It is well understood that closing the customer feedback loop is a critical step in any voice of the customer program. Taking advantage of the opportunity to interact with your customers to resolve issues and problems provides deeper customer insights, demonstrates that your organization truly cares about customer feedback, and helps to increase customer satisfaction and customer loyalty. Not closing the feedback loop sends the opposite message. I'd like to offer a personal story that illustrates this in a simple way.
Recently, I traveled to the Boston area to attend a business meeting and stayed in a small boutique hotel. The room was comfortable, and the staff was attentive. Providing a great guest experience seemed to be top-of-mind for the owners/management of the hotel, as there were tent cards and posters throughout the hotel proclaiming how providing exemplary customer service and delivering a great customer experience was the #1 goal of the hotel staff.
I stayed at the hotel for two nights. As I returned to the hotel from dinner on the second day of my stay, I stopped at the front desk to request a 3:00 a.m. wake-up call, as I was booked on an early morning flight back to San Francisco. I watched as the front desk clerk scribbled my room number and "3 a.m." on a sticky note. That made me nervous, so I asked if she would be calling, or if the note was for someone else. "Oh, don't worry," she replied. "We'd never miss a wake-up call!" (At this point, I think you know where this is headed.)
I set the alarm in my room, just in case, and went to bed. I was awakened not by a wake-up call, but by the screeching of the alarm clock at 3:15. I jumped in the shower, finished packing, and went to the front desk to check out. When the front desk clerk asked how my stay was, I mentioned that I was disappointed that I didn't get a wake-up call. "Sorry about that," he replied.
I arrived home on a Friday, and on the following Monday an invitation from the hotel to take a survey about my recent stay arrived in my email inbox, directly from the owner of the hotel. I completed the brief survey, and in the area for additional comments I recounted the missed wake-up call. The online survey included a field for me to indicate if I wanted someone to contact me concerning my comments, or anything else regarding my stay. I checked "yes" and provided both my email address and phone number in the appropriate fields. I was feeling better about the hotel as it seemed that the management was genuinely interested in my feedback. I was looking forward to having a pleasant conversation with someone from the hotel.
That was more than three weeks ago, and no one has attempted to contact me (yet), though, at this point, I'm not expecting a call or email.
Even though I was disappointed that the hotel missed my wake-up call, I realize that things happen. I was pleased that it seemed I was going to be given an opportunity to provide my feedback, and even more pleased that I'd have a chance to tell the hotel management how much I appreciated their reaching out to me to "close the loop."
I'm confident that if that conversation had occurred, the positive associated with the fact that the hotel was truly interested in my feedback would have outweighed the negative associated with the missed wake-up call, and I probably would have considered the hotel for my next trip to the Boston area. But the fact that they "talked the talk" but didn't "walk the walk" has left me with an even more unpleasant feeling than if they hadn't sent me the survey in the first place. They had an opportunity to interact with me to turn me into a loyal customer, but they missed that opportunity.
The same best practices for gathering customer feedback hold true whether you are a major global enterprise with a comprehensive enterprise feedback management solution like MarketTools CustomerSat, or a boutique hotel using a simple Zoomerang online survey for gathering customer feedback. For any voice of the customer program, closing the loop on customer feedback is a critical, yet all too often overlooked, step.
Greg Marek is vice president of corporate marketing for MarketTools, an Internet-based market research company.