As it appeared in the Daily Nation on January 12th 2016
Do you ever visit a hospital, a restaurant or a supermarket or call an airline, a bank or an internet services provider and choose not to give them your valuable feedback? Why do we often withhold such important feedback? A few customers that I spoke to indicated that the number one reason they do not give feedback is because they suspect it will not be valued. “Will anything really change as a result of my feedback?” One customer retorted.
Despite customer feedback being a key business driver most service providers are indifferent about it. Indeed most frontline staff can confirm that nothing often changes as a result of customer feedback. Most managers seem to have a hate/love relationship with customer feedback. This makes it extremely difficult for businesses to benefit fully from valuable customer feedback. Many organizations operate in the dark. Most feedback whether positive or negative is neither captured nor escalated to the relevant parties for action. It is for this reason that I even doubt Dasani made its bottles easier to open after my consistent feedback on their very tight corks.
Customer feedback can either be solicited or unsolicited. Smart companies know that an annual customer satisfaction survey to solicit feedback or a once off unsolicited feedback is inadequate to steer service excellence. Tom Rieger sums it up by saying “It’s difficult to sustain energy and focus on customer engagement when the feedback is infrequent”. I strongly advocate for customer feedback at every opportunity starting from product development and new process introduction to service termination. With the growth of mobile technology, it is today possible to send an instant SMS soliciting for feedback immediately after a transaction as some may have already witnessed in businesses such a Java House.
Both positive and negative feedbacks are useful. Positive feedback is used to inspire staff to keep up the good job and it points outs areas that an organization is excelling in. Conversely, negative feedback is used to identify opportunities for improvement. If nothing is likely to change as a result of customer feedback, there is no need to collect the feedback. It is no wonder most staff do not bother to ask for feedback and those that do so do not take time to confirm their understanding or to find out why the customer really feels the way they feel. However those that develop an appropriate feedback mechanism and consistently gather valuable data from the feedback are able to stay ahead. Microsoft is one such company that collects feedback at every opportunity of the user experience.
Looking into the future, I suspect that website landing pages will have large posters reading “Your Feedback is Important to us”. In addition C-Suite occupants will be seen in the forefront assuring customers that their feedback is important to the organization. Frontline staff will most likely display a similar message. We do not need to wait any longer for that future is here. We can start collecting feedback today. This year I have purposed to pay special attention to the role of customer feedback in improving the customer experience. I wish more and more organizations would proactively gather customer feedback and use it not only as a service barometer but to drive the overall business performance.
Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer and can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org/old or via twitter @kiruthulucy