Delayed deliveries. Fee increases. Faulty products. Negative customer experiences (whether accidental or change-related) are unfortunate yet unavoidable aspects of doing business -- and they can damage outcomes big time.
For example, Yahoo's recent data breach problems have already cost the company considerably and might lead to a settlement of over $100 million.
When systemic problems arise, leaders might be tempted to pause their customer feedback program -- often under the assumption that soliciting feedback at a sensitive time could exacerbate customers' frustrations.
It's true that faulty customer feedback solutions (such as those that don't prioritize follow-through) can make problems exponentially worse.
But a proven customer feedback program can transform problems into money-makers.
Excellent customer feedback programs generate insights that help organizations improve everything from products to customer experiences.
Plus, they give customers a voice and make them feel valued, allowing leaders to rebuild relationships, foster trust and end up with higher customer engagement than before the problems occurred.
In turn, customer loyalty and retention increase.
So, no matter how cringeworthy, customer feedback is invaluable when headaches occur -- provided it's done right.
How can you tell if your program will alleviate or aggravate customer problems? Consider what differentiates the best customer feedback programs -- and make certain your program measures up.
An outcome-focused customer feedback program supports:
- individual accountability
- data-driven actions
- a culture of customer-centricity
No matter how cringeworthy, customer feedback is invaluable when headaches occur -- provided it's done right.
Create individual accountability.
A great customer feedback program encourages accountability by delivering insights that reflect employees' roles in the customer experience. With this context, leaders and managers can hold employees accountable for metrics that empirically drive customer outcomes.
Leaders must ensure that employees can take actions that influence the outcomes for which they're held accountable. Further, leaders should use incentives and goals that encourage teams to collaborate to better serve customers -- not compete internally for personal gain. Accountability only fosters performance if it's fair, accurate and actionable.
For example, team engagement will likely suffer if leaders cut compensation for teams that handle problem resolution because overall customer satisfaction dropped. A better strategy would be to reward employees who deliver exceptional customer experiences.
Organizations (and customers) win when leaders use performance metrics that inspire excellence, benefit customers and align with business goals.
Take data-driven actions.
One of the best ways to destroy customer engagement is to ask customers for feedback and then ignore their responses.
On the other hand, when leaders implement targeted actions for improvement, they can more precisely strengthen outcomes such as customer retention and profitability.
The right customer feedback program supports action by offering a bank of research-backed questions that align with both customer outcomes and organizational goals -- from tactical sales initiatives to broader strategic endeavors.
Just as important, an outcome-focused feedback solution isolates the customers, accounts and relationships that are most at-risk -- that is, those that are most likely to be negatively affected by adverse events. This allows organizations to make discoveries that streamline decision-making and problem resolution.
In addition, smart customer solutions enable organizations to create a database of customer responses. In turn, organizations can build predictive models that readily isolate the most effective resolution methods for current and future problems.
Ultimately, this maximizes organizational agility, allowing leaders to quickly resolve problems and design a playbook of strategies to prevent problems from recurring.
Build a culture of customer-centricity.
The best customer feedback programs revolve around the customer. They empower organizations to connect with customers and use customer analytics to shape their work culture and the way they operate.
How? These programs ask questions that resonate with -- and are tailored to -- an organization's most important customers. They're also inextricably linked to vital elements of the customer experience so that leaders can apply discoveries to optimize service and bring brand promises to life.
A culture of customer centricity requires high internal alignment. Leaders must help employees understand the vision for customer-centricity and show them what pitch-perfect customer experiences look like.
Negative feedback can be painful. But organizations that harness criticism can improve their business model and grow customer loyalty.
Better yet, leaders who develop best-in-class customer feedback programs prove that they genuinely care about their customers, in good times and in bad.