One factor working in favour of leading organizations is their deployment of customer feedback to get even better. Feedback is the view expressed by customers about the performance of a company or its products. This could be positive or negative. Feedback is important because it is a pointer to the future of an organization. Whether a company will thrive or struggle is a function of what it does with feedback from its customers. Organizations are like water-bearing pipes, the water they bear is not for them but for others. Therefore, it is important to find out how those being served by the organizations find the services rendered to them. Without feedback, a company can operate in self delusion, believing that it is serving the market while the market has moved on to other things. The views of your customers about your services or products provide helpful information that will help you to tailor your offerings to satisfying their needs better.
Every new service or product is based on an assumption of a need which the product is meant to satisfy. The fact, however, is that the need may change as season, taste, fortune and demographics change, it is therefore necessary that this assumption be regularly validated through the collection of feedback from customers so that the organisation’s output will not be at variance with the market expectations.
Making use of feedback results in improved products and services, increases customer satisfaction, and facilitate customer retention. Customer loyalty cannot be guaranteed without a consistent practice of getting customer feedback and acting on same.
Secret of Apple’s greatness
In August 2018, Apple Incorporated emerged as the first United States of America-based company to hit the $1trillion-capitalization mark, and the second company in the world to achieve the feat. While there is no doubt that Apple wows its customers with its top of the range products which have largely made customers eat out of its hands, the company is only able to achieve this because of its commitment to the deployment of feedback from customers to serve them better. Apple listens to its customers and does its customers’ biddings; hence it is the preference of customers.
Apple relies on the Net Promoter Score (NPS) research to gauge customer satisfaction. NPS is based on customer response to the question: “How likely is it that you would recommend this company or product to a friend or colleague?”
The response to the question produces two categories of customers; promoters and detractors. Apple staffers meet daily to review customers’ responses, and within 24 hours detractors are called to find out the issue they have with the product, why they will not recommend it to others and what in their view could be done to correct this. As soon as it gets the information, the company wastes no time to implement the customers’ suggestions and calls the attention of the customers to this. By deploying this strategy, Apple has been able to convert thousands of detractors to promoters. The company even found out that many of those who started as detractors often end up being bigger buyers than those who started as promoters. As a result of making use of feedback to improve customer experience, Apple has consistently achieved the highest sale per square foot in the United States of America.
Why feedback fails companies
According to Ken Blanchard, author of The One Minute Manager, feedback is the breakfast of champions. However as useful as feedback is, it often fails many companies because they fail to act on it. Directly or indirectly, every company gets customer feedback but the undoing of many organizations is that they fail to act on the feedback, especially when it runs contrary to their own assessment of their performance. But failing to make use of feedback does not hurt customers; it is the companies that get hurt. It is the companies that fail to utilize customers’ reactions to upscale their products’ performances that will witness a decline in sales. So, it is in the interest of a company that plans to last the distance to take customer feedback seriously.
Then, getting feedback and making use of same shows that the organization listens to and respects customers, and this gesture is usually reciprocated by customers through increased patronage and referrals.
Getting customer feedback
There are various ways of getting customer feedback. Here are some of them.
Deployment of social media platforms
The easiest and most effective tool that could be used to generate feedback from customers in the present age is the social media. Many banks and insurance companies in Nigeria now have live chats with their customers to share their experiences. Through this, they are able to interact with their customers online and are able to address their concerns without any form of delay. This has improved customer experience. Some other companies also make use of Facebook reactions to generate customer feedback.
But perhaps the company that is most outstanding with respect to using social media to get feedback from customers is Southwest Airlines. The company runs about 3,900 flights per day and attends to customers in excess of 100 million every year. To keep tabs on its customers’ needs and immediately attend to them, the company has a social media platform known as “Listening Center” where about 40 team members monitor and respond to thousands of tweets on a daily basis. The team members immediately respond to customers’ needs by alerting the concerned department which instantly gets the issue resolved. The speed at which Southwest Airlines responds to feedback has resulted in the growth of its customer base.
Using telephone to support customers
Salesmen make cold calls to make sales but customer care people make lively calls to customers to find out from them what their experience with a product or service is. Making telephone calls to customers to find out their opinions about their offerings has helped many companies to improve on their services to customers because getting called by their service providers who mention their names gives customers a sense of importance. So, they give their candid opinions about the product. If they are satisfied with the product, they find it easy to refer the product to others.
Making use of email
Some organizations send emails to their new customers to find out from them about their experience with their products. The email, apart from seeking to find out whether the product delivers on the brand promise or not, can also seek information about the motivation for the choice of the product and what changes the customer will like to see in it. The email may ask questions about how the product fares compared with similar products in terms of quality, pricing, packaging and accessibility. The mail may also ask questions on whether the customer would recommend the product to others or not. The customer should be encouraged to offer explanation for whichever position he takes.
Using customer satisfaction survey
Customer satisfaction survey is deployed to understand customers’ preferences and areas that require improvements. The correct use of the survey reveals the thinking of the average customer about the appropriateness of the product, its pricing, weaknesses and strengths. You may also ask your customers to score the product on a scale of 1 to 10, and let them explain why they choose to so rank it.
Go after former customers
When a customer dumps your product, you need to find out from him what informed that decision. While you may not succeed to get him back to your side, whatever information he volunteers will be helpful in retaining customers who may share his view and may be contemplating jumping ship. So, when you lose a customer, do not concentrate excessively on the loss, but rather get as much information as you can on what led to it and guard against recurrence.
For high net-worth customers, you may consider personal visits to find out what they like, what they abhor and what they will like to see in the products or services you render. Even random visits to customers of all categories by officials of the company will provide ample feedback which may lead to remarkable changes in the conduct of its business. Since businesses exist to satisfy customers, being close to customers to have a feel of their view is always helpful.
Gartner Inc., a global research and advisory firm, reports that 95 per cent of companies collect customer feedback, yet only 10 per cent use the feedback to improve their offerings, and only 5 per cent tell customers what they are doing in response to what they heard. So, while it is important to get feedback from customers, any feedback not acted on is as worthless as a dud cheque.
Basically, there are three benefits of getting feedbacks from customers. These are being able to measure customer satisfaction, improving on current products and services as well as coming up with new products.
Measuring customer satisfaction
What is not measured cannot be managed. The first step to ensuring that you keep your customers happy as a way of guaranteeing repeat purchase is to know what pleases them and what pisses them off about your products. Knowing what pleases them will enable you to do more of what they want. You also want to avoid what puts off your customers once you are aware of that.
Improving your products
Knowing the expectations of your customers positions you to improve your products in line with their expectations. Since every product is primarily meant to satisfy specific needs of the customers, feedback helps a company to continually improve on its offering to keep customers perpetually committed to it.
Introducing new products
Before Globacom launched its telecommunication services in Nigeria in 2003, it conducted a survey to find out what the expectations of the market were. The company found out that the major concern of the market was the issue of per-minute billing system, which was operational in the country at the time. So, to satisfy the yearning of the market, it introduced the per-second billing. Not only did this make its entry into the market easy, it also gave the market options. If Globacom had not come up with the new product at the time of joining the market, its entry into the market would not have had much impact. But the company made an instant hit in the telecommunication market because it made customer feedback the fulcrum of its product development.
While the proper deployment of feedback propels organizations to greatness, its neglect results in steady and consistent decline.