For more than 15 years I’ve been working with clients to create and run successful customer feedback and Net Promoter® programs. Over that time we have seen many implementations: some good and and some not so good.
While we’ve seen lots of great ideas and know quite a few pitfalls that will likely spell failure, we wanted to really expand the statistical validity of our anecdotal evidence.
So we performed some primary research. The goal of this research was to identify which attributes of the customer feedback and action process contribute to overall success and failure.
After analysing the responses from 80 participants we identified 6 Drivers and 7 Key Takeaways for organisations wanting a successful customer feedback process.
The key drivers of successful customer feedback programs are:
- Engage all staff in the customer feedback process
- Demonstrate successful customer feedback in dollar terms
- Implement Service Recovery
- Add Customer Feedback to regular management meeting agendas
- Make sure you report customer feedback data at least every month
- Deploy quality system methods against feedback data
1. Engage all staff in the customer feedback process
We wanted to know how companies were organising the management of their customer feedback process to understand if that made a difference.
Organisations that involve all staff in the customer feedback process have a significantly higher perception of success than any other approach. This is an important finding.
I have always said that customer feedback is not Marketing or Strategy or Customer service’s job, it is everyone’s job and this supports that recommendation.
You need customer feedback champions and “Subject Matter Experts” to provide education and mentoring to the rest of the organisation. However, true success requires all staff to be part of the customer feedback process and engaged in its success.
Create a conscious strategy to get everyone in the organisation engaged in the customer feedback process and make sure that it is not seen as any one person, or team’s, role.
2. Demonstrate successful customer feedback in dollar terms
Over the years there have been a number of research reports that say startling things about the success of some area or other of customer experience or customer feedback management. Interestingly, when you look at who was surveyed it is often customer experience specialists.
However, general business functions are much less convinced, i.e. customer feedback / CX specialists wear rose coloured glasses when it comes to the perception of success .
This is an important finding for customer feedback and CX specialists: the rest of the organisation does not share your [blind] optimism.
CX professionals must document and prove the value of the customer feedback process consistently and publicly.
It is simply not enough to say that “we must collect customer feedback”. The ROI of the process needs to be calculated and published across the organisation.
General management roles are often supportive of customer feedback but they need hard business reasons (revenue, retention, lower costs) to continue to invest hard business resources.
If you are a customer feedback specialist be aware that people in general business roles are more skeptical of the success of the customer feedback program than you. You need to collect and document clear evidence of success to convince them of the long term value of the process.
3. Implement Service Recovery
Service recovery is where you contact customers who have expressed dissatisfaction in their survey response and fix the issues that caused the low score.
It is clear from this research; when service recovery is implemented, there is a significant increase in the level of customer feedback success. In the past we have inferred this from other research but here is a direct link: service recovery improves customer feedback success.
The biggest hurdle for most organisations is that service recovery costs time and resources to execute.
It true; calling customers back after they provide negative feedback costs money. If there is no clear return from that investment then management will be reluctant to invest.
Importantly though, where organisations have done the analysis it typically shows a clear and direct return on that investment. The service recovery program becomes a net value add to the business.
Make sure that you implement service recovery for the customer feedback process.
4. Add Customer Feedback to regular management meeting agendas
If customer feedback information is not already on your regular management meeting agendas, add it now.
Respondents who have customer feedback on their regular management meetings felt that their customer feedback process was significantly more successful.
It is not immediately clear what causes the increased success rate. Perhaps just having it on the agenda increases the focus and desire to deliver on customer feedback improvements.
On the other hand perhaps we have the causal link reversed: maybe companies that are successful put customer feedback on their regular agendas.
Either way in this case why not “fake it till you make it”. It can’t do any harm to have customer feedback on the regular management agenda.
Worst case scenario people start asking what is happening and you fix a bad process.
Best case you drive even more improvement.
5. Make sure you report customer feedback data at least every month
We found was that organisations reporting on customer feedback every month had a significantly higher success rate than companies that did not.
Again it is not exactly clear why this is the case but it clearly is.
Report as often as you like on customer feedback data but do it at least every month
These Key Ideas Underpin Customer Feedback Success
We also wanted to know what was driving success in customer feedback programs. So we asked an open ended question and then tagged each of the responses.
What are one or two key ideas or areas that you believe underpin any success that you have had?
The top two responses were management engagement and staff engagement. In another part of the survey (not detailed here), these are the exact two items that, when lacking, most people cited as preventing success. It’s no coincidence.
Management engagement and commitment
I will not re-discuss this topic as it was covered above but here are some of the comments that people provided:
Management buy-in and making all employees feel responsible for the process, not just the handful sending the survey and analysing the results.
Company engagement all the way from executive sponsors through to front-line staff and a culture that wants to improve the customer experience.
Staff engagement and commitment
Again I will not belabor the point but we will provide a couple of comments from respondents:
Commitment and people realizing that everyone in the business is responsible for delivering change and good service….not just the steering and action groups
Widespread exposure to direct customer feedback across the company
Here is a post on how to do this in practice: Involving All Staff in the Customer Feedback Process
6. Deploy quality system methods against feedback data
Respondents cited the use of quality systems as being a key in the success of their program.
It has been becoming increasingly clear to us (at Genroe) that the use of quality systems approaches in the customer feedback process is critical to long term success. These systems were first developed in the 1950’s and have been used in manufacturing for over 50 years.
Using Lean/Kaizen methods, our front line Customer Service reps capturing the customer suggestions and they get recognition and development opportunities. A key focus on Continuous Improvement.
Corrective action plans common problem identification and management
The benefit of quality systems is that they provide a methodical and proven method to take large volumes of data and drive continuous improvement in the business. If you really want to supercharge your customer feedback process, invest some time in getting to know more about quality systems.
Start here for a introduction on Customer Feedback Meets Quality Systems
Use simple, or more complex, quality systems such as Lean, 6 Sigma, etc., to derive maximum value from the customer feedback you collect.
Once again this post has already canvassed the value of service recovery. Respondents also saw the value in this process and repeatedly identified it as one of the important element of success.
The CEO is really involved in this and some managers that are key to our customer experience too
Speaking to contacts after missing an opportunity to really find out where we were lacking
Demonstrating the link between feedback and success
The inability to link feedback and success was identified as an important contributor to failure and here that link is identified as an important enabler of success.
This goes to the point earlier about general management being more skeptical – you need to validate the value of the process in hard terms: revenue, retention, operating costs.
Directly demonstrating links through anecdotes between use of feedback and different kinds of success: New customers acquired via referral from promoters, Customers retained through information gleaned via feedback and action taken on follow up.
Once Management can identify the benefits of change we had been able to implement and succeed with some improvements. The key is to be able to influence the key people to help with driving the change. However the issue is trying to get a number of people to agree on the one thing.