the Fear: The 10 Golden Rules of Customer Feedback
by Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba. Reprinted with
are often missed because we are broadcasting when
we should be listening. - Unknown
biggest obstacle to knowing what customers really
think about us? Fear.
fear they'll tell us our product or service stinks,
that we're horrible people and we should never
have set foot on earth.
most companies never hear that type of painful
feedback. Our research finds that companies with
strong word of mouth and customer devotion behave
like high-performance athletes when it comes to
focusing on customer feedback. In effect,
they are feedback machines. Customer feedback
drives their marketing strategies, product development
and service expectations.
beer company Blowfly has integrated customer feedback
into its company's decision-making process by asking
customer "shareholders" to determine marketing
plans, product names, street-team strategies and operational
decisions usually made by executive committees. In many
ways, Blowfly has turned ownership of the company over
to customers. This has caused so much positive word
of mouth that the company-even before it was a year
old-landed a hefty North American distribution deal
with hip grocer Trader Joe's.
Toy retailer Build-A-Bear Workshop sends out weekly
surveys to its database of six million customers asking
them to rate their recent store experience, including
the cleanliness of the bathrooms! Company founder Maxine
Clark attributes her company's success-it has grown
to 113 stores in five years doing $200 million in revenue-to
its intense focus on gathering customer feedback.
opposite approach to proactively gathering customer
feedback-waiting for it arrive on its own-is fraught
with peril. Research firm TARP has found that for every
person who complains, there are 26 who do not. That
means if you have 1,000 customers and 100 of them complain,
another 260 may have quietly dumped you, never to call
again. To know what customers are thinking, we must
that operate as feedback machines-using a plus-delta
model of understanding what customers love (the plus)
and what they would improve (the delta)-make improvements
to their operations quickly and efficiently.
the fear of customer feedback and make a bold move toward
creating volunteer referrals with these tips, the 10
Golden Rules of Customer Plus-Delta:
Believe that customers possess good ideas
How often does someone in your organization respond
to an innovative idea by saying, "Our customers
don't want that." But you already have had customers
indicate otherwise. The naysayer is operating from
a level of otherworldly omniscience and is in the
wrong the field of work. Other killjoys will argue
that customers are incapable of knowing what really
makes a product or service valuable, and therefore
customer input is unnecessary. Asking customers to
participate in your problem-solving and idea generation
is an act of courage, not of weakness.
Gather customer feedback at every opportunity
Every customer interaction is an opportunity for feedback.
Avoid the trap of "we don't want to bother our
customers." If are customers are busy, they will
Focus on continual improvement
As Peter Drucker once said, a business has two
purposes: marketing and innovation. Enlist the aid
of your highly affiliated, most passionate customers
to help you improve an aspect of your business every
week so that it builds monthly momentum. Word will
spread quickly when a company's quality starts improving,
especially if you thank specific customers for their
Actively solicit good and bad feedback
The first part is relatively easy. The second question
is usually the source of feedback fear. Finesse the
situation by asking "what is the one thing you
would change or improve about your experience with
us or our product?"
Don't spend vast sums of money doing it
Multiple-page customer surveys that take six months
and cost the equivalent of two salaries may impress
the CEO and board of directors, but they may be outdated
by the time the data arrives. Short, fast surveys
deliver better response rates and allow you to react
rapidly to issues raised. Solve one or two problems
at a time, not everything at once. Tell your customers
how their feedback directly contributed to your changes.
Seek real-time feedback
Kimpton Boutique hotels CEO Tom LaTour says he has
three duties every day:
Review revenue targets
b. Manage people
c. Call 8-10 customers
With his customer plus-delta on his daily schedule,
he's not the last to hear about problems. Often, he's
the first. Obviously, he has the cachet to resolve
issues quickly. When the CEO of a company has resolved
your complaint, word spreads fast.
Make it easy for customers to provide feedback.
Companies as feedback machines employ multiple input
points: in person, email, Web sites, point-of-purchase
cards or receipts, conferences and the telephone.
After all, being a feedback machine is about making
it easy-for the customer-to provide feedback, not
what's convenient for you.
Leverage technology to aid your efforts
Online survey tools makes it very easy to gather
feedback via the Web. They are typically fast, efficient,
and inexpensive. They automatically tabulate data
and don't require a techie to launch. Your data is
virtually complete within 48 hours of sending customers
a link to the survey.
Share customer feedback throughout the organization
Responsibility for customer feedback extends beyond
the marketing department. It's a "theology"
(and practice) from the executive suite to the sales
force and everyone in between. Accordingly, ensure
that everyone in the company knows what customers
are thinking by sharing customer feedback; product
and service decisions will be better informed as a
Use feedback to make changes quickly
You can't move a mountain in a day, but you can make
it easier to climb by clearing a path. Customers who
evangelize their friends and colleagues love a responsive
organization, especially ones that keep them in the
loop of how their feedback was used (or wasn't).
McConnell and Jackie Huba are regular MarketingProfs.com
contributors and authors of Creating Customer Evangelists:
How Loyal Customers Become a Volunteer Sales Force (Dearborn,
2002). Their 24-page e-book, Creating Customer Evangelists
Discussion Guide, is a how-to manual for hosting discussions
in your organization on creating more passionate loyalty
and word of mouth. Find more information about McConnell
and Huba on their Web site: www.CreatingCustomerEvangelists.com.
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