Customer Feedback: How to Turn Insights into Critical Business Intelligence
What your customers tell you is invaluable insight into your business and marketplace. Here’s how you can use it to your advantage.
It’s all in the delivery
It is probably no secret that customers (perhaps yourself included) give feedback more often in extreme scenarios (good and bad) rather than in “normal” scenarios. If you are in the service business, this should ring true to your experience.
At Nexcom, we use our customer feedback as a measuring stick to drive better performance in our teams. There are two ways we capture this data – through surveys with numerical (1 – 5) rating scores and through open-ended questions. Every so often, a customer will take the initiative to write us something like this:
Michelle – I don’t know if you are the correct person to take this to, but I usually talk to you so in my mind you are. Your helpdesk is exceptional! I really mean it, they are extremely helpful and fast. When our guys in the field have phone trouble they need help right away and your people are on it quick. Your company does a great job of supporting our phones. I just wanted to make sure someone received some good feedback for a change.
At first glance, this kind of feedback tells us we’re doing something really, really well. In fact, we’re doing the basic things really well, which seems to indicate an opportunity in our market. Our first impulse is to splash this up on our website and tell the world about it (ahem).
But, doing that alone would do us all – service provider and customer – a huge disservice. In fact, if not carefully assessed and managed, we might eventually fall into the “bait and switch” trap of great sales but not-so-good delivery. Thus, it’s critical to us to use this as solid management material.
Information like this feedback is so much more than good marketing material – it is a deeply insightful performance indicator. Good and bad, it is an invaluable asset on how we manage our business. It tells us much more than simply what we’re doing well and where we are failing. It tells us what we need to do to meet and exceed customer expectations. It tells us where the real opportunities are in our marketplace. Here’s how we break it down.
Contextual, “Micro” Analysis
First things first, we need to know more about why this happened – good or bad. Who wrote or called it in? What was the situation? Where did it start and finish? Who handled it? What steps did we take, and was that consistent with our practices?
Understanding this context can help is work toward isolating the root cause of the feedback. Knowing the core reason why the good or bad feedback came in will help us to see if we are witnessing “common cause” or “special cause” variation. If you accept the premise offered in the first line of this post, then we are in agreement that feedback itself, especially extreme feedback, is a form of variation in the delivery of your service (or service process).
In this case, we were working with a client in one of our biggest client organizations. Her needs were nothing extraordinary, she worked with several of our personnel, and quite frankly, nothing exceptional, odd, or unusual happened in her experience. She was just simply interfacing with our normal delivery process. Thus, we assign this to the “common cause” variation category.
Abstracting to the “Macro” Level
To us, it is normal to pick up the phone and offer a solution quickly – that is why people hire us. In fact, if you are in the service business, you should do these two things really well if you plan on retaining your customers on growing your business. At least that’s what we have learned in practice.
If and when your customers provide feedback (positive and negative) about your normal delivery process, it is critical to assess quickly how well your company is aligned with customer expectations and thus market demand. In our case, our customer is seeking not just mobile phone support services, she is seeking a level of service she has come to expect to be available in our marketplace. If we succeed, we can continue our business engagement together. If we fail, she will hire someone else who can deliver what our customers expect (demand) in our market place.
Order Qualifiers and Order Winners
When I was in business school, one of my favorite professors taught our class the concept of order qualifiers and order winners. This is an operations management principle that was originally developed for manufacturing, but it is a phenomenal tool to assess both performance in your firm and alignment with market demand.
An order qualifier is simply a characteristic of a product or service that a customer requires to do business with you. In our service delivery, that would include things like answering calls, knowing how to solve mobile device issues, and taking responsibility of mobile management items. An order winner is a characteristic of your product or service that delivers unexpected delight to your customers. In our case, it is answering the phone and resolving issues not just correctly but very quickly as well.
Further, if you pair this up with the tangible (visible, easy to identify) and intangible (not readily, easily visible) elements of your offering, you can drill into the following:
For our help desk, it teaches us the following:
- Requirements: we must solve our customer’s problems. period.
- KPIs / Value Added Services: we must be able to solve these problems correctly and effectively, the first time. Indicators like first call resolution (FCR) are a good way to measure this.
- Differentiators: we must offer a full service delivery model to answer a variety of concerns for our customers.
- Delighters: we must answer calls quickly, solve problems quickly, understand our customers needs and wants quickly, and provide exceptional service that makes our customers smile.
This is just the start… The more we probe into this example and others, the more insights we gain from our customers about how to manage our performance, market ourselves, and read the changing dynamics of our competitive marketplace.
At Nexcom, this framework is a good starting point for us to answer these questions. In fact, our customer feedback is one of the most critical inputs we use to build this analysis.
What could this tell you about your company, your marketplace, and your delivery? How could you use this information not just to craft the right message, but also in delivering your products and services?