The Gist

  • Define goals. Define feedback goals and tie them back to the CX success statement.
  • Include requests. Include feedback requests in the overall customer journey.
  • Understand use. Understand how feedback will be used before requesting it.
  • Be ready to react. Include teams who will need to react early in the feedback program strategy.
  • Collect and prioritize. Create a process to collect and prioritize the random, unstructured feedback customers provide.

A customer experience leader’s role is often tied to collecting, analyzing and acting upon customer feedback. Many leaders are tasked with developing customer feedback programs, including how and when to send surveys, where to insert feedback tools like kiosks or chatbots and how to report on the feedback once it’s gathered.

But there’s a serious challenge in many organizations.

A lot of customer feedback is collected based on well-thought-out strategies and plans, but the “acting on” this feedback is poorly defined, never assigned or barely approached as a priority.

I’ve seen many customer experience budgets built around implementing customer feedback platforms. In 2022 Forrester research, CX leaders believed budgets for customer insights and engagement tools would rise this year.

Customer feedback is incredibly important to any customer experience strategy. It’s common to start there when developing a CX program.

However, in many organizations, the collecting and reporting of feedback can become more important than acting on it. This is the opposite of what customers want when they provide you with valuable feedback. They don’t care what your reports look like. They want action.

How can you set up your organization for success when it comes to feedback programs? Here are five ideas.

1. Set Your Customer Feedback Program Strategy

Seems obvious, right? But your feedback strategy isn’t simply “get feedback.”

Establish the goals you’re seeking to achieve by gathering feedback in the first place. That means defining how this feedback will drive business results.

The best way to do this is to tie it all back to your CX Success Statement, which ties your CX initiatives to larger organizational and leadership goals. I can’t tell you how often I ask leaders the question: What business goals will this feedback help you achieve? Then receive a questioning look.

Your organizational goals should drive your customer experience goals. Those goals can help you define what your feedback program goals should be.

Let’s say your organization has a goal to improve the experience of customers who have been with the company for more than a year. To measure this, Net Promoter Score (NPS) is reported for both new customers and those who have been with the company for 13 months.

Your feedback goals should not only include goals around measurement itself, but also the WHY of those measurements. In this example, a feedback program goal could be to uncover why NPS is significantly lower for the year-plus customers than the new customers. This ties into the overall organizational goals around customer retention, for example.

Related Article: Enough Already With Customer Feedback. Make Your Move

2. Align Your Customer Feedback Journey With Your Overall Customer Journey

Feedback is often treated as if it’s a separate and distinct experience from the customer’s journey. Customer journey maps, for example, don’t often include feedback requests as actual touchpoints. But that’s exactly what they are.

Feedback requests should be included in the overall customer journey. It’s important to understand how the survey sent or the interview invitation fits into that customer’s overall experience.

Sometimes surveys are sent at one time per year, and sometimes they are triggered by specific events in the journey. Either way, this request is an interaction with the customer and the brand.

It’s an opportunity to build or erode trust, and it should be respected as such. It’s not “extra” or something that happens outside of the relationship with the brand, it’s all part of the same relationship.

Related Article: Ratings and Reviews Help Customers Make Smart Buying Decisions

3. Know How Customer Feedback Will Be Used Before You Ask for It

Understanding how feedback will be used — and early — might be the most important part of any feedback program. Friends don’t let friends ask questions that don’t matter if they are answered!

Learning Opportunities

Curiosity is a great trait for CX leaders and teams. However, curiosity is not the only or best reason to ask for feedback.

  • Customers need to see how their feedback is used to drive change and action at the organization.
  • Employees need to feel accountable to customers for the feedback they receive.
  • And what’s the point of investing in technology, tools and people to ask for feedback if it doesn’t actually result in anything for the business? (Spoiler alert: There is no point.)

Be somewhat judicious with what feedback is requested, and ensure the accountability to act on it is clearly defined in advance. Some organizations literally assign a person who is accountable for each question on the survey. This eliminates the gray area of thinking someone will do something and clearly identifies who is responsible for moving forward with the feedback results.

This can also be a great way to create boundaries to protect against those last-minute requests from leaders and teams who have short-term campaigns and just want to “know how it did” with customers. By requesting specific accountability to act on what’s learned, these leaders realize what will be learned isn’t actually actionable. And that’s what this is all about.

It's also crucial to establish a process for closing the loop with the customer, ensuring that complaints, issues, and even compliments are acknowledged and addressed with a meaningful response. Determine the best ways to not only act but also respond to customers.

4. Include the Teams Who Will Need to React Early in the Customer Feedback Program Strategy

Some feedback from customers is not necessarily about changing processes or products.

  • Sometimes feedback allows contact center leaders to better coach their teams.
  • Sometimes it helps product teams think about the next release.
  • Acting on feedback can mean sharing it with the right people at the right moment.

I personally like when feedback is used to celebrate and encourage customer-facing teams. For example, a customer service team uses a Slack channel just to share the specific positive feedback customers share about their service experiences. It’s a great way to ensure team members see when best practices work and are able to celebrate their peers.

Think about what teams will need to react to the feedback collected. Then include those teams early in the process, so they are prepared when the feedback starts rolling in.

5. Random, Unstructured Customer Feedback Matters, Too

Customers don’t always stay within the parameters of the feedback request. A question about satisfaction around delivery, for example, might include a paragraph detailing the customer’s frustration with assembling the product themselves after the delivery went well.

If these random, but useful, bits of feedback aren’t considered from the beginning, it’s easy to have them drift into some wasteland where nobody cares and nobody is accountable. Then when that customer gets asked about that specific issue later, it feels like they weren’t heard the first time.

Create a process to collect and prioritize the random, unstructured feedback customers provide at sometimes the “wrong”  moments.

How Will You Optimize Your Customer Feedback Program?

Customer feedback is absolutely essential to any customer experience management program. But feedback for feedback’s sake is not the goal.

The goal has to be about creating real change on behalf of the customer. These meaningful changes will drive the business outcomes that are vital to organizational success.

Take a look at what, how, when and why you’re asking for customer feedback. If it’s not driving the right outcomes, it might be time to revisit your strategy, goals and accountabilities.

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