Ask the Experts: How to Handle Customer Feedback

Customer feedback is the critical gauge that helps determine if your business is on the right course.

Ask the Experts: How to Handle Customer Feedback image customer experience expertAsk the Experts: How to Handle Customer FeedbackWhether you’re looking for customers’ personal preferences, information about product or service use, learning how to improve, or just getting a sense of market trends, customer feedback is that critical gauge that helps you determine if your business is on the right track or if there’s trouble ahead.

Customer service and customer experience business experts gather weekly for Twitter chats where they discuss these critical customer service items that business leaders need to get right and share their tips based on their expertise and own personal experience. These chats are lighting fast, but fantastically rewarding.

Is customer feedback good?

Today we’re focusing on 4 key questions concerning how to handle customer feedback and how these service experts think business leaders need to handle feedback in order to effectively deliver the service customers expect.

Q1 – Does your organization (even if it’s just you) receive customer feedback and praise regularly?

If getting feedback is an important component of gauging how your business is doing in meeting and exceeding customer needs, then at the very basic level you have to step back and ask yourself, are you getting ANY feedback?

Stephen Abbott (@SJAbbott): Often…Usually [feedback is] just found in the kindness of [the customer's] voice.

Andy Philips (@changeguerilla): The problem [with feedback] is: today’s excellent is tomorrow’s good and next week’s just OK.

I think that most organizations get some form of feedback. Official customer responses are few and far between, but that’s not due to your service delivery, it’s just human nature. We’re busy people and we’re people who generally don’t go out of our way to make things known, unless it’s something that’s really upsetting.

In blogging, especially business-related blogging, comments are gold. Comments are the audience engagement that everyone hopes for. The problem is that customer feedback is usually rare. In blogging, some statistics shows that less than 1% of blog visitors will leave ANY comment. I think that the same applies to customer feedback in business. Most customers just won’t say anything, wether they’ve had a good experience or bad.

Q2 – Do you also receive customer complaints?

The question of receiving customer complaints be seem overly basic, but the emphasis should be on YOU receiving the feedback. Do YOU receive the feedback or do your customers immediately turn to social media, review sites, or other channels to express their frustration? If most of your negative feedback is going online and not to you as the business leader, you have a problem.

Stephen Abbott (@SJAbbott): I accept [customer feedback] graciously and act quickly. Again, usually [the feedback is] found in the tone of voice.

Louise DiCarlo (@LovelyLu): The complaints, when they come, are more important than the praise. That’s where I get the new game plans from!

Dustan Brenneman (@DustanBrenneman): Customer complaints are the best way to prevent today’s”excellent” from becoming tomorrow’s “ok”.

Andy Philips (@changeguerilla): If customers aren’t complaining to you, doesn’t mean they are not complaining to someone.

Breakdowns in customer feedback channels are a driver to customer dissatisfaction and to upset customers telling the world about their displeasure with your business. So the key is to enable the feedback channels so that customers can communicate with you, then actually listen to customers in every possible way.

Q3 – Do you have a process for dealing with customer feedback when they’re complaints?

Even when customers can share feedback, often the process of capturing feedback and doing something about it is completely broken, especially as it appears to the customer. Ultimately customers don’t really care about YOUR process, customers care about your RESULTS. Customers want to see action, they expect change when things break down.

Brandon H. (@BH_Social): Brands without clear processes to address [customer service] issues are doomed to repeat mistakes, not resolve concerns.

Marsha Collier (@MarshaCollier): [My response to feedback] procedure: First my blood pressure rises > face gets red > I write a nasty response > delete it and get up and walk > then respond.

Michael Pace (@mpace101): Use a complaint system that lists problem, process, & cause – [identify] short & long term solutions.

Most sites you visit today have a generic customer feedback form which sends you to a form and gives you a generic “thanks for your feedback” message when you send in your thoughts. If this is you, you are asking for customers to take their concerns online to the rest of the world. This is completely unacceptable.

In order to minimize customer frustration online you have to change the way you present your process for dealing with it to your customers. Just a generic message to customers means the same as “we’re not going to do anything about it”. Whenever I submit one of those forms I immediately imagine my email going to an email box that no one checks. Whether that’s true or not.

Do it like Dominos does. The Domino’s pizza “where’s my pizza” tracker is a fantastic tool to effectively demonstrate status updates on customer feedback. When applied to a feedback submission, show where the feedback is and what’s being done about it. Sites who also immediately open a ticket in their HelpDesk system for customer feedback submission are good too. Customers see that it’s a REAL case that the company will handle, not just an email in a random email box that no one ever checks.

Q4 – Do you have an equally consistent process for dealing with praise?

Businesses, especially call centers today are often focused on capturing negative feedback and using it for employee reviews and employee trainings, but equally important and often overlooked is communicating customer feedback and it’s praising the service experience.

Your people delivering customer service day in, day out, need this positive reinforcement in order to stay motivated in customer service work. Customer service isn’t easy. It can be taxing to go from phone call to phone call or especially in the case of those dealing primarily with upset customers.

Al Hopper (@AlHopper_): Consistently find out what went right. Make sure [customer feedback] gets back to the rep, then spread best practice

Andy Philips (@changeguerilla): Maybe because I’m English, but I struggle with praise. Feel uncomfortable [customer praise].

Greg Ortbach (@GregOrtbach): It’s important to not single out individuals and instead share the wins AND opportunities with the team.

I especially agree with Al Hopper here. Break down the big customer service wins and the big losses, find out the key take-aways. What went right? What went wrong? Where did the system work? Where did the system not work? After these major victories or tough experiences you should come away with a list of items to review with your people. Point out the good. Discuss the breakdowns and what could have been done to get a different result.

Seek out customer feedback

One great source for customer feedback for our team at DigiCert, is to look at our competitors online reviews. We often turn to our competitors negative reviews for lessons we can learn and pitfalls for us to avoid. The best way to not repeat their mistakes is to learn from them, even if they don’t. We evaluate our own systems and processes based on the experiences that our competitors customers share in their reviews.

Customer feedback won’t always be nicely delivered to you in a form with checkmarks and neatly outlined suggestions made by your customers. A customer feedback survey doesn’t always work. Customer feedback survey questions don’t capture the exact thoughts of your customer. You have to re-think how to get customer feedback. But if you seek it out, you’ll find the feedback opportunities and information you need to help determine the state of your service and where it can be improved to deliver better customer experiences.

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