In our blog CRM -The Customer Voice #1 we quoted an excellent article on why it is important to gather customer feedback, and many suggestions on how you can gather that feedback. In this short blog we are expanding on the article to explore who should be listening and when should they take action.
Many of you may have been taught that the customer is always right and nothing we are about to say contradicts that, however,we are suggesting that, although you should always listen, sometimes when the customer provides you feedback, it is better for your organization to ignore it! What?!? In the past, it was much more difficult and costly to gather customer feedback (customers spoke to your sales channel, called your support group, or wrote to a corporate officer (yes, using the U.S. Post Office!). Today’s technology has significantly lowered the barrier, which has in turn lowered the value of any one bit of customer feedback. So how do you know what is valuable and what isn’t, when to act and when to stand pat?
It starts with who actually will review and evaluate the feedback. In the olden days it was probably the sales rep, the support rep, or the corporate officer. In all three cases, those individuals could be counted on to act in their own self-interest (e.g. make more sales, close the support case) and move on the feedback appropriately. Today, feedback comes to virtually everyone in your organization from Web Designer to Shipping Clerk. That means that there could be too many people in the loop to make coherent decisions and take decisive action unless you devise a strategy to evaluate and prioritize the feedback. Here is what we suggest.
- Make certain that everyone in your company has an iron-clad understanding of your corporate vision and goals, especially your product and support organizations. This is vital in understanding and prioritizing customer feedback.
- Establish a central repository for customer feedback and have your support organization review all of it
- Establish ‘hot stove’ criteria and recommended action. That is, anytime you receive customer feedback that is preventing them from doing business with you (e.g. crashed web site, non-operating toll-free number, incorrect operating instructions) have a plan and act on it. There is no substitute for fixing the issue and performing service recovery.
- Empower your well informed support team to evaluate the rest of the feedback. We believe that your focus on the customer, your clearly communicated vision and goals, and your trust in your employees will lead them to making the appropriate decision on how to respond to the feedback. We believe that they will:
- Share valuable information with the appropriate internal teams (such as product development)
- Evaluate all feedback against your vision and goals and whether or not the feedback is
- From a customer that supports the vision and goals
- Contains information valuable to reaching those goals
- Keep emotions in check – remember that unless this is a hot stove issue, they are free to determine its importance and urgency and not become panicked or flustered
- Understand the sentiment behind the feedback and look for trends not just a quick fix
- Keep close to the internal teams, even when the root cause is proving difficult to identify or fix
Customer feedback, even when it is highly negative, is valuable. However, if you attempt to categorize it and deal with each bit as though you are in a fire drill each time, it will quickly become viewed as drudgery and not as treasure. Celebrate positive feedback, even when it is minor, and aggregate negative feedback into achievable goals.
This blog was written by Jim Lindenfeld, who has been actively involved in customer relationship management during his entire professional career. He is a certified sales and sales management trainer. He has been involved in the implementation of CRM systems since 1987 and is currently a principal consultant in our CRM practice.