You may recall the times when you have been asked to give Customer Feedback. It could be in a restaurant, a health resort / clinic, vehicle service station or even in business by your suppliers. The feed back is either sought for the experience you had with the an individual or group of people you interacted with; or it could be to evaluate the overall performance of the organization.
The feedback Timing
The person, who asks for feedback for self, makes sure that a positive feedback is obtained. Like the feedback form you fill in after a relishing meal, and not when the food you ordered came in late. Similarly service engineers of vehicles sometimes coerce you to give a positive feedback, before leaving the service station. If the management is wise, they must realize that it is futile to get any feedback before the customer uses the vehicle for few days after service. On the other hand the person, whose job is just to obtain feedback for the service rendered by the organization, does a routine job, religiously calling customers and asking the same set of question. In this case again I doubt, how good a feedback one gets. For example, a couple of days after your vehicle has been serviced, on a busy day, you get a call to check the performance. A good gesture indeed but either it’s too early or you’re so busy that you may not give any feed back for improvement. This makes me think on the purpose of this exercise? Is there a target to obtain a certain number of customer feedback or is to actually capture the perception of the customer?
The true reason for Feedback
A system of customer satisfaction survey or feedback would be practiced in a company due to various reasons- could be because the intention of the head of the organization to obtain true feedback, or due to the requirements by an auditing agency trying to check for compliance to an International Quality Standard . Some companies I guess may be doing this, seeing their competitors having a practice of obtaining feedback. Whatever the case may be, if the practice is not right, it will render this activity as a useless non value adding activity, wasting the time of the person who asks for feedback as well as those who give feedback. This is an important activity and cannot be yet another mundane job of a person or set of people. If the focus is just to fill in a set of forms and cover a predetermined number of respondents in year, that will be achieved; but if the focus is to get valuable feed back for improvement, then there has to be more involvement of people at all levels.
If business leaders fail to see the merit in this and not use this feedback to increase market share and expand business, then it will become just an annual exercise by the Customer Support or Quality Assurance department, for the records and to have the satisfaction that they capture customer satisfaction and review the same; it may give no more benefits than that.
Multiple modes of Feedback
I think the key is not to use just one instrument for feedback and to look at multiple modes. There could be one prominent practice, but we should regularly review the process and make changes; and most importantly look at other methods of capturing perception as well.
- It is quite common to have printed questionnaires that are sent out to customers at a specified frequency. Nothing wrong in that, but we should regularly review and make changes as and when required. Even within a large organization, the forms may be altered the to suit the industry the business units serve
- When you send out questionnaires don’t ask what you already know- For example if you are already tracking delivery performance and complaints received from the customer; don’t ask them about your delivery and supply quality, instead upfront give the customer the information and asking them to revert if they disagree.
- Try to reach people across the section of the organization and not just a one to one contact, i.e., like a sales manager to a buyer. The sales mangers could set up discussions with people in different functions to get direct feedback from the users of the product
- In vehicle service units when the client brings the vehicle for a service if we do a random selection and speak with the client on the experience after the previous service, there would be so much of information more than that comes from the telephone call that was made 2 days after the service
- If the caterer who supplies food for the canteen just stands there during the meal time and observes the expression of the people having the meal, I guess he would get about 50% of the feedback
- Most important is to focus on capturing the feedback; targets for obtaining feedback is not as important as target for identifying improvements based on feedback
- To reinforce the previous point, feedback is for continuous improvement and not for accumulating records and data.
To summarize I would say giving feedback is essential and asking feedback is imperative, but if we don’t ask the right way, we don’t get the right answers and getting right answers is mandatory not just for ensuring customer satisfaction, but also to identify gaps and grow and retain the business.