Not too long ago it was breakfast time in our house and my 7-year-old was sitting at the counter, eating a bowl of Cheerios, and apparently studying a box of Legos he had purchased with some birthday money. As he read the words on the box (reading is very important in the life of a first grader) he came to a stopping point and ask very deliberately, “What’s feedback?” We responded to him with something like, “Feedback is where you tell the company what you think of their product.” With a childlike innocence he said, “Well I want to give Lego some feedback.”That’s the end of the story but this interchange had a profound impact on me as I’ve since thought about it — especially when we consider that our mechanisms for gathering feedback from our customers can quickly take on a life of their own, becoming so complex that they begin to lose meaning and effectiveness. Perhaps it would do us some good to step back and consider why we ask customer for feedback. There are three insights I’ll highlight here.
1. Feedback is about listening to customers
So much time and money is spent in companies scrutinizing over our customer surveys. Should we measure Net Promoter Score, Customer Satisfaction, Customer Effort Score, or a combination of all three? Is there a hot new survey metric that’s even better? Should we ask a single question or expand our survey to ask a multitude of questions covering every aspect of our brand? And once we’ve become entrenched in whatever our survey is, how often do we question if our survey is really a good indicator of our performance as a business?
While I think different surveys have their place depending on your business goals, I’ve also been guilty of dumbing this down significantly. I’ve more than once told colleagues and clients that I care less about the type of survey and more about what you do with the results. It’s important to always remember who is at the other end of that survey: the customer.
We must never forget that customers who complete surveys have done, or are trying to do, business with us — and by listening, we can learn what we’re doing well and where we need to improve. The numbers certainly show us how we’re progressing but we don’t progress if we don’t listen and take action.
2. Feedback is a sign of customer engagement
In a perfect world, EVERY customer is satisfied, or willing to recommend, or able to get their issue solved with little to no effort. But we don’t live in a perfect world. It’s critical that we remember that a customer who leaves feedback, good or bad, is an engaged customer.
It’s not always, but it’s often, the case that customers who take the time to leave negative feedback actually want to do business with us and would continue to do so if we could solve their problem. Disappointed customers who cancel their service without ever leaving feedback are much more the concern because there’s no opportunity to learn how to improve or how to retain them as a customer. Looking at it from this perspective, you begin to realize that more feedback is better and even bad (negative) feedback is good feedback.
3. Feedback is actionable
At the core of your customer feedback loop is a continuous improvement process and there are a couple key facets. The first is that it’s important to quantify what’s driving your negative feedback. At FCR we typically bucket feedback into four categories: agent, policy, process, or product. We also recognize it could be a combination of all four of these. From there we create a series of subcategories to understand key issues which helps us prioritize improvements and insights to share with the other groups within our organization.
Second, it’s critical that we close the loop with customers and this can be a challenging one at times. Certainly there will be cases where there’s a misunderstanding or the customer got the runaround and we can reach out to resolve the issue. But in other cases, there may be a policy in place for good reason and there’s no way around it. There’s not always a manual for handling these sorts of issues and closing the loop doesn’t always promise that we’ll retain a customer, but I can assure you that you’ll retain some when you adopt the discipline of following up.
It’s a great practice within your ticketing system to trigger a case to reopen if a customer leaves negative feedback so someone can follow up. And wherever possible, equip your agents with some tools for responding to these customers. At minimum, the customer should always know you’re grateful for their feedback and that they’ve been heard.
In conclusion, does your company have something written on a package, or in the footer of an email, or posted on a sign or website asking for feedback? Whether we realize it or not, that means we’re asking our customers to talk to us. It tells them that we actually want to know what they have to say about their experience with our company. It’s important that we as representatives of our companies remember that if we’ve asked our customers to talk to us, it’s our responsibility to be grateful for the feedback, listen to it, and do something about it.