I tell anyone who will listen that improving the customer experience is a "process, not a project." In other words, you can't just spend a bunch of time and money improving things and be done. Instead, you have to put in place the systems and incentives to make sure that everyone from the front-line to senior management makes the right customer-focused decisions.
Collecting customer feedback is, itself, a process: it consists of certain well-defined steps taken to achieve the desired goal of gathering opinions to better understand what your customers think.
What's more, a customer feedback survey should have other related processes in order to make sure the survey is as effective as possible:
- Follow-up Process: If a customer asks for a follow-up during the survey (for example, if there's an ongoing problem), the request needs to be handled promptly by a qualified supervisor. The request and the outcome should be tracked and logged, so that all customers who want a follow-up get one, and the root causes can be analyzed for ways to build a more effective service experience.
- Training Process: Customer feedback should be incorporated into ongoing coaching and training sessions for employees, as a tool to help build empathy for the customer and to help direct training towards each employee's strengths and weaknesses.
- Appeal Process: If customer feedback is used for compensation or performance review (as many companies do), then it's vitally important to give employees a mechanism to challenge negative feedback. No survey is perfect, and acknowledging that fact and having a way to discard obviously bad data will improve the credibility of the survey and help engage employees in the feedback process.
- Discovery Process: Every organization is a dyanmic environment, and there should be regular, scheduled reviews to see what is changing and new in the customer feedback. Even if there isn't a known problem with service levels, taking a fresh look will often yield new insights.
- Quality Assurance Process: The customer survey process itself needs to be subjected to a rigorous and ongoing quality assurance process. Speaking as an industry insider, I'm often shocked at how lax some companies are about making sure their surveys are giving the intended results--or even that they work. Automated surveys need to be tested regularly, interviews should be recorded and reviewed, and all customer feedback should be subjected to a "does this make any sense at all?" gut-check.
Not only is improving the customer experience a process, it's a process made up of many other processes. Taking an ad-hoc approach to customer feedback probably won't yield the results you're looking for.