Your customers' feedback is a gift, and you need to decide what to do with it. I recommend you take it seriously and do something constructive, i.e., preferably, make some improvements!
One of the ways you'll need to use, or act on, the feedback is to close the loop, which means circling back with your customers after they've provided input about your products and services and their experiences. It's the first step in operationalizing your VOC efforts. It let's customers know their feedback:
- has been received
- has ended up in the right hands
- is being used to make improvements, and
- has been (is being) acted on (and how)
Closing the loop with customers is a valuable part of your VOC efforts because it shows that:
- you care
- you value their feedback
- you do something with their feedback
In my post about VOC communication needs, I outlined various forms of communication and ways to close the loop. In this post, I'm referring specifically to the need to follow up with every single customer that provides feedback via a survey or by some other listening post. While this is quite tactical in nature, the strategic element comes in when you look at common themes and conduct a root cause analysis to determine why an issue is occurring and what you'll need to do, structurally, to correct it (so that you save time and money by not receiving future feedback from other customers about the same issue!).
Closing the loop will also help to:
- increase future response rates or the likelihood that customers will provide feedback again in the future... because they know it hasn't been a waste of time, i.e., you are actually using their input to make improvements
- increase their likelihood to recommend, simply because it's an unexpected delighter; in my experience, when customers respond to surveys, they honestly don't expect companies to follow up with them, even if they say they will
Several factors that you need to consider before you even begin gathering feedback are outlined below. Yes, I said before you even start. Once you're underway, it's too late. (Well, not really, but you'll suffer a lot of pain, and you'll have a lot of catching up to do. So, please plan ahead!)
Prepare yourself by considering the following:
- Who will you respond to? Every respondent? Just dissatisfied customers?
- What resources do you need to ensure that you can respond to customers in a timely manner?
- Do you have enough people to handle the potential volume?
- Who is going to respond? At what level?
- How will you respond (phone, email, etc.)?
- How do you define "a timely manner?"
- What's the process workflow going to be?
- Will the response be an acknowledgement of the issue (if negative feedback) with a promise to follow up with a resolution or improvement when corrective action happens?
- Which tools will you need to keep track of the feedback loop?
- Who will coach employees on how to respond appropriately?
- Have you created the right culture within the organization such that employees won't view this as "more work?"
As you've heard me say before: do you have the right tools, right people, right processes, and the right culture in place to get this implemented?
One final note...
Remember that closing the loop is not just about acknowledging, addressing, and resolving the bad experiences; it's also a way to celebrate the good. If the feedback is positive, thank your customers, share the good news, and give kudos and recognition to employees, where due. If the feedback is negative, respond to the issues with your customers, but don't forget to coach employees so they can learn what's expected of them in the future.
95% of companies collect customer feedback. Yet only 10% use the feedback to improve, and only 5% tell customers what they are doing in response to what they heard. -Gartner