Quality #15: 7 tips for acting on customer feedback

by Tanmay Vora on May 31, 2010

The next installment in the QUALITYtweet series is: 7 tips for acting on customer feedback

Here are the first fourteen posts, in case you would like to go back and take a look:

  1. Quality #1: Quality is a long term differentiator
  2. Quality #2: Cure Precedes Prevention
  3. Quality #3: Great People + Good Processes = Great Quality
  4. Quality #4: Simplifying Processes
  5. Quality #5: Customers are your “Quality Partners”
  6. Quality #6: Knowing what needs improvement
  7. Quality #7: Productivity and Quality
  8. Quality #8: Best Practices are Contextual
  9. Quality #9: Quality of Relationship and Communication
  10. Quality #10: Inspection can be a waste if…
  11. Quality #11: Driving Change Through Leadership
  12. Quality #12: Middle Management and Quality Culture
  13. Quality #13: Reviews can be fun (if done right)
  14. Quality #14: Process improvement and 3E’s

#QUALITYtweet Critical Question:

You have taken your customer’s feedback; have you REALLY acted upon it?

Formal Customer Feedback is a proven tool for bringing about meaningful improvements in your business and offerings. Typical methods of collecting customer feedback include surveys, feedback forms, listening to customer in one-to-one meetings or just watching customers use your products and services. But all improvement starts when you start listening to the voice of your customers and act upon it. It is easy to analyze customer feedback and create good looking charts, but the key is to identify what feedback really means to you as a business.

A few years back, I interviewed a candidate for a process improvement position. His resume’ indicated that he had worked on designing a customer feedback collection system. I was impressed and curious to know more. Further in the interaction, the candidate revealed that his boss (Quality Manager) treated “customer feedback collection” as a task. Once feedback came in, he would send a report to the top management and strike the task off from his task list.

Collecting customer feedback and not acting upon it is a huge waste – as it might appear that you collected the feedback to make the other party feel good about it, which is flattering, but not meaningful. Smart customers will remember their feedback and take a notice when you serve them next time.

Mature organizations devise an integrated customer feedback program which includes both internal customers (people) and external ones. Internal customer feedback program ensures that you identify improvement areas from within.

Here are a few ideas for you to ensure that your integrated customer feedback initiative delivers what is intended to – i.e. meaningful business change:

  1. Seek feedback on overall experience: Most companies seek feedback limited to a product, service or department. Ask the right questions to gauge the overall experience including communication, systems, ease of use and pricing. With the right questions, customers will think broadly and give more constructive feedback.
  2. Acknowledge the feedback and thank them: Once customers share their feedback, acknowledge the receipt and do not forget to thank them. Make it personal. This is the starting point of post-feedback communication.
  3. Reward: A lot of companies offer discounts or freebies when customers share their feedback. This is a good way to ensure involvement and initiative. This works even better when seeking feedback from internal customers.
  4. Keep them involved: Share feedback with customers about their feedback and what you are doing about it. Most companies make the mistake of never going back to the customer after the first feedback cycle. If customer spares valuable time sharing the feedback, it is your obligation to inform them about your follow-up actions and status. In case of internal customers, you can also involve them in solution definition.
  5. Treat Customer Feedback Program as a project: This is very crucial to ensure that actions are followed through. After feedback is received, create a mini-project on improvement actions with defined deadlines and expected outcomes. Creating action log helps maintain momentum and focus on improvement actions.
  6. Ship Results: Show customers how their feedback has helped you improve your processes, delivery methods and service offerings that positively impacts their business. Implement improvement actions on your customer projects and allow them to experience change.
  7. Consider a follow-up feedback: Now that your customers have experienced improvements, consider a follow-up feedback to ensure that they acknowledge your efforts and share their comments.

Customer feedback is never a one-way street – but a two way lane that can allow your customers to become your partners in process improvement.

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