.
Remember also that it softens the blow if this feedback is first viewed in a one on one meeting not in a group meeting. That is why you need to run this process on a one to one basis in the early days. Your goal is to have staff view the feedback as a tool they can use to improve their personal performance and not have it been seen as yet another management oversight tool.
Once individual staff have been coached in how to respond and use the transactional feedback you can start to deliver the raw feedback more broadly in the organisation. Over a period of perhaps 6-12 months you can roll out broad display and reporting of the feedback across the organisation. Your goal should be to have all feedback available in all parts of the organisation. Complete transparency.
Unexpected Benefits of Transparency
Some of the unexpected benefits of this complete transparency approach include:
Engaging the entire organisation in business improvements
Staff will start coming to you with opportunities for improvement in the business based on what they are seeing in the feedback. Rather than rely on just a core few analysts to improve the business you are now engaging with and drawing on the innovation and creativity of the whole organisation.
Validating front line issue identification
Very often issues that staff already know exist (and have reported) but which management do not believe exist, are validated through the transparent use of customer feedback. “See that’s the problem with widget x I was telling you about” is what you will start to hear from engaged front line staff. This both validates the problem and allows the front line staff to help in issue identification.
Staff will start to self correct
Coached in the correct way staff will be using their personal feedback to improve their performance without your interference. This also softens the blow of any negative supervisor feedback in a one on one meeting because staff are already seeing in their customer feedback . They already know the issue and have started to improve on their own.
What about filtering?
Generally, filtering of feedback should be avoided. However, while it is unusual to have customers use profanity in their comments it is not unknown.
The impact of having verbatim profanity in widely distributed reports or on wall charts is unpleasant for the organisation. If you start to see some profanity in the feedback that customers are providing then you may want to move to a filtering process where the profanity is blanked out in reports or your feedback system can be configure to prevent customers from entering those words in your feedback forms.
The need to do this is uncommon but if it is occurring in your business you may need to act.
Annette Franz Gleneicki has also blogged recently about Inside Out – A Culture of Transparency.
Thank you to Georgia Gonis from MYOB, Karen Moffitt and Renee Farnham from nib health funds for their insights into customer feedback transparency that were used in this post.