The secret to understanding customers' needs, wants and concerns is making the most of customer feedback. That means not only collecting feedback, but managing and acting upon that feedback to improve your products and services.
Customer feedback comes from a growing number of channels, including in-person, phone, comment cards, surveys, email, Web, social networking, mobile devices, and more. In addition, a number of individuals and departments within your company are collecting customer feedback, and in a variety of formats. For example, marketing may be conducting Web-based surveys, product development may be conducting focus groups, the contact center may be collecting customer feedback from the support line.
The challenge this creates is you do not always know what feedback is being captured, who is capturing it, where it is being stored and who is responsible for following up on it. This also makes it difficult to use this information to improve customer relationships.
Thus, to ensure your own company's success in setting up and managing an effective Voice-of-the-Customer feedback program, here are nine ways to help you succeed at managing customer feedback.
1. Have well-defined goals and objectives: Before starting, know what business objectives are at stake, why you are collecting the data and how your company is will use it to make decisions. Also, consider the reports you will need and who within your organization needs access to that information.
2. Get executive buy-in and internal support: Work with your executive team to communicate and share customer feedback and VOC program goals and objectives with all employees. Keep VOC programs top-of-mind with executives and employees by including metrics in executive dashboards and sharing positive customer feedback during company meetings.
3. Develop a formal VOC program: Establish a formal VOC program that encourages two-way communication between your company and customers. Once customer communications channels are established, help your company implement formal processes to support feedback data collection and management efforts, including implementing technologies to support a unified VOC program.
4. Collect and manage customer feedback in a centralized system: Having multiple feedback systems in separate databases is cumbersome and leads to duplication of effort. Companies now have access to technology-driven, real-time Voice of the Customer (VOC) feedback programs. These solutions allow businesses to continually collect customer and employee feedback through multiple channels into a central database for analysis and immediate action.
5. Become a customer advocate throughout the feedback process: Be in a position to rapidly respond to customer feedback. Keep customers informed about the ongoing status of their issues and requests. Let customers know when your company uses one of their suggestions. Help your organization resolve chronic customer complaints and concerns. Track, measure and monitor customer feedback response times and continually work to improve them.
6. Communicate and share customer feedback with others: Quickly distribute real-time customer feedback and share reports and survey data findings with others in your organization — from the c-suite to managers and employees. Openly share actionable insights with employees and conduct post-mortem meetings to discuss what did and did not work as well as what is needed to improve your VOC program in the future.
7. Collect real-time, ongoing feedback: To build strong, lasting and engaging relationships with customers, gather and respond to feedback in real-time. To accomplish this, make it easy for customers to submit feedback at every interaction point and regularly monitor customer needs and concerns.
8. Integrate customer feedback into the business: Be sure to work with other departments to ensure that their customer feedback is incorporated into the company's strategic goals. For example, sort through open-ended comments to see whether a customer has complimented an individual employee. Then, make sure that the employee is recognized for providing positive customer service.
9. Tie customer feedback programs to business outcomes: Measure and monitor customer-related metrics such as customer retention, number of products purchased, likelihood to recommend the company's products or services, likelihood to purchase again, etc. You can also benchmark your program against other industry leaders. These measurements will demonstrate how your feedback program is positively impacting the organization.
Gathering customer feedback isn't just about finding out and addressing customer concerns — it's about gaining a solid understanding of customer needs, wants and issues. By consolidating all feedback data into a single centralized system and using that system across the organization, you can gain valuable insights into what customers need, want and value most, as well as identify important trends and patterns in the data that contributes to business success.
About the Author
Kyle LaMalfa (firstname.lastname@example.org) is best practices director and loyalty consultant for Allegiance (www.allegiance.com), a provider of software for Voice of the Customer (VOC) and feedback management. Allegiance's offerings help organizations grow the loyalty and engagement of customers and employees alike.
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