What if… what customers say, can secure your company’s future?

What if… what customers say, can secure your company’s future?

A fresh look at the value of customer feedback

Completing a survey is a pain … fact! Most customers have seen right through companies’ false claims to care, so they don’t either. But what if… what if customer feedback can really secure your future? 

Most organisations have realised over the past few years the need to have a mechanism for customer feedback. Whether it is very structured or not, the mere fact that businesses care enough to ask, is indicative of its focus on its customer… or not?

In this article, we look at why consumers don’t use surveys to share their stories or pay little attention to the responses they provide. We also look at why companies don’t leverage the value of what customers have to say.

Why customers don’t want to participate

There are many, but the following are reasons why customers hate to participate or pay little attention to their responses

  • Customers are tired of all the surveys. Nowadays one is even asked to rate a conversation with a call centre agent, even though it has no bearing on the outcome. Consumers experience survey fatigue. Too many, too often.
  • The surveys don’t ask the questions the customers want to answer.
  • Nothing is achieved. Nobody does anything, irrespective of the feedback provided.
  • It is time consuming, in times when time is an important currency.
  • Social media, such as Twitter, has more impact and ensure attention and response of companies.
  • Customers are suspicious of the purpose and see no benefit to them.
  • Customers feel their voice is unimportant… just another tick, a number… personal needs or experience is insignificant.

Customers will rather resort to social media because they have learned the power of negative publicity and reputational damage. When something needs to be done, the only way to attract attention, is to hit companies where it hurts. Unfortunately, consumers have also learned the seemingly polished PR responses are often empty words and lacks intention to resolve merely to pacify. However, the likelihood of achieve anything but a ripple in the water through surveys, is rather slim. And companies are really to blame for this sad state of affairs! Why?

  • More attention is paid to the metrics than the content. Focus is on numbers, not the words.
  • Feedback is used to performance manage staff – especially customer service staff – who are often not responsible for the problem in the first place.
  • Customer feedback is often part of legacy systems. It becomes part of business processes and KPI’s.
  • The process of collecting, analysing and responding to feedback is not managed.
  • No one in the company “owns” or know who should own customers’ feedback.

Everyone believes that somebody will do something

  • The purpose of asking customers for feedback is either not clear or not defined.
  • Companies are concerned about having a system in place and to track globally recognised metrics (a case of “me too”).
  • The feedback is not shared with employees, so they have no real context of what customers experience.
  • Feedback is responded to on a case-by-case basis, and the volume and type of complaints or feedback, remain unchanged.
  • Customers are not acknowledged for their time and contribution to the success of a company – no feedback is shared to customers about what was done to improve everyone’s experience, using the feedback.
  • Individual customers don’t get their problems solved through the process or system.

It is important that the intention for asking for feedback is very clear, but it is equally important to note who would typically be interested or take part in feedback. The following should be carefully considered in the design or improvement of a customer feedback programme (Voice of the Customer programme).

Customers will share their feedback, when they….

  • are exceptionally satisfied, had a great experience, and want to acknowledge that
  • are generally compliant individuals and follow this approach in life
  • love the brand and want to help to improve
  • want to influence change to improve a company’s service delivery are very unhappy, had an exceptionally bad experience, something went wrong, and they want this to be resolved
  • want to ensure that others don’t have similar experiences (altruism)
  • want to make sure the management is aware of certain challenges in customer-employee engagement
  • seek revenge.

Having said that, customers’ feedback, whether formally requested, or unsolicited, holds valuable information for companies to survive and prosper. We recommend the following ten practices to unearth the true potential value of what customers WANT to share:

  1. Be sure that the purpose for asking customers for feedback, is clearly defined and shared throughout the company.
  2. Identify, train and empower a core team to manage the process.
  3. Identify critical clusters of problems and trends. Use these to fix the problems or create new ways to meet and exceed customers’ expectations (innovate). Ensure that root cause analysis supports the reengineering or recalibration of process, to improve customer experience. Don’t forget to ask frontline employees for clarification of the problems or ideas to solve.
  4. Share the findings – trends and specific cases as part of a learning culture
  5. Use audio clips and verbatims to bring the voice of customers’ experience to life.
  6. Pay special attention to open-ended questions’ responses.
  7. Build in automated responses to thank customers for their time and feedback… and share how it will benefit them or what the process is should they share issues. Remember to personalise these responses. 
  8. Respond to customers’ individual feedback – especially negative sentiments. Ensure that a closed loop process is in place where customers’ complaints or dissatisfaction is individually responded to
  9. Use senior leaders to reply, make their contact information available on survey if a customer wishes to share feedback personally.
  10. Align the style of responses to the company’s “Experience Essence” and brand positioning – identify and train specific individuals to manage written communication. Equally important, identify best suited employees to manage telephonic or in-person service recovery. People that understand the company’s process and procedures, infrastructure, desired experience for customers, with access to the right resources, and the right personality and attitude to serve customers. 

Don’t ask, if you don’t want to listen or do something about it

In closing, I firmly believe that customers should not be asked for feedback, if holds no benefit for them. They will happily use other channels that provide more immediacy and power, especially to grab the attention of a company. 

Taking a step back to admire the true potential of reaching out to those we serve, will bring a new appreciation for the power of the words… and how it can help companies to keep their customers and grow their business.

We are encouraged when companies embrace customer feedback in their business operations. This important source of information is all too often left to chance or not intentionally managed, leaving customers despondent when they make the effort and get no reaction. At the Consumer Psychology Lab, we are passionate about empowering companies with feedback that their direct retention and growth strategies. Should you need an independent, objective review of your current programme, or want to create a VOC programme, please feel free to call on us. www.consumerlab.co.za

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