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The 5 Phases of Customer Feedback Failure

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Every day in companies around the world people sit down in meetings and decide today’s the day that they’re going to get serious about collecting customer feedback. Lots of earnest discussion follows, agreements are reached, actions allocated and heads nod in full agreement.

Everyone leaves full of enthusiasm.

Flash forward 18 months (sometimes less, sometimes more) and many of the same people are sitting around the same table.

This time they are lamenting…

This customer feedback stuff obviously doesn’t work in our industry / country / customer base / organisational structure / [insert suspected third party excuse here].  Zappos, Amazon, Apple and the rest must have some other secret sauce; lets dump this and try that new technology I read about last week. That will solve our customer problems.

How did it come to this? Where did all of that excitement go? 

The phases of customer feedback failure are similar for most organisations that experience it. Let’s track through what happens and how to prevent it from happening to you.

Phase 1: Decide to “do customer feedback”

Almost everyone has been in that first meeting and we’ve all left feeling good.

The failure point here is normally that while you’ve decided to do customer feedback, you have not thought about how to do customer feedback nor what doing customer feedback means in practice. That first meeting was about listening to customers but not so much about how to turn that information into action.

Once you have decided to do Customer Feedback you’ll need to get yourself a road map to implementing customer feedback.

Phase 2: Start to collect some data

Whoa wait a minute you can’t just start collecting data. That’s like going out and buying 50 litres (or gallons) of fuel before you buy your car. What if you buy unleaded gas and eventually decide on a diesel car, or an electric!

It’s the same with your customer feedback process. I know it’s easy to bang a couple of questions together, dump it into Survey Monkey and hit send. Just because it’s easy doesn’t mean it works.

You will need to make some decisions on how the process will be run; who will use the data, how they’ll use the data, what are your goals. Spend some time on getting those elements and ensure that they are agreed upon. Then and only then are you able to write your questionnaire and get it out there.

Phase 3: So much data so little time

Those responses are coming in thick and fast. You’ve got hundreds already. You started reading them but after 20 mins skipped that and just looked at the scores. Then you built some cool charts and dropped them into PowerPoint for next week’s meeting.

Customer feedback: done! What’s next on the to-do list?

Well, maybe.

Nothing seems amiss but you can’t help feeling that maybe you’re missing something. Yep you are; translating that feedback into a prioritised action plan.

So pivot, get a hold of some quality system tools, start making some sense of all that data and drive some action.

Phase 4: Losing interest fast now

At first the customer feedback reports were the highlight of the weekly/monthly/quarterly meeting. The team would spend quite a lot of the meeting discussing your charts and the customer comments but now interest is waning.

The report is still reviewed each week but with a little bit less attention and a little bit more rush. You can’t quite put your finger on it but this just isn’t working.

Most likely the feeling around the table is that people keep seeing the input (customer feedback) but don’t see how it is driving change or making a difference to “how things are done around here”. That lack of action makes them wonder why they are spending time on something that doesn’t have an impact.

The genesis of this issue is way back at the start; if you failed to create a roadmap or invest in some quality tools to help you turn information into action.

You still have time: If you find yourself here you can still save the process. Once again the fix is obtaining some training in quality systems and applying it to the data. Then in your next meeting you’ll need to report on the actions and outcomes first and only then will you be able to review the customer feedback that drove those actions.

Phase 5: Cut the program

People are increasingly asking why money is being spent on it because they’re not seeing anything from the investment.

You start to get questions from your manager about how much the program is costing, how you might be able to cut costs by 10% or 20%? “We still really need it of course but can we reduce the costs because I’ve got pressure from above …”

There may even be a few people from the initial approval group that are starting to say they told you it wouldn’t work. For the life of you, you can remember them saying that at the time.

Customer feedback is on borrowed time and it will be difficult to save it now.

You do have a chance though and it is mostly in the form of getting those quality tools discussed above and identifying some low hanging changes that you can get on and implement quickly. That next weekly meeting will be critical.

Hopefully if you do recognise your organisation here, you are in Phase 1 or 2 with plenty of time to make the fix.

If you’ve saved a program that has been heading down this path please comment below and let us know what you did so others can benefit from your experience.

I've created a step by step guide to implementing an Effective Customer  Feedback process: Download it Here

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