Bad or non-existent customer service is proven to cost more than sustainable customer experience management practices. Just look at the statistics:
- After a bad experience with a company, 22% of consumers decreased their spending and 19% completely stopped doing business with a company.
- Compared to detractors, promoters are 4.2X more likely to buy again and 5.6X more likely to forgive a company after a mistake.
Sound impressive? It does to me. But in spite of this data, only 11% of large companies have strong customer experience programs, and 62% of companies cite inaction on customer experience (CX) metrics as their key problem.
Indeed, actionability requires a lot of work (add this detailed guide to setting up customer experience management systems to your reading list). Very often, it starts with collecting and understanding customer feedback properly. Then, companies can address the issues in the feedback, both individually and company-wide.
Sometimes, companies go to the extreme edges of customer feedback -- they either consider it a subject of highest secrecy, or they simply don’t consider it important enough for more employees’ attention. In both cases, customer feedback is often lost. If you’re already collecting customer feedback or are about to begin, take this rulebook as your guidelines.
How to Make Customer Feedback a Part of Your Company Culture: 6 Steps
1. Don’t hide or delete customer comments.
No matter how great the temptation might be, don’t delete or hide negative customer feedback neither from your web portals or social media -- or from your colleagues at work. Acknowledging constructive customer feedback is the very first step towards building a transparent, customer-centric culture at work. If a negative comment is left online in public, always address it and apologize to the customer. Be sympathetic, friendly and helpful in solving the issue -- at all times, and especially on a public forum.
If the feedback was left for you or your company privately, first, find out if the person wants to be contacted. If yes, then once again, be helpful, friendly, and apologetic (if the situation calls for it). In any case, don’t just ignore the comment -- bring it to the team or management for a larger discussion about responding to and benefiting from feedback. If the comment is related to a part of your individual work, find out what you could do better next time, and ask a team member for advice.
"For us, negative feedback is an essential part of growth and learning,” shares Kalle Tiihonen, Head of Agencies at Smartly. "We dig a bit deeper to understand the root cause for the negative feedback and, of course, thank a customer for giving direct feedback to us. If we fail, we normally have a retro meeting: [We analyze] what we did, why we failed and most importantly how we can prevent it happening again.”
2. Share and analyze customer feedback on a regular, frequent basis.
Don’t wait until your company’s annual board meeting to discuss customer problems that occur that are happening right now. Making customer-centric discussion a consistent part of your company culture means that you can address the issue faster and make sure the problem doesn’t happen again. Plus, customers expect prompt replies and solutions -- not waiting around to hear from you.
Addressing the customer feedback immediately sets the bars high for your customers, which helps build up your online and word-of-mouth reputation. Collecting and addressing customer feedback as early and often as possible is a key strategy at Leadfeeder. "We try to ask feedback from customers as often as possible so we understand how they are using our software and what we could improve in the tool. You could say that customers are guiding our product development on some level, as naturally, we want to implement new features that are frequently requested by customers,” explains Jesse Pärnänen, Leadfeeder’s Director of Business Development. "We want to provide fastest and best customer support in our field. We believe that because we claim that our culture is customer-oriented, we need to also prove it every day. This is why we measure and analyse KPI-metrics for customer support on a weekly and monthly basis."
3. Align customer support and sales.
Very often, customer support and sales don’t talk to each other, but their collaboration is critical to business success. "When your largest customer-facing teams work together closely, your customers get more value from your products, and your sales team is able to create a more effective sales process,” says Brooke Goodbary, an Account Executive at Intercom. In a recent interview, Jeff Gardner, who’s worked at Intercom since its inception, shared that uniting customer support and sales brings sustainable customer-centric practices and growth across the company.
Align customer support and sales and you will get happier customers, higher customer retention rates and, higher revenues. It also helps to switch from the traditional incentive system so customer sales and support are rewarded for closing -- and keeping -- happy customers. At HubSpot, for example, the teams have implemented a commission clawback program to discourage selling to bad-fit customers, and anti-personas, to ensure the sales team is taking customer support’s feedback into account throughout the sales process.
4. Make customer feedback available for anyone to learn from.
At many successful companies, customer feedback is now shared in one Slack channel that’s followed by the whole team. That helps not only to follow and address the feedback in real time, but it also inspires your teammates and brings customer feedback closer to the employees who don’t always deal with customers directly.
It’s no secret that everybody in your company is responsible for creating an exceptional customer experience. If a sales rep is rude, or if the social media team is unresponsive, the customer experience suffers almost as much as if the product is buggy. Customer feedback will help you not only to identify the problems, but to act on them as one unified team.
One of the easiest ways to leverage the role of customer feedback in a company is to bring the feedback from online into the physical space of your office. That’s what many mature and growing companies are doing now.
”Getting everyone closer to customer feedback should be a priority for every business. Sharing customer feedback improves empathy for customers and motivates our team. It reignites their belief in the mission and refreshes their understanding of how well the company is doing in the eyes of the customer. It's pretty simple: happier people do better work. We share positive customer feedback on a “customer love” wall near our breakout areas -- every day there's a new card that people see and talk about over lunch,” shares James Doman-Pipe, Global Marketing Manager at Kayako. Negative feedback is also shared with the whole Kayako team in a dedicated Slack channel, which leads to quick wins (like fixing painful but easy-to-fix bugs) and helps course-correct on product strategy that isn’t landing well with customers.
Don’t worry if you don’t use Slack. All you have to do is to find one internal channel that’s available for the whole team to follow. To create excitement among your teammates, you can even build an actual physical wall and share positive customer comments in your office.
5. Find mistakes and teach people how to perform better.
It’s easy to blame one customer service rep for a negative customer outcome -- but don’t do that.
Instead, find out what went wrong and how you can fix the problem -- because if one person is making a mistake, it’s possible that other employees are, too. Talk to low-performing employees and high-performing employees, and connect them to learn best practices and pitfalls from one another. Open discussion will help to new ideas by inviting high-performing employees to share their strategies with the whole company. Etsy has built a workplace without a fear of punishment or retribution during project or campaign post-mortems by working hard to understand how an accident could have happened in order to better prevent it happening in the future. Looking towards solutions and learning from past mistakes ensures elevated team morale, transparency and an eagerness to collaborate and develop together.
Richard Branson once said: "Customer service can make or break a business. If you treat your staff well, they will be happy. Happy staff are proud staff, and proud staff deliver excellent customer service, which drives business success.”
6. Celebrate all victories, great and small.
Don’t forget to celebrate -- because often a small acknowledgment can boost your team morale and satisfaction. Sharing employee wins and praise from customers will help you set the tone for the rest of the team so employees can understand which direction you’re going and what kind of goals they should follow.
Customer-centricity can’t be achieved overnight -- it’s a long project that requires dedicated commitment from everyone, especially the top management of the company. Celebrate all of your team’s wins to remind them how important customers and their voices are, and lead your company towards customer-centric transformation.
To learn more, read about how to respond to negative customer feedback next.