Generating meaningful and honest customer feedback and acting on it is essential to any modern company that wants to be agile and keep hold of their customers.
We live and work in a connected world. Our every move is recorded through social media updates, we stay in touch with colleagues without the need to sit at our desks and we can purchase (almost) anything at the touch of a few buttons. As a result of this evolving digital world, customers have become more vocal than ever before. They have a voice, and they're not afraid to use it! The challenge now for organisations is to listen. In this blog post, we’ll be discussing the right way to think about customer feedback and how you can make sure it's meaningful to your business.
When it comes to feedback, is the customer always right?
In short, we all know that the customer isn’t always right, but this is the wrong way to think about feedback. It's a well-known, arguably cliched phrase, that was born in a different time when brands didn't really listen to customers. It was a way of getting organisations to realise that the customer is important; they need to have a voice and be heard.
Instead, we need to ensure that we're listening
You’re in business because of your customers, so you have to listen to them. They may have come in with a set of expectations which don't match up to your own, leaving frustrations for both the customer and the business. But this communication breakdown will be important to understand and resolve, so you need to make it easy for customers to give feedback. Looking at this from another angle, it's important to understand that just because people aren’t complaining, it doesn’t mean that everything is perfect either.
Customer feedback should be treated as something which holds high value, customers have the right to have their feedback heard and they always have the right to challenge the level of service that they receive. They may make unreasonable requests, something a brand cannot be fulfill, for example - a customer asking for changes that go against safety standards or compliance will not be signed off. But as a brand it's your job to make sure they feel valued and that their feedback is important to you. The responsibility sits with brands to communicate back with their customers and explain why they can't make changes based on feedback.
Gathering meaningful feedback is essential to business success, so where can I find it?
The first (and obvious) place to get feedback from is your customers - the process should be as easy as possible for them so that there are no unnecessary barriers. The second place, which is growing in importance, is from your employees - especially those on the frontline who engage every day with your customers.
And, more and more, we should start to think about other key stakeholders in other processes. What about getting feedback from outsourcing partners to understand how that relationship is working and what could be done to work together and improve things for the customer? If you expect a partner organisation to meet your needs and think as you do, you need to listen to them through that process and work as a team. Likewise, they need to understand your brand values and what you’re trying to achieve with your clients.
Is meaningful feedback just about understanding the customer journey?
It can be, but it can also be much more than this. One of the main benefits of gathering customer feedback is that you can start to answer questions that really impact a brand, such as - how do you know how the customer feels at specific points along their journey?
It’s tough to second guess what the customer needs and expects. But, likewise, we can get obsessed with customer feedback for the sake of it or just focus in on one single customer journey rather than the many different journeys that our customers can take.
What we need to get obsessed about is retention of customers. As well as reviewing the journey, we need to use feedback to identify what triggers make a customer more (or less) likely to remain a customer.
It’s very much about joining the dots. You need the customer feedback to understand how they feel about the service. You need the feedback from employees (especially the customer facing employees) to understand the insight and concerns that they have. You need the feedback about your complaint volumes to understand what people are concerned about (which can often feed into your retention plans). But if you don’t join all of the dots, then it's hard to identify the source of a problem.
Equally, it’s important to only ask for the feedback that you can use and not just for the sake of it or as a tick box exercise. This is why we believe in letting the customer tell you what's important to them, in their own words, rather than being driven by preset, leading questions. You also create the risk of creating a culture of feedback fatigue amongst your customer base, reducing the amount of meaningful feedback you can gather.