With the explosion of social media tools, there are now myriad ways your customers can tell you what happened during their experience and how they feel about your organization, brand, products and services. Even voice of the customer programs are now commonplace.
Customer feedback isn’t a new concept. It’s been around since commerce began. The tools are different and more democratized now. It is easier now than ever before for the everyday customer to applaud your efforts—or to voice her criticisms—of your brand.
But here’s the question: What are you doing with that direct customer feedback? And, more pointedly, are you using those customer thoughts, ideas and opinions to strengthen their experience with your organization?
In my experience, more than half of all companies are not translating customer observations or feedback into actions that can drive performance for their organizations. We learn much. We don’t execute enough, or leverage what we learn in the most meaningful way.
The obvious “why not?” question is a different issue and a different post for a different day. What I want to focus on in this post are five actionable tips that can help you start using that customer feedback to drive performance for your organization.
- Act–Now. Make sure you’re doing something, and something meaningful with your customer feedback. Maybe this is ridiculously obvious. But too often organizations have too loose or even no set discipline and structure to leverage what customers tell them through actions or words. Online or offline. Enroll and empower the people within your organization who make decisions (both the direction-changing and the daily kind) to set yourself up for performance payoffs down the road. You must operationalize the change.
- Minimize customer effort. I’ve never met a leader who sets out to make customers work to solve a need. Yet “make it easier to do business with us” is on the lips of nearly every leader I meet. Such a paradox. So through listening or observation, find out how many times prospects and customers have to interact with you to get what they need. Understand their point of view regarding how hard they’re working to get what they need. This direct feedback can lead you directly to customer “paint points” you could probably easily solve to create added value for a much larger group of customers.
- Translate feedback into product innovation. I’m not talking about crowd-sourcing here. I’m simply talking about using customer observations, ideas and feedback to drive product and service innovation for your company. Quite often, customers have ideas you haven’t considered since they’re the ones actually using your products and services on a daily basis. Create simple processes where you can get that direct customer feedback into the hands of product designers and innovation leads for your company. Or, take that notion a step further and actually invite key customers into the lab to innovate right alongside the innovators.
- Spot emerging customer needs. Use customer feedback to identify needs that haven’t been solved – or even articulated – yet. Don’t just take customer comments and feedback at face value—dive in. What’s the need beneath or beyond what you hear or see? Social networking tools like Twitter or Facebook may be particularly helpful here. Emerging needs are the headwaters of demand for your organization. Give yourself the opportunity to solve a greater number of customer needs in the future.
- Get emotional. Identify the emotional tone your customers convey when they talk about your product, brand or organization. Now, does that match what you hoped customers would feel in your defined target, or ideal customer experience? If no, how can you close the gap? Are the emotions you hear consistent across customers? Are they consistent for each customer over time? While the tangible elements of your customer experience most directly solve a customer’s need, the emotional elements build loyalty. You must consider the emotional elements of your customer experience. More often than not, it’s the emotional connection to your brand that is much stronger than rational one. Work to strengthen that by listening intently to customer feedback. As the wise Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
What about you? How are you using customer feedback to strengthen your customer experience?
Note: photo by sethoscope via FlickR Creative Commons