Companies in a free market economy have a fundamental responsibility to compete. If they do not compete, they die. It is as simple as that. But equally important are the tools and methodologies businesses use to effectively compete. At the top of the list is customer feedback and what is known in the modern business world as the ‘feedback loop‘.
Obtaining feedback has been part of the customer loyalty game since business owners began competing thousands of years ago. After all, organic growth is nearly impossible if a business owner does not understand how his or her customers feel and why they feel the way they do. Forward-thinking business owners ask customers for their thoughts, suggestions, and even their hopes for what the business will look like in the future.
Today, we collect customer feedback through:
- e-mail contacts
- telephone contacts
- text messages
- in-person interactions
- social media interactions.
Companies with good customer experience management strategies and software in place collect data from all of these sources, analyse it, and use it to keep happy customers happy and address the concerns of unhappy customers. And all of this is done within the realm of the feedback loop. To make this easier to understand, we can look at the three stages of the loop: before, during, and after.
The primary driver of the loop is collecting and analysing customer feedback data. But certain things have to be addressed before any data is collected. The ‘before’ stage starts by establishing the flow of information. Companies must decide from whom they want to collect data, to whom that data will go, and how that data will be used to improve the customer experience. They must also understand that:
- the flow of information should be ongoing once initiated;
- seasonal circumstances will affect the flow; and
- they need to be prepared to respond BEFORE data collection ever begins.
The point is to include every team member in the flow of information. If it takes the entire team to create an exceptional customer experience, the entire team needs to be part of the flow.
This stage of the loop involves the actual collection and analysis of data. Data collection can be accomplished in any number of ways as listed earlier. For all practical purposes, however, the most commonly used form of data collection is the customer survey. A well-designed survey that produces numerical ratings for specific metrics is a very effective way of gauging customer loyalty and satisfaction.
Companies also need a solid customer experience management software tool that includes strong analytics and reporting capabilities. Data must be collected, analysed, and distributed to team members so that each one can do what is required to improve the customer experience.
What a company does after collecting and analysing data determines whether the feedback loop is properly closed or not. It begins by responding to feedback in a timely manner. Responses should be immediate and measurable, not lethargic and vague. Closing the loop also includes:
- getting the message out to the company’s target audience;
- addressing every team member by supplying the data they need to do their jobs better; and
- inviting every team member to participate in formulating strategies for moving forward.
The customer feedback loop is a three-stage loop that should be ongoing once it is started. Through preparation, high-quality data collection and analysis, and appropriate responses, a company can continually improve the customer experience to create better value and drive revenues. This is how successful businesses compete.