You may recall the times when you have been asked to give Customer Feedback. It could be in a restaurant, a health resort / clinic, vehicle service station or even in business by your suppliers. The feed back is either sought for the experience you had with the way an individual or group of people you interacted with; or it could be to evaluate the overall performance of the organization.
The person, who asks for feedback for self, is aware of it and makes sure that a positive feedback is obtained. Like the feedback form you fill in after a relishing supper, and not when the food you ordered came in late. On the other hand the person, whose job is just to obtain feedback for the service rendered by the organization, does a routine job, religiously calling customers and asking the same set of questions and recording observations. In this case again I doubt, how good a feedback one gets. For example, a couple of days after your vehicle has been serviced; on a busy day you get a call to check the performance. A good gesture indeed but either it's too early or you're so busy that you may not give any feed back for improvement. The question that comes to mind is what is the purpose of this exercise? Is there a target to obtain a certain number of customer feedbacks or is to actually capture the perception of the customer?
A system of customer satisfaction survey or feedback would be practiced in a company due to various reasons- could be because of one of its visionary leaders or due to the requirements by an auditing agency trying to check for compliance to an International Quality Standard or just because it is being done by other companies. What ever the case may be, if the practice is not right, it will render this activity as a useless non value adding activity, wasting the time of the person who asks for feedback as well as those who give feedback. This is an important activity and cannot be yet another mundane job of a person or set of people. If the focus is just to fill in a set of sheets and cover a predetermined number of respondents in year, that will be achieved; but if the focus is to get valuable feed back for improvement, then there has to be more involvement of people at all levels.
If business leaders fail to see the merit in this and not use this feedback to increase market share and expand business, then it will become just an annual exercise by the Customer Support or Quality Assurance department, for the records and to have the satisfaction that they capture customer satisfaction and review the same; it may give no more benefits than that.
I think the key is not to use just one instrument for feedback and take all that comes via that as the only truth. There could be one prominent practice, but we should regularly review the process and make changes; and most importantly look at other methods of capturing perception as well. It is quite common to have printed questionnaires that are sent out to customers at a specified frequency. Nothing wrong in that, but couple of points to note:
1. Regularly review and make changes as and when required. In our company we altered the forms to suit the relative business units/ segments.
2. Don't ask what you already know- In our company we stopped asking customer's of the parameters we already track and had records, for example delivery performance and complaints etc. Instead we upfront gave the customer the information and asking them to revert if they disagree.
3. Try to reach people across the section of the organization and not just a one to one contact, i.e., like a sales manager to a buyer
4. In service personal touch and interaction is very important, for example when the client brings the vehicle for a service if we do a random selection and speak with the client on the experience after the previous service, there would be so much of information more than that comes from the telephone call that was made 2 days after the service
5. If the caterer who supplies food for the canteen just stands there during the meal time and watches the body language of the people having the meal, I guess he would get about 50% of the feedback
6. Most important is to focus on capturing the feedback; targets for obtaining feedback is not as important as target for identifying improvements based on feedback
7. To reinforce the previous point, feedback is for continuous improvement and not for accumulating records and data.
The key is not to use just one instrument for feedback
To summarize I would say giving feedback is essential and asking feedback is imperative, but if we don't ask the right way, we don't get the right answers and getting right answers is mandatory not just for ensuring customer satisfaction, but also to identify gaps and grow and retain the business.
Pradeep Kumar E.T. A Master Black Belt in Six Sigma , is the Country Manager- Operational Excellence with Tyco Electronics Corporation India Pvt Ltd. Feedback can be e- mailed to email@example.com
Issue BG69 Dec07