Are You Listening to Your Customers?
I’m in a lucky position sitting at the helm of Best Practice. We’re an organisation that has the opportunity to work with thousands of others across every imaginable industry and see how they do business. This allows us to compare and contrast how different organisations deal with customer feedback; be it from a positive or negative experience. One of the clearest signifiers of an efficient and effective organisation is how they use this, and can turn one customer’s negative experience into a learning exercise for the whole company.
Having said that, however, there’s nothing more damaging to your organisation’s reputation than negative customer feedback. This can spiral into a loss of customer trust from your stakeholders, with negative reviews on show to the world. It’s almost impossible to make everyone happy, but this should undoubtedly be your aim. While the end result, product or service will obviously change, I’ve noticed that one thing always remains the same: organisations that prioritise their customers and actively take on their feedback are more resilient in the face of fierce competition and a dynamic market.
Take this case and point example from Tesla’s Elon Musk, who is so actively engaged in the dialogue between Tesla and its stakeholders, he talks to them directly via Twitter. “Can you guys program the car once in park to move back the seat and raise the steering wheel?,” Paul Franks requested. “[The] steering wheel is wearing.”
“Good point. We will add that to all cars in one of the upcoming software releases,” Musk replied. To which the company did shortly after in a software patch for its vehicles.
At this point, it’s probably worth mentioning that you can’t be expected to act upon every single customer request- particularly if you’re a large organisation. The reality is, however, that you are expected to at least take the feedback on board, and feed this into your quality management system. More specifically, you’re inputting this data into a dashboard, risk register or something that carefully lists feedback and complaints that should be regularly monitored, even prioritised.
This is fairly straightforward, but continues to be ignored by some organisations. If there’s a common thread in the feedback that you’re receiving from your customers, you need to hit the figurative nail on the head when it comes to addressing and rectifying it. The first stage of this could be offering that customer a partial or full refund if their experience was truly a nightmare, or at the very least acknowledging their feedback. There’s nothing worse than someone taking the time out to offer up their invaluable end-user experience, raising valid concerns, only to be ignored by the organisation. If the information is on a public forum like social media or your website’s review section, the problem is magnified even more.
As I mentioned earlier, this is an extremely important learning exercise for your organisation, so for any recurring themes in a customer’s complaints, you want to be agile in your response and try to identify the pain point or shortcoming that culminated in a customer’s negative experience with your organisation. It’s also a possibility that it wasn’t explicitly your organisation’s fault, perhaps it was a supplier, or variable changes in the market that are quite literally out of your control. In this instance, one of your best options is to have a back-up plan ready to go in times of a supplier’s inability, or a damage-control mechanism that makes sure the customer still feels valued even though there might be a delay in the final delivery of the product or service.
From this point onward, you can fall back on the plan-do-check-act model to monitor how well you’re improving upon the customer or end-deliverable’s experience, as well as the potential risks in your organisation that could make a customer feel violated. If you implement a new policy or strategy in the business to address a short-falling in your organisation, you want to carefully monitor and measure its effectiveness in dealing with the problem, and act upon any further improvements that could be made.
From here, the cycle continues, and you should raise these points each and every strategic management review session you have. Don’t underestimate the danger in ignoring your customer’s feedback- it can sometimes prove fatal to an organisation. Instead, think of this as an opportunity to identify new ways to innovate and improve your business, all the while keeping your customers and stakeholders happy; it really is win-win for everyone.