The Power of Customer Feedback

Customer Engagement
Customer Experience
By tapping into customer feedback, organizations can make improvements to their business.

Customer feedback is essential for organizations that can use these insights to determine what's working and what needs to be changed within their organization. Recognizing this, many companies are making an effort to collect a good amount of customer feedback that will help them make the necessary improvements to their service efforts. Yet, not all feedback collection efforts are successful and a number of organizations struggle to get actionable insights from their customers. I recently spoke with Karl Sharicz, manager of customer experience at safety systems company SimplexGrinnell. He noted that the business-to-business company started seriously looking at leveraging customer feedback when it was acquired by Tyco in 2001. But the paper survey system led to skewed results, with only customers who had a great experience filling the questionnaire, possibly because it was at the discretion of frontline employees who to ask to take part in the survey.

After reviewing its way of collecting feedback, in 2005 SimplexGrinnell's business leaders hired an external organization to help get more evenly spread customer insights. "We wanted insights from across the board," Sharicz explained. Recognizing that customers who gave feedback wanted to hear back from the company, SimplexGrinnell built a response recovery mechanism to follow up on each complaint and close the loop, also allowing the brand to learn more about clients' pain points.

However, the system wasn't scalable across the organization's 135 offices in North America so in 2008 the company implemented Confirmit allowing SimplexGrinnell to not only collect feedback but also notify the relevant office so that they could follow up with the client within 24 hours. "We were able to address issues before they were blown out of proportion," Sharicz notes. Further, this system uncovered very localized issues that needed to be addressed to improve the performance of that particular office.

SimplexGrinnell's experience isn't unique and many organizations struggle to get accurate feedback that really reflects the company's performance. A system that doesn't get insights from the whole customer base makes it very tough to determine employee performance based on client feedback. Is an employee who was at the receiving end of negative feedback not doing his job properly or was that a one-off comment and customers who had a good experience did not share any insights? Therefore, the first step that organizations need to take is to look at the ways they're collecting customer feedback to determine if this is giving the brand enough data from across their customer base. Business leaders might consider introducing incentives for customers, for example sweepstakes associated with filling in a survey.