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Helping Employees Use Customer Feedback Productively

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Many companies are coming to the realization that customer feedback is only as useful as the number of people who can use it to improve the business.
Key to this realization is the understanding that when an employee gets feedback from the customers she personally served, she is able to help her business perform better. To start, she becomes more accurately informed about how to deliver good service. She is also able to identify opportunities to reach out to unhappy customers and resolve their problems. One employee performing these activities might have a small effect — but when it happens across the entire frontline, the results are better experiences for customers and, ultimately, better financial performance.
But if you’re a large enterprise, you can’t simply drop feedback in employees’ hands and expect them to create these benefits automatically. How can you encourage and train thousands of people on your frontline to actually use customer feedback productively?
Here are several strategies used by leading brands across multiple industries.
To start, it’s important to help various teams across the business understand how acting on feedback benefits them. How do improved customer experiences enhance their jobs and lives, impact their key performance indicators, and link to business results that matter to whole enterprise?
Best Western takes a highly segmented approach to this process, working separately with corporate employees and for various frontline teams to build this understanding. In a panel discussion at Experience 2016, Medallia’s customer experience conference, Best Western’s Manager of Customer Feedback Programs explained how the company carefully tailors trainings to each group to ensure they understand what is at stake for them personally when engaging with feedback, and how their actions impact the company overall. This personalization helps overcome the intimidation or confusion many frontline teams feel when they are asked to start engaging with feedback.
Another important strategy is addressing any fears the frontline might have about what customer feedback will and won’t be used for.
The telecommunications firm Frontier Communications was careful to do this when it rolled out a new feedback system. In the same panel discussion, Frontier’s VP of Strategy and Advanced Analytics related how the company strives for relentless transparency, showing its employees exactly what feedback would be reported on and how that data would be used – for improving service, not disciplining employees. Frontier also developed a series of training videos unique for each employee role, which not only explained how to use their new system, but addressed role-specific concerns and motivations that might trigger discomfort with handling feedback.
Finally, once you’ve helped frontline employees understand the value of engaging with feedback, and overcome any fear they might have about doing so, you still need to teach them how to do it.
The software firm CA Technologies, another participant in the Experience panel, approached this problem by developing a framework of workflows and action plans to help its account managers engage with and respond to customer feedback. The framework was particularly noteworthy in two ways. First, in addition to teaching that standardized behaviors are always important to successfully close the loop, it taught employees how to add their own personal, human touch to customer interactions. Additionally, when CA rolled the framework out, it first focused on high performing and influential account managers. By winning over this audience first, CA made the new framework seem desirable for the rest of its frontline — essentially, making the roll-out go viral.
When used properly, these strategies can drive stronger financial performance. Best Western has already seen phenomenal results. Best Western properties where managers are closing the loop with guests on social sites were found to see increases in social standing, as well as an average increase of 6.8 percent in occupancy rate. The company estimates that for the average $100-per-night hotel with 100 rooms, this occupancy growth equates to over $250,000 in additional topline revenue.
Regardless of the industry you’re working in, great customer experience tools need to be matched by great people and great processes, and it’s critical to enable that with a training and communication program that empowers and encourages employees to. If you accomplish that, the fruits of frontline engagement are rich.
Photo Credit: Aaron Stidwell