Imagine taking a college class, and at the beginning of the semester the Professor announces, "For this class, we're not going to be handing back any of your papers or exams, and we won't tell you any of your grades on individual assignments and tests. The only grade you'll get is your final grade at the end of the semester which will be an average of all your work."
You wouldn't expect to learn much in this class. In order to improve, you would want to know what you were doing well at and where you needed to improve throughout the semester. You would want specific feedback about specific things you had done.
And yet many customer feedback programs are structured just like this insane Professor's class. Somehow we expect employees to know how to improve despite only getting an average survey score every month or every quarter.
In order to make a survey program helpful, we need to give people the chance to connect specific customer feedback to specific things the employee did to garner that feedback. We also need to help employees think about the feedback as constructive criticism so they have the tools to apply the feedback to their daily customer interactions.
Here are some tips to help make this happen:
- Deliver feedback directly to front-line managers and supervisors as soon as it comes in. Managers and supervisors should discuss the feedback with employees as soon as is practical, either for encouragement or for ways to improve.
- Don't make the survey process so high-stakes that employees feel they must get good scores or else. This inhibits learning, and can also lead to survey manipulation.
- Treat negative surveys as opportunities to improve, not mistakes to be punished. Always remember that each survey is only one customer's opinion, and while you want customers to have good opinions it's also not possible to please everyone.
- Don't just ask customers for a rating, ask them to explain what happened and why they feel they way they feel. We learn more from stories than from statistics.
There are, of course, real concerns about managing the delivery of customer feedback to employees. But the solution is better coaching and supervision, not giving people so little feedback that it becomes useless.