To many customer experience (CX) practitioners, closing the loop refers solely to solving individual customer problems and making it clear that those concerns have not only been heard, but also addressed. The truth is that, while this process is obviously vital to the success of any organization, it is only the first step into a wider world of continuous improvement.
There are actually two loops that organizations need to close. The first, the inner loop (which you can read more about here), is what we just mentioned—interacting with customers one-on-one to listen to and act upon their feedback. Closing the outer loop, by contrast, refers to making customer centricity and continuous improvement the beating heart of any organization. The outer loop is a macro-level process that seeks to make systemic change. This change is based on a wide data set that includes, but is not limited to, the inner loop. Let’s talk about how to close the outer loop and why a CX program will never be world-class without outer loop successes.
Taking The Loop Company-Wide
Companies can’t have an outer loop process if they keep customer centricity confined to experience and service teams. Rather, organizations need to make enthusiasm for that centricity (and the continuous learning opportunities therein) a company-wide value. When every employee and department catches that enthusiasm, it creates organizational strength the likes of which can carry any brand to the top of its vertical. Employees who are engaged in an outer loop process will feel more connected and will strive for excellence.
This approach makes sense when you consider that customer feedback can be about almost any department or employee. An organization that channels learning opportunities toward a few teams instead of at a cross-company level risks failing to identify or address deep-seated problems. That’s precisely what closing the outer loop is about: identifying improvement opportunities for every facet of an organization and addressing a company’s most foundational issues.
Finally, organizations should close the outer loop for one of the same reasons that they should close the inner loop: the customers who drive a brand’s success deserve —and expect—to be heard if they have feedback. Indeed, a strong outer loop is built on multiple, successful inner-loop interactions.
How Can Organizations Close The Outer Loop?
Now that we’ve gone over a few key reasons for closing the outer loop, let’s talk about some ways that brands can actually pull it off. How can companies design and implement an outer loop process that is inclusive, sustainable, and transparent? All three of these elements can be tied to employees.
If brands want to see continuous improvement (and foster an appetite for it) across their organization, they need to get their employees involved as major participants in the outer loop program. Companies need to make it as simple as possible for employees—especially customer-facing ones—to share customer feedback with a centralized CX team. This team can then synthesize data, create priorities, and lobby for resources to make the macro-level changes that are the essence of the outer loop.
If you’re just starting your outer loop program, creating an incentive structure to get the process rolling is a practical step. Resist the urge to make this structure purely financial. Rather, make recognition unique and exclusive to gamify the program.
If all else fails, feed the team! Lunch roundtables are a great way to leverage inner loop learnings, introduce the outer loop process, and drive employee engagement. Additionally, do not limit employee input to customer facing teams. No matter how far away an employee may be from the front lines, everyone’s work influences how companies relate to customers.
Finally, one of the key elements of the outer loop is transparency and communication. While the goal of an outer loop process is to implement systemic and sustained continuous improvement, companies need to ensure they close the outer loop with employees and customers when a change is implemented as part of such a program. Every company will have a different approach to this vital step, but organizations can at least begin to tackle it by quickly transferring feedback to the appropriate stakeholders, enabling them to communicate effectively to their teams, and to communicate back to customers (if appropriate).
As any CX practitioner knows, there is no such thing as the “perfect” customer experience. There is always room to improve and become more efficient. True success in all customer experience endeavors, especially closing the loop, stems from not just continuously reacting to feedback, but also being on the lookout for new channels to glean it from.
To that end, successfully closing the outer loop means not only encouraging enthusiasm for continuous improvement, but also encouraging the proactivity that makes it possible to begin with. It also means remembering to reach back out to the employees and customers involved in the process to let them know that their effort and feedback, respectively, weren’t for nought. Companies that embrace this principle, and closing the outer loop as a whole, will be able to achieve meaningful improvement, outpace their competitors, and attain transformational success.
Building the outer loop is a critical piece of responding to customers and creating meaningful, transformative success, but there are other elements to that puzzle, too. Click here to learn more about the outer loop, its counterpart, the inner loop, and other principles of listening to and addressing feedback.