Is It Customer Feedback? Or Is It Wallpaper?

Is It Customer Feedback? Or Is It Wallpaper?

As a dissatisfied customer, you’ve been asked for your feedback, and you’re waiting for changes to take place. You receive no acknowledgement of your complaint, but you feel certain your concerns could be easily addressed and that other customers must be asking for the same thing. You watch … and watch … and watch, and still no change. You question whether the company is really listening to you or just going through the motions. You take your business elsewhere.

In many organizations, gathering feedback from customers has become a “wallpaper” activity. It’s collected on a routine basis either by front-line staff with feedback cards, or by email on a cycle simply because it’s part of someone’s job. In other organizations it may even be more casual in terms of frequency, such as the few weeks after the boss attends a business development seminar, or when there is a loss of a major client or relationship.

Sadly, in these organizations, there is a common mis-calculation in the value of the process. “Gathering” is often treated as an end in itself but it’s an incomplete end. If you do nothing with the information you’ve obtained, what is the point of gathering it?

Make no mistake about it; gathering feedback and doing nothing can be more harmful to your reputation than not gathering feedback to begin with. To be successful, feedback must be viewed as part of an ongoing process. Here is a quick-start list of possible actions to include in your process after each survey you conduct.

1) Acknowledge poor service complaints personally and make restitution.

Nothing diffuses an angry customer faster than a telephone call from the owner of the business. It instantly acknowledges that their complaint was heard and was taken seriously. Ensure that someone on your team is responsible for reviewing each comment card or survey and responding quickly.

2) Assess whether the complaint is part of a pattern or a one-time occurrence. 

There are many ways to gather feedback: online surveys, comment cards, focus groups, one-on-one meetings, gripe sessions, casual chats. You may want to include several of these methods to ensure you capture feedback from a broad cross-section of customers. Be sure you have multiple listening posts from which to gather information. If all of your listening posts identify the same issues, you will know that action is required.

3) Clarify ambiguous responses with further follow up from customers. 

Sometimes, a customer complains about a symptom rather than the real problem. If you’re not sure what you need to fix, consider digging deeper to figure it out. A personal follow-up call, a focus group, or a follow-up survey asking them to rank the solutions could provide more insight.

4) Work with front-line staff to identify potential changes in policies and procedures.

Often, front-line staff are just following procedures without thinking of the impact on customer service. How often have you heard someone say “I’m sorry, but it’s our policy…” when you’re in someone else’s business. (What would you do if you owned that company?) Ask your front-line team. They know which policies they keep having to explain and which are irritants to customers.

5) Communicate your findings to your customers in a cost-effective way.

Whether it’s through a newsletter, a sign on the wall, an advertisement, or even a thank you letter, letting your customers know what action you’ve taken as a result of their feedback is a simple sign that the process is working.

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