A few months back I had a bad experience with Thrifty Car Rental. They enticed me with a great offer, and the car was fine. Unfortunately, I had some issues picking up the car — the service rep apparently tried to slip in something extra I hadn’t ordered. The drop-off experience was also underwhelming; it simply took too long.
My overall impression was that their strategy was to promote an aggressive offer, then turn it into a better deal (for them) by upselling. I don’t mind that, but the counter rep’s approach seemed deceptive.
On the airport shuttle bus to my terminal, I remember thinking, “this would be the perfect time to get a survey. I’ve got nothing to do the next few
minutes, and would like to
vent give constructive feedback.” But, no. The survey arrived a couple of days later, I was busy and just didn’t do it.
Thrifty lost an opportunity to learn from me, and couldn’t take any action to make it right. As a result, they also lost any chance for me to try Thrifty again, and I certainly won’t be recommending the company to anyone else.
My experience illustrates why it’s important to design the feedback experience correctly. Transactional surveys should be offered as soon as possible, and make it easy for consumers to give feedback on their mobile phones. VoC vendors like Confirmit, InMomment, Medallia, and many others now offer mobile-optimized surveys, and that’s critical.
Survey timing is also important to give the consumers a chance to give feedback while their experience is still fresh in their minds. And so is acting quickly if the feedback warrants. And, where possible, companies that actually close the loop with customers quickly can really stand out.
Eric Smuda, VP Customer Insights and Experience at Avis Budget Group, has been wrestling with this problem since being installed in his position a couple of years ago. With a Voice of Customer (VoC) program dating back some seven years, and one million surveys per year, the company had plenty of quantitative data. Smuda’s mission was to shift the focus from data collection to action.
To accomplish this, the post-rental survey was redesigned and shortened to about a dozen questions that could be answered easily on a mobile phone. Open-end questions were included. Equally important, using tools from Medallia, the survey was distributed within 15 minutes of the car rental return, and rules were set up to alert local managers immediately based on survey responses.
For example, let’s say the customer had a problem with the car. Without immediate feedback, the car will be back in service with another customer, propagating that defect to others. Or, if a customer had a bad pick-up or drop-off experience like I did, they could be called by the store manager to discuss and resolve.
Inner and Outer Feedback Circles
You see, Avis suffered from the same problem as the majority of large organization. In my recent benchmark study, I found only about one-third of all respondents reported doing a good job (top 2 box) systematically closing the loop between customer feedback and action.
However, a comparison of “leader” (better than average business performance) vs. “laggard” organizations (everyone else) revealed something startling. Nearly half (47%) of leaders said they effectively closed the loop, compared to less than one in five (18%) of laggards. This made closing the loop one of the most predictive indicators of business performance, and prompted me to take a closer look.
The situation is obvious. Why go to the trouble of collecting customer feedback if you’re not going to do something with it? That “something” could be responding to an individual customer complaint, part of what Bain calls the “inner circle” of feedback management.
The more strategic “outer circle” could involve complex changes. Avis, for example, uses a monthly “CX council” meeting to review bigger issues that require system changes, policy updates, etc., according to Smuda. Eventually, as improvements are implemented they’ll be communicated to employees and customers, thus closing the loop in a different way than simple transactional issues.
No More Excuses
Why is closing the loop so difficult? Industry experts point to a number of issues:
- Conflicting data can lead to analysis paralysis
- Lack of the right systems to quickly analyze and distribute alerts to responsible managers
- Hard-to-use systems at field locations which take personnel away from their jobs
- Central group collects data and identifies issues, but lacks the clout to get action taken
- Poor incentives to identify and act on issues, systematically
- Lack of the necessary analytical skills
Overall, however, I think what separates leaders from laggards is more cultural: A bias towards action.
With all the debate about which metric is best, the deluge of “big data,” and other issues as noted, it’s easy to come up with good
excuses reasons why it can’t be done. Leaders do it anyway. If you want to perform better, you should, too.
Disclosure: This post is part on my independent coverage of industry developments. No endorsement is implied for any companies mentioned in this post. Please visit our sponsor page for information on companies that have supported this community.