Share on LinkedIn

I just spent a couple of invigorating weeks on the road training front-line employees about an upcoming loyalty program launch. I say invigorating because I was able to engage in a critically important element of corporate communications—what I call the Feedback Trialogue. I came away from these exchanges with ideas, energy, and confidence that because of the trialogue itself, the front-liners were eager and prepped to bring the new program to life.

Marketers employ a number of customer feedback sources, but many likely don’t leverage employee feedback sources as aggressively. In the Feedback Trialogue, employees become another voice of the customer to the corporate management team, while learning to better serve as the voice of the brand to the customer. And though employee observation of customer experiences can’t replace the customer view, combining both perspectives can lead to tremendous insight.

One of the most basic geometric shapes and one of the strongest structural components, the triangle is a model for building effective line of sight into customer needs. The Trialogue pivots on front-line employees and their ability to move information and advice up to corporate. To empower that employee pivot point, consider these thoughts on striking up the conversation.

Exploit opportunities for trialogue. Training—whether for existing, changed or new procedures—offers excellent opportunity for feedback both formal and informal. Another of my favorite activities—store visits—can facilitate this employee-input pipeline. Formal suggestion-box-type programs have their place, but direct engagement is efficient and powerful. Personally encouraging questions and brainstorming turns training lectures, for instance, into useful conversations.

Be there. Sending trainers and executives into the field to meet employees isn’t purely a matter of saving the cost of flying groups of employees into headquarters. Your physical presence on your employees’ turf demonstrates that you take the employees—and what you’re asking them to accomplish—seriously. And recognize that you are indeed a guest on their turf to avoid a heavy-handed “We are corporate and you are not” impression that stifles ideas and conversation.

Get everyone into the conversation. Gather the principals of a different trialogue: Employees, corporate and the pivotal component—the individual store’s leadership. Work to understand and address the challenges facing that leadership. To the front-line employee, directives come from the onsite back office. I’ve given training sessions where attendees would glance around the room looking for the manager, and if that person was there, would look over occasionally to check his or her level of engagement. As effective as your training might be, everyone knows you’re about to get on a plane and disappear. But the store’s leadership team remains behind.

Get tactile. Make the discussion real instead of theoretical. For instance, don’t just flash big pictures of new wallet cards, promotional collateral or possible redemption items on the screen in PowerPoint. Hand out samples. Engage the senses and let the employees imagine customer actions viscerally and not just theoretically. Prime them for using these materials in customer interactions. Then explore their opinions of how they might be most effectively used—or what other tools would aid them.

Anticipate the hard questions. Now that your skin is in the game, prepare to let it take a few scrapes. Prepare answers, for instance, to such common challenges in training for new procedures or initiatives as: “You’ve just given me three more things to worry about in an already busy day. What are my priorities? What will you move off my plate?” Some concerns about change will be similarly common—including the “Yeah yeah yeah we’ve heard this all before” attitude. But some questions, specific to particular working groups, aren’t so common yet are equally important. Exhibit due diligence in learning likely concerns before inviting questions, and, once again, have satisfactory answers in your hip pocket.

Respond to the feedback—to both employees and customers. Without return feedback, there is no Feedback Trialogue. Your employees want to learn about results as much as you do. Make them part of the win.

Paving the three-way street
The key to the Feedback Trialogue is listening to front-liners as if they are the customers themselves. Their customers’ pain is their pain. Given the opportunity, your colleagues won’t hold back opinions on your value proposition, will correctly anticipate the top customer complaints, and are guaranteed to find a loophole in your terms and conditions faster than you can say “conference call with the legal department.”

Dan Ribolzi
As a LoyaltyOne consultant, Dan advises on best practices in all areas of loyalty marketing, including program design, evaluation and growth strategies. Drawing on his expertise in customer-centric marketing, he helps develop and implement loyalty solutions that meet clients' business objectives while creating value for their customers.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here