One of the questions I am often asked by organizations is “How do other companies use customer feedback?” Fortunately, the answer to that question is simple because most organizations use customer feedback to create PowerPoint reports or Excel spreadsheets to track performance. They might tie results to compensation or be used to coach front-line employees. These are all good uses of customer feedback, but in many cases, lead to chasing a score versus driving organizational change. The real question should be “How do other companies take action on their customer feedback?”
The difference between “use” and “act” is subtle, but important. Taking action on customer feedback is not necessarily a more complex question to answer, but because there are many factors at play and that need to align to sustain action, it is more difficult to bring to life. In my twenty plus years in the CX consulting industry, I’ve found the organizations who are best at taking action with customer feedback have five things in common.
1. Senior Level Support
One of the challenges many organizations have is gaining the support and influence to allocate human and capital resources toward being customer-focused and action-oriented. Thus, the critical foundation for all successful Customer Experience programs is a senior level sponsor who embraces customer feedback and drives a customer-focused culture throughout his/her team.
The role of a senior level sponsor is most successful when they do more than just kick off the initiative and serve as a figurehead, but instead are an active participant in the process and ensure resources are allocated accordingly. When there are conflicts of interest, it is the senior level sponsor that should redirect focus toward the solutions that best align to the customer focused strategies and subsequently provide sufficient firepower to allow people to maintain that focus.
2. Cross-Functional Engagement
In some organizations, I find they build teams to drive action, but those teams are entirely composed of people from a single area like Marketing or Corporate Strategy. Truly successful organizations will build their teams to include individuals from customer channels, product lines, leadership, technology, and the front-line. This cross-functional view will provide insights into how each group operates and thus how they can work together to push the organization’s customer-focused initiatives. Additionally, a cross-functional team reduces the perception that any initiative is “corporate driven” and instead helps build advocates and spokespeople for the initiative across the organization.
3. Design with the End in Mind
Consider the projects you may be currently involved with. Do you have a clear line of sight to who uses the information, how, and why? How many times have you delivered a report or feedback to a mass email list, not knowing if people are actually looking at what you’ve produced and are actively using it?
The fact of the matter is that anyone can collect customer feedback, but collecting the right customer feedback, is what best-in-class organizations do. Organizations who do not know what their end goal is, what hypotheses they are trying to test, who is going to use the information, or how they intend to measure the success or failure, will have a difficult time gathering the input to drive action within an organization.
Designing with the end in mind is more than just how best to capture customer feedback. You also need to consider how you are going to get the feedback out to the organization. As part of the initial program design, organizations also need to think through how to get employees the right information in a timely manner. This is where customer feedback dashboards, based to each type of employee, can create transparency for how they are personally performing, as well as how the organization is doing against key metrics. If people do not know where they and the organization stand against goals, they do not know if what they are doing is driving the right outcomes and if they need to course correct.
4. Hold People Accountable
In a recent MaritzCX poll, we learned that 72 percent of CX professionals do not feel their programs are very successful at driving business outcomes. I am not surprised by this finding based on the several Action Planning sessions I have facilitated with organizations to help drill down into specific problem areas and identify strategies to address those problems.
Often during these sessions when the cross-functional team is in the room together, the energy level and intentions to take action are very high. However, once people go back to their day jobs the action steps and strategies identified frequently fall to the wayside.
Successful organizations will not only encourage Action Planning sessions, but also hold people accountable for following through. Typically, this is in the form of weekly check-ins with committee members and monthly and/or quarterly updates with senior leadership to keep the momentum moving forward and to change direction as needed.
5. An ROI Story
Identifying what most drives the customer experience will help point an organization in the right direction. Action Planning can help identify the potential next steps, but management will want to know the ROI for focusing on a particular action item. This is not new, but the challenge is often the quality and accuracy of the customer information available within an organization’s database. Unfortunately, this is usually where the process breaks down because organizations will find themselves paralyzed in discussions about the accuracy of the available information.
In my experience, it is virtually impossible to develop an ROI prediction that is 100 percent accurate. Let’s imagine for a moment your database is 100 percent accurate (even though you and I know it’s not). Your ROI model might have the right inputs, but how are you going to control for what your competitors do, fluctuations in the stock market, the latest news, etc.? Creating an ROI story will require you to make some concessions and accept that your ROI calculation will never be perfect.
I recommend organizations identify which internal metrics they feel most confident in and use those to create an ROI story. This can be done in a simple manner such as taking the average customer value and multiplying it by the number of customers who are at-risk to determine the potential loss should they actually leave. Or a more complex statistical linkage analysis can be developed that factors in multiple variables and data sources to provide more confidence in the ROI calculation. The former may take an hour or so of time, while the latter a few weeks. Either approach will give you and management some indication of the potential impact of a particular action and it is the relative magnitude of this impact that is most important.
Not as Easy as You Might Think
In sum, taking action on customer feedback is something all organizations strive or should strive to do, but it’s not as easy to do as some may think. While the factors above may seem intuitive, only the best-in-class organizations actually put these factors into practice. If you are not one of these organizations, I encourage you to revisit your CX program so that you can help your organization move closer to actually taking action with your customer feedback.