Why You Haven’t Been Able to Take Action on CX Feedback

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: most organizations use customer feedback to create PowerPoint reports or Excel spreadsheets to track performance. Then, 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, they lead to chasing a score versus driving organizational change.  The real question, then, should be, “how do other companies take action on CX 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 that need to be aligned to sustain action, it is more difficult to bring action to life.  In my twenty-plus years in the CX consulting industry, I’ve found the organizations that are best at taking action with customer feedback have five things in common.

5 Keys You Need to Take Action on CX Feedback  

Key #1: Senior Level Support  

One of the challenges many organizations face is gaining the support and influence to allocate both human and capital resources toward being customer-focused and action-oriented.  Thus, the critical foundation for all successful CX programs is a senior-level sponsor who embraces customer feedback and drives a customer-focused culture throughout their 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.

Key #2: Cross-Functional Engagement

Some organizations, I find, 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.  

Key #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?

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 their end goal, 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 about more than just determining 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—customized for 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 or if they need to course correct.

Key #4: Hold People Accountable

 In a recent InMoment 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, the energy level and intentions to take action are very high amongst cross-functional team members.  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.

Key #5: An ROI Story

Identifying what drives the customer experience most 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 of 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 all things considered, it is the relative magnitude of this impact that is most important.

Not as Easy as You Might Think

To sum it up, taking action on customer feedback is something all organizations should strive for, 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 take action on your CX feedback.  

Want to learn more about how you can take action today to improve your customer experience (and your bottom line)?  Check out this eBook, detailing six specific steps you can take now to gain some CX wins!

You Said, We Did: What Is Operational Transparency & How Can It Lead to Experience Improvement?

On this blog, we’ve spent a lot of time talking about the importance of taking action on customer feedback to inspire tangible Experience Improvement (XI). For most programs, this “action” means closing the loop with individual customers while also working to identify and solve systemic problems to improve the overall customer experience. But after closing the inner and outer loop, there are those brands that take even further action with operational transparency.

This additional step communicates to customers the actions a brand has taken to directly improve the customer experience. And for taking this extra step, brands are rewarded with further customer engagement and loyalty. In our article today, I’ll discuss how your brand can take this final step and reap the benefits. Let’s dive in!

What Is Operational Transparency?

“Operational transparency” is a behavioral science concept that refers to a company that purposefully exposes its processes to customers to help them understand the work being done on their behalf.  Think watching employees at Subway build your sandwich, or make your coffee at Starbucks. Another example is seeing a progress bar during a software update that lets you know you’re on item 5 out of 20 updates, just so you know how long it will be before you can work again.  

Research has shown that customers value this glimpse into a company’s process and that being transparent builds engagement, trust, and loyalty. Why? Customers appreciate the work companies do for them.

How Operational Transparency  Improves Your Customer Experience  

Operational transparency can be a two-part process embedded into your customer feedback efforts. First, you can combine your transparency efforts with your immediate “thank you for participating” message after a survey. This can look like providing a short overview of how you as an organization plan to look at the feedback and take action. This message can be sent to both participants and non-participants.

So what does this do for you? It lets you be completely transparent about the process and show how feedback will shape the organization. It’s not necessary to identify the exact actions the organization is going to take based on the feedback. Instead, you could mention previous actions you’ve taken as evidence that you aren’t just making empty promises

Secondly, it is important to communicate the actions you’ve taken after the fact to bring feedback full circle. This communication can piggyback on existing marketing communications, be included in feedback invitations, or be a standalone communication.

The key is to be short and focused on a few specific actions, sharing both the feedback driving it as well as the actual improvement (and maybe even how it’s been received). The idea here is to say to your customer, “you said, we did!”

How Does This Work in Practice?  

We have many clients who successfully communicated their Experience Improvement actions to their customers. Here are just a few of those examples: 

  • One client, a global supply chain company, sent out an email from their COO in early January to all of their customers, thanking them for their business and sharing the results of their survey alongside the improvements the company planned to make.  The company tracked the number of customers who opened the email and found that the vast majority of customers opened the email.
  • One of our superannuation clients builds operational transparency into their ongoing newsletter to fund members and employers. They include in the newsletter an update of any action that has been taken based on their voice of the customer program. 
  • A shipping company has automated their customer communications through our platform. They have an email that explains their action process and also highlights several initiatives they have implemented based on the feedback they’ve received. They update the email regularly to keep it fresh and relevant.
  • A global technology company has created a page on their website which they continuously update to reflect the actions they have taken based on customer feedback. In an annual email, they incorporated a video from the CEO regarding how feedback was used to make changes, including a summary of the items implemented.

In the end, this type of transparency not only engages customers, but it also communicates how much you value their feedback. It is a way to show appreciation for the customer while also building loyalty. And that’s what we like to call a win-win.

5 Steps to Effectively Implement the Voice of the Customer

The real value of customer experience programs is not in gathering customer feedback, but in putting the voice of the customer to work. While there was never a positive return on investment (ROI) for simply measuring satisfaction (no more than there is a positive ROI for taking your temperature when you are sick), today’s cost/benefit driven environment has made the need for meaningful action even more acute.

At a Glance

Most organizations invest in measuring customer experience and satisfaction with an expectation that the insights derived will lead to product and service improvements and better customer experiences. Unfortunately, far too many organizations simply hand customer feedback to managers with instructions to “use the results to take action.” The consequences? Quite often, no action is taken and the anticipated improvements in customer experience fail to materialize.

Start to Utilize Your Feedback

A growing body of evidence reveals that a majority of organizations are not where they want to be when it comes to putting the voice of the customer to work. These five steps will help you guide you to identify people and actions to be taken so that the feedback you are receiving can be utilized.

Step 1. Identify High Priority Customer-Driven Action Items

Quite often, analysis of customer survey items – each of which represents a specific element of the customer experience – is the starting point for defining action items. Specifically, items identified as “key drivers” of overall customer satisfaction and loyalty, and those that receive relatively unfavorable customer ratings are designated as customer-driven priorities for improvement. Many organizations also look at additional Voice of Customer (VoC) data sources (e.g., inbound customer comments and complaints, user-generated media, etc.) to corroborate initial conclusions based on analysis of survey data. Overall, the analysis of customer feedback enables the organization to define customer-driven action items.

Step 2. Determine Owners of the Customer-Driven Action Items

The next step in the process involves a review of customer feedback by a cross-functional team of managers. These managers collectively determine the people and parts of the organization that impact and have some level of ownership of each action item. It is the “owners” that must take the lead in developing and implementing an appropriate action plan.

Step 3. “Drill Down” for Clarity and Granularity

The analysis of survey items often provides the starting point for customer-driven action planning and implementation. However, the survey instruments are not generally designed to provide enough detail or granularity to enable an organization to determine the specific action to take. As a result, the action-item owners are limited by an incomplete understanding of “what to do.” This leads to one of two unfortunate outcomes:

  • The actions taken to respond to the voice of the customer are misguided and ineffective
  • Managers and employees end up taking no action at all because they lack clarity regarding what the customer wants or needs

In contrast, organizations that are successful in applying customer feedback to drive improvement ask themselves a simple question before developing and implementing action plans: Do we understand what the customer wants us to do or do differently?

The third step in the process requires that owners of a customer-driven action item confirm that they have sufficient understanding of what customers actually want the company to do or do differently. Social media can provide insight into what customers want or expect and knowledge from social media sources can be valuable. If not, the group must determine the questions to address and areas requiring “drill-down” for clarity and granularity.

Step 4. Pinpoint Policies, Processes, and Operations Associated with High-Priority Action Items

Once a customer issue is clarified and ownership for action established, a fourth critical step in the process is to identify and target the relevant business enablers. What are the organizational processes, policies, practices and other aspects of performance that are connected to the targeted element of the customer experience? The owners must answer this question to ensure that they identify and x the “right things.”

Step 5. Develop and Implement Appropriate Action Plans

Upon completion of these first four process steps, the organization has put itself in a very good position to develop and implement an appropriate customer experience improvement plan, because:

  • The people and parts of the organization that impact the customer-driven action item have been identified
  • These owners understand what customers want the organization to do
  • The owners have pinpointed the organizational processes, practices, policies and other performances issues that need to be changed and improved

Essentially, the “guess work” has been taken out of developing and implementing an appropriate customer driven action plan. Now, it’s time for the owners to develop the plan.

Well-conceived action plans require solid information about what to change and how to change it. Integrating action
items identified through the customer feedback process with operational training tools to guide action is a best practice to drive improvement. For many organizations, integrating these elements within the reporting platform is the most effective way to arm corporate and front-line managers with the tools they need to address improvement areas.

Connect to the Right People

Companies investing in capturing, crunching, and sharing insights derived from customer feedback will make some progress toward putting the voice of the customer to work. However, unless these organizations implement a process to connect customer feedback to the right people, and the right business processes, policies and activities, progress likely will be stalled.

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