Effective customer feedback management is critical to gaining invaluable insight into customers needs, desires, and pain points, and turning those insights into actionable data. Why? According to ThinkJar, 70% of the companies delivering best-in-class customer experiences rely on customer feedback to do so, compared to the industry average of 50% and 29% for those on the lower end of the scale.
The key to the success of these companies, though, is that they go beyond collecting customer feedback. Most large organizations collect feedback, however not all act on the information they have gathered. But the organizations that do so consistently are the ones that deliver delightful customer experiences, or will reach that point sooner rather than later.
Why is it important to deliver an outstanding customer experience? For a number of reasons, such as:
• 67% of consumers cite bad experience as the primary reason for defection (Esteban Kolsky)
• 39% of consumers avoid a business after having a poor experience (Zendesk)
• 50% of consumers stated they would work with a business more often if they had a positive experience (NewVoice)
• 58% of consumers refuse to work with a company again after having a poor experience (NewVoice)
• 86% of consumers will happily pay up to 25% more if they were guaranteed a better experience (RightNow)
• 24% of consumers will keep working with a company for two years or more after having a great experience (Zendesk)
• 95% of consumers will tell other people of their poor experience (Zendesk)
• 23% of customers told 10 or more people about their positive experience (Harvard Business Review)
In other words, delivering a great customer experience will reduce churn, increase the lifetime value of customers, increase the number of advocates, improve customer acquisition, and reduce the number of detractors.
It all boils down to increased customer loyalty and a better bottom line. And it all starts with effective customer feedback management.
Customer Feedback Management: Enterprises versus Small Businesses & Startups
Though the fundamentals are the same, managing customer feedback for small businesses and startups differs significantly in the execution when compared to large organizations.
This creates a special set of challenges, especially for small businesses that have grown to enterprise-level but have not scaled and adapted their processes accordingly.
A significant difference in CFM between small business and enterprises is volume. A large organization will have a larger volume of customers, which will translate into a significantly higher volume of feedback.
Large organizations will also receive feedback from a much larger number of channels. A small business might get the majority of its feedback via customer calls and emails. An enterprise, though, has to collect feedback via social media, customer service calls, sales meetings, surveys, reviews, forum and blog comments, and so on.
Small businesses and startups can get away with using simple processes to log the feedback they get from their customers. Many rely on Google docs and spreadsheets, which works when a company has a few dozen (or even a few hundred) customers and only a few employees. All data is collected on the same spreadsheet and everyone can see the data.
However, trying to use a similar system for a large organization is a recipe for disaster. The sheer volume of feedback alone will make this challenging. Furthermore, organizations end up with multiple spreadsheets depending on the source of the feedback, which makes collating the information virtually impossible. Trying to turn that data into something actionable is a laughable prospect.
Enterprises need a more structured approach. They need to expand beyond the spreadsheet and into a centralized system where data can be effectively analyzed.
Many large organizations find they spend an increasing amount of time in meetings, where the loudest voices are often the most influential. The result is that changes are implemented based not on the highest priority according to customers, but based on what the internal group with the loudest voice wants.
For example, the customer service department has more than 1,000 customers stating they want feature X implemented. On the other hand, the sales department has 50 customers complaining that they want feature Y. Despite the fact that feature X would likely result in higher revenues and more happy customers, feature Y ends up being implemented because the head of the sales department has a louder voice.
Often, this narrow thinking boils down to egos. Department heads are too focused on their little corner of the company, rather than the organization as a whole. All they care about is meeting their quotas. They can’t see the bigger picture and winning an argument over which feature gets implemented is a matter of ego rather than what’s best for the customers and the organization.
Customer Feedback Management Challenges for Enterprises
Enterprises face a wide range of challenges in terms of customer feedback management, which can turn even the most well-meaning efforts into a waste of time. Overcoming these challenges, though, is the key to turning customer feedback into actionable data that will positively impact customer acquisition and retention rates, as well as the organization’s bottom line.
Defining Goals and Objectives:
Many organizations collect feedback from customers because they know they should. However, it often ends up languishing in spreadsheets or outdated and siloed systems. It gathers dust and no one goes beyond the collection phase. And if someone does get the bright idea to do more, they have no idea where to start.
The key to success is to define specific goals and objectives. Everyone needs to understand why the data is being collected and how the company will use it in their decision-making process.
Defining specific objectives will also help in developing processes that are more effective. If one knows the destination beforehand, it becomes much easier to map the most efficient route.
Formal Processes and Programs:
An enterprise cannot manage feedback in the same way as a small business. The latter doesn’t require formal processes or programs.
A small number of people working together usually means everyone knows the business’ goals and understand why they are collecting feedback. They have a different type of drive: everyone wants the business to succeed and they can see the bigger picture because there isn’t as much disconnect between the person with the vision and the people doing the work.
Conversely, within an enterprise, varying degrees of disconnect exist and people take their cues from their direct manager. For example, the sales department might have a number of sales teams. The sales people on those teams take their cues from their team leader, who might take cues from the area manager, who reports to the area manager, who in turn reports to the regional manager, who goes on to communicate with the national manager.
The national manager then has to report to the VP of sales, who finally reports to the CEO. That’s a pretty long road for the overarching vision and goals of the company to get down to the people on the front line.
So, what many organizations end up with is their sales people doing what their team leader needs them to do, which is usually just to meet (or exceed) their quotas. This narrow mindset means that each small cog is focused not on ensuring the whole engine runs smoothly and offers the driver a great experience, but on doing their little piece efficiently.
Instituting formal processes and programs for CFM is essential to avoid these issues. A formal program means that the people in the trenches are more likely to understand the bigger picture and do what needs to be done.
Coming back to our sales example, by instituting a formal process for customer feedback, the organization avoids recency bias. When sales people are asked for feedback from customers, they often remember the last deal that fell through and what caused it. But the feature that was the problem for that particular customer might be just a one-off.
The enterprise then invests heavily in implementing features that might not deliver the maximum ROI because of recency bias.
By instituting a formal process requiring sales people to log all feedback they receive, the enterprise can gain a clearer picture of what customers really think. And this applies to the whole customer feedback management system.
Eliminating Silos and Centralizing Customer Feedback:
Eliminating silos can be a significant challenge for enterprises. Every department tends to act as a separate business within the company, with all information flowing upwards, from the people in the trenches to their managers and eventually to the department head. And all this information is segregated as if it were a state secret. It’s also stored in separate databases.
The sales department, for example, has their own database, separate from the customer service department. When it comes time to make an effective decision, no one has the complete picture. Everything is in little bits and pieces, despite the fact that everyone should be working towards the same goal. And since a customer’s journey will overlap with multiple departments, the result is a disconnected mess that will eventually alienate the customer.
It is imperative that all customer feedback is centralized in a single system. This will not only improve the ability to analyze the data effectively and turn it into effective actionable information, but also improve efficiency. Multiple, siloed systems lead to duplication of effort and wasted resources, which a centralized system will eliminate. It will also enable the organization to act quickly, thereby improving the experience and increasing customer loyalty.
However, a centralized system isn’t enough. Once the data has been analyzed and insights gained, the reports must be shared with everyone in the organization, from the C-suit to middle management and employees. Everyone must have access to the data, especially the actionable insights.
Furthermore, everyone should be brought into the loop to discuss what’s been working and what hasn’t in the CFM system. Insights on improving the program can come from every level, which is why open discussion is critical to improving effectiveness.
Moving Beyond the Traditional Mindset:
Collecting customer feedback used to be an intermittent effort at best. Enterprises relied on their quarterly or annual surveys, and a few customer calls here and there. Unfortunately, that no longer works. Information is shared at a lightning fast pace, which means customers can change their opinions just as quickly. And if they have an issue and the enterprise doesn’t respond immediately, that customer will flee to the competition.
Thus, it is essential that the feedback collection process becomes continuous. In other words, the organization must institute an ongoing feedback collection process in real time. Otherwise, building powerful relationships with customers will be impossible.
To do so, the enterprise must ensure that customers have an easy and quick way of providing feedback. Furthermore, all channels where customers might potentially share their views of the enterprise must be monitored constantly to gather valuable insights.
Acting on Feedback and Taking It to the Next Level
Many organizations stutter when it comes to acting on the feedback they collected. This is often due to inefficient processes, but it can also be the result of constantly fighting fires. In other words, enterprises can get stuck and stop seeing the forest for the trees.
Therefore, it’s not only imperative to act on customer feedback, but to also take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Enterprises need to prioritize the insights they gained effectively. While solving individual customer problems is critical, it’s also important to look at the overall picture, which is where customer intelligence comes in.
Overlaying customer data over customer feedback can enable organizations to look at the bigger picture and more effectively prioritize said feedback.
For example, at first glance, 2,000 customers want feature Y, while only 250 want feature X. The first response is that feature Y must be implemented.
However, not all customer segments should be treated the same and after overlaying customer data, the enterprise discovers that the 2,000 customers who want feature Y are made up mainly of those who spend very little with the company and only sporadically. On the other hand, those who want feature X are mostly made up of the company’s big spenders.
The enterprise might opt to implement feature Y in an attempt to get those 2,000 customers to spend more, or they might first focus on feature X to keep their loyal customers happy. Regardless of the approach, having that information is essential to making an effective decision.
Customer feedback management at the enterprise level comes with a series on challenges that are far different from small businesses. From feedback and source channel volume to the need for formal processes and silo elimination, the issues are varied.
However, none are insurmountable and many of them can be resolved with an effective and centralized customer feedback management system. The key to success, though, is taking action.
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