Wonder Wheel Ferris Wheel in Coney Island, NYC
PHOTO: Dan Gold

As practitioners, we are getting much better at making customer feedback operational. But as we move to include more signals such as behavior or speech to text from the contact center in addition to surveys, it is vital we have in place a truly scalable, continuous and successful closed-loop process to enable resolution at pace, fixes, and best-practice evangelism that drives the business forward. 

Let’s take a closer look at the practice and benefits of closed loop process (CLP) in today’s customer experience (CX) world.

What Is Closed-Loop Process Management?

When implementing an experience program across a brand or enterprise, many companies are driven by the goal of collecting customer feedback. But that's just the beginning. You have to take action to make it meaningful, and it starts with closed-loop follow-up. Very simply, closing the loop is defined by directly responding to customer feedback.

What Are the Benefits of Closing the Loop?

Your Potential Organization Benefits

  • Prevent unhappy customers from turning into detractors, or worse, churning.
  • Turn passive customers into promoters.
  • Increase brand loyalty by building credibility with customers.

Your Potential Employee Benefits

  • Drive a culture of customer-centricity by giving employees a way to view interactions with your organization directly through the customer’s eyes.
  • Enhance your employee engagement by empowering people to take action.
  • Encourage employees to learn from listening — closing the loop will help identify trends in customer issues and take action on areas of weakness.

Your Potential Customer Benefits

  • Signal to customers that they are being heard, and their input is valued.
  • better able to provide amore seamless experience saving customers time and effort to do business with you.
  • Build relationship, loyalty, and trust.

Related Article: Transforming Listening Into Action: Fortifying Voice of Customer Programs

Who Owns the Loop?

Ownership may fall to the heads of operations to services — and of course CX — but everyone must be aware of their role in the loop. This is the very thing that makes a program successful and truly brings the customer to the heart of the business. I should state that it is not always necessary to close the loop with every customer, but it is necessary to be clear when you will and will not be doing so, so you can set the right expectation, both with the customer and internally. Even if you are not planning on closing the loop with customers, understand and create a plan for emergency customer rescue or risk so you have a process in place for that.

Where Do I Start?

First, understand the scope of your mission. Are you creating a CLP for a single business unit or is this part of an overarching complex organization with many brands and both B2B and B2C?

The good news is even the most complex organizations can thrive on a relatively simple plan. If you are starting small and then scaling up, you will do well to consider how you will scale from the base model in your initial design. If you are unsure of any element of how to build the best CLP design, consider bringing in an expert to do a day workshop with you. The small fee is money well spent.

Related Article: Not All Customer Feedback Requires Change

Key Elements of Closed-Loop Design

key elements of closed loop feedback

  • Make sure you determine the business value you are looking for on closing the loop, this will help bring keen stakeholders to the table.
  • As key topics emerge as customer irritants, segment them to ensure they are managed.
  • Institute a defined timeframe for when follow-up with a customer is initiated (customer SLA).
  • Create a CLP map to define how you’ll follow up with customers and have rules for the mode of response.
  • Set clear service-recovery rules as to what action can be taken (or provided) to unsatisfied customers, and outline escalation paths for complex cases.
  • Create a tracking system to conduct root cause analyses and identify insights.
  • Measure your success and share it.

Related Article: The Virtuous Cycle of Customer Feedback

Creating Your Closed-Loop Ecosystem

I recommend starting by planning out your ecosystem across the organization.

For each business element (brand, B2B/B2C, geography etc.), have a map of the service model and a goal-oriented customer journey map. Determine the type of closed-loop model according to customer goal and topic.

You will ultimately be creating two loops. First, the inner loop which deals with everything that occurs at the individual-level feedback. This feedback comes from a customer and is often related to employee engagement or is something that can be quickly addressed. With employee engagement it could be as simple as "I felt the agent was rushing me." You can investigate this and if it’s a one-off, it can be handled immediately and needs no further internal investigation.

It may be tactical such as “you promised me my delivery would be today and it isn't here." It stays in the inner loop if, for example, it is just a failed delivery as the customer was out, but if the customer was told it would be delivered in 24 hours and the delivery partner has a 48 hour contract, that needs a process or messaging change so that becomes an outer loop issue.

The outer loop is at an organization-wide level and covers issues that need strategic changes like policies, resource allocation, pricing, etc. Contrary to the inner loop, the outer loop concerns itself with things that are macro and generic to the organization as a whole. This naturally means that unlike the inner loop, which encourages rapid learning and changes, the outer loop is a more systemic and slow-working one wherein changes are implemented with a top-down approach. Leaders recognize, prioritize and address opportunities that involve the entire organization and make sure that the stream of communication is constantly flowing which keeps the trust and loyalty within the organization strong. In the example below, I have combined the two loops to show the full extent of a program that is catering for positive feedback on the left and negative to the right.

Related Article: Voice of the Customer Strategies: Effectively Turning Feedback Into Action

Your Loop Design

example of what a closed loop feedback system looks like

Remember that positive feedback can have an equal value to negative feedback in turning insights into value. Often a customer has an experience better than they were expecting and this needs to be trained across the business as a best practice. Do not treat good feedback in isolation as a no-action needed response.

The Marriage of Process with Technology

Closing the loop can be enabled in a scalable and flexible way with technology. A truly sophisticated customer experience program will send alerts to frontline employees and managers in real-time. This ensures that customers receive responses in a timely manner, while employees don’t lose operating efficiency in their day-to-day duties. 

Successful CLP programs should have connected technology which can collect customer feedback at critical points of a customer journey and then create alerts, integrate with service management solutions, have an ideas tracking module and show metric trending on those key points of pain going forward. Tracking fixes to show improvement is the ROI number that every CX program needs to deliver on — this helps ensure their practice remains highly visible and impactful.

Did You Know?

Medallia Institute research in 2017 found that companies that closed the loop gained over 23 NPS percentage points. Do the math with your company and see how much that means for your business. It’s game-changing!