Yes, nobody likes taking criticism about their business, or about anything they have created for that matter. In reality however, we all know that feedback and complaints can be a remarkable learning opportunity.
It is natural to initially have negative reactions to complaints, no matter who they come from. We often become defensive and begin to find ways to put the blame on others. However, it is actually not negative at all! In her book ‘A Complaint is a Gift’, Janelle Barlow defines a complaint as “a statement about expectations that have not been met.”
If we act on the feedback that we receive, we can make it a productive tool for improvement. We can improve not only ourselves, but our services, products and the processes in which we work.
So how do we go about managing our feedback in an effective way? In this article we are going to break down how to use the ‘closed-loop’ process to make sure that we learn from our mistakes and use feedback to our full advantage.
What are the Advantages of Using a Feedback Process?
- Collecting Feedback should be a continuous process, not a ‘once in a blue moon’ event. Using a process that is set up correctly will ensure that you are improving all the time.
- It gives you, your service team and your service users the possibility to solve issues and problems related to your products, services and overall company. Your customers are the ones you want to impress and keep, so what better way than to listen and take into consideration their suggestions and complaints?
- As a result, employee morale, service or product quality and your reputation will improve.
- Having a good feedback process can create that valued bond or relationship if you will between your customers, employees and the organization.
Many people do actually collect data from their customers and from their employees. They may have a suggestion box or may even prepare a survey to be given out. These are both great ideas but there is no point in collecting the data if you are not going to do anything with it! And yet this is often the case. As a result, the performance of the organization as a whole does not improve and so slowly fades off into the back of the consumer’s minds and in time fades out of the market. KEEP UP!! If you stop improving, you are not moving forward. We can call this an open loop feedback process.
What we are going to look at is the opposite! A Closed-Loop Feedback Process.
Before we go into the actual procedure, let’s explore the benefits to using this process.
1. Improve sincerity with your customers
2. Employees and customers are engaged
3. Identify golden opportunities
4. Cater to customer needs and prioritize
5. Generate a return of Investment from the data collected
This process drives superior performance by initiating organizational and cultural changes that produce growth and profit.
How Does it Work?
STEP 1: Collect Customer Feedback Data
The first thing you are going to need to do is decide how you are going to collect your feedback. You can do so in many different ways. You could have an area within your website which is dedicated to customer suggestions. You could encourage customers to leave comments after articles. Some organizations may even have a forum designed especially for customers to express their opinions, their complaints and ask any questions they like. Another choice is to send out a satisfaction survey and kindly ask your customers to fill it in and send it back to you.
Make sure your survey or your questions about your customer’s satisfaction are specific. What are you measuring? Are you measuring their satisfaction with your latest products? Are you measuring how happy they are with your new benefits package or your customer service? It is always beneficial to make the questions specific so that you are able to really identify problematic areas.
Do not ask vague questions. Simply asking “Are you happy with our services provided?” is simply not good enough and will not provide you with enough information to make any changes. Go for something more specific like “How responsive is the support team in your opinion?”
VodaHost web hosting for example even has a forum with different categories so that customers can feel free to express their needs. Visit the Wish List & Idea Bin Forum or the Reviews – Share Your Thoughts Category, to get an idea.
Step 2: Make Changes
This is where you have to practically implement the feedback to make effective and positive changes towards improvement. Start from defining the problem, generate alternatives and explore your options, evaluate and select an alternative. Then, implement the solutions!
Do not deal with the symptoms of the problem but with the real issues at hand. Make sure you also look at the issue from a variety of perspectives. Do not panic if you suddenly realize that the problem is actually much more significant and complex than you imagined. Just calmly start to break it down and work through it. You do not have to rush through it, you want to do this properly.
Step 3: Communicate Feedback to Customers and Employees
If and when you make changes based on feedback from your customers, let them all know. This way, you will prove that you really listened and actually care enough about their opinion to act on their feedback. You will also be ensuring that people will continue to give you feedback in the future. This step must never be overlooked and often times is.
You may also want to explain to your customers the reasons why you might not have taken action. If this is the case then try and highlight areas in which you have.
Step 4: Refine the changes
Here, you complete the loop by taking additional feedback from the customers about the changes and tweaking key areas, making any improvements possible. With this step, you are making sure your customers are satisfied with the outcome of their feedback. By following through from beginning to end, you are engaging in the art of continual improvement.
Ensuring Customer Satisfaction
It may sound like a whole lot more work but it is well worth it. Try and follow up with every person that provides you with their feedback. Thank your customers even if their feedback comes at you like a smack in the face in the form of a complaint. This response will make an immediate impact on your customers because people are not thanked for their feedback very often.
Last but not least, ask your clients if they were satisfied with the way in which you handled their feedback or complaints. Be ready to hear some negative answers as well as positive ones. When dealing with a situation where your customer is still unsatisfied, try asking how they would like you to proceed. In other words, get feedback on your feedback. Try your hardest to exceed their expectations.
Points to consider when managing your feedback
- Simplify the process. In other words, create clear areas which are dedicated to your customers giving their feedback. Give your team the authority to do what it takes to solve your customer’s problems.
- Make sure you are actively listening to what your customers or employees are saying. There are certain phrases you can use which create partnership and tend to ease tension. For example ‘Let’s find a solution’ or ‘Here’s how we can proceed’.
- Make sure that your customers know you understand them. Empathize by saying things like ‘I know you are upset, I would be too in this situation’.
- Last but not least, you are going to find yourself in a difficult situation now and then, so prepare for it. Do not feel threatened when dealing with an angry customer. It is very easy to panic and become uncomfortable. Take a deep breath to help yourself think clearly. This can only come to good.
Using Feedback effectively can improve the way that we work. Try using the Closed-Feedback Loop Process to take action. Make sure you are clear about what you are measuring when you collect your data. Finally, make the necessary improvements or changes and let your customers know what you have done. Make sure your customers are satisfied and you will be seeing more of them in the future.