Many parents fall into the trap of only seeing the best in their children. Whether this is conscious or unconscious, parents have the tendency to overlook, ignore, rationalize, or justify the missteps or outright bad behavior of their offspring. If a teacher, principal or another adult points out a shortcoming or something that needs to be addressed or may require correction, the tendency is to get angry at the source, or completely ignore the constructive criticism. Worse yet, parents may accuse that individual of being at fault. After all, their baby is simply misunderstood, or they are really a good kid if people would just get to know them better.
True in Life, True in Business
This same parenting scenario often plays out in the business world too. Visionary Founders, Presidents and, company Executives don’t always welcome customer feedback or criticism. Rather than thoughtfully considering the Voice of the Customer (VOC),we circle the wagons and deny our culpability. We are often too quick to dismiss the feedback or try to minimize our contribution to the unsatisfactory business engagement. Nobody wants to hear that their baby is not“practically perfect in every way” (Mary Poppins). We prefer to assume the worse about the source or blame the situation on them. Instead of evaluating the feedback, we shut our eyes and ears to a process or department that may need a “time out” to investigate opportunities to improve or rectify a systemic issue. If you are personalizing the feedback from customers, stop it. It is doing little to help your customers achieve their goals, and after all, that is why they hired you. Assuming a critique is personal ultimately prevents or undermines your company’s ability to achieve accelerated, tangible growth.
The Criticality of the VOC and Net Promoter Scores
Every Executive needs to acknowledge that even though they are their company’s best brand champion when feedback is not positive, sometimes the customer has a valid point. All criticism is not warranted, but it should be considered and evaluated to see if there is any validity.
Over the course of my career, I have witnessed both good and not so good Customer Survey and Net Promoter activities. Listed below are four things that a company needs to avoid in order to gain valuable insights from your most critical asset-- Your Customers!
Four Things to Avoid
1. Rigging the Results
2. Asking the Wrong Questions
3. Not Fostering a Candid Process
4. Ignoring the Data Gathered
Rigging the Results
Some organizations make it a point to avoid customers that they know are currently unhappy with the goods and services they provide. But taking a proactive position to engage with these very customers can achieve two things; first, give them a voice to show you care, and second, confirm that they possibly are not the right customer for your company. The other way organizations rig the results is to only send annual NPS surveys to the same companies or the same people within that company. If an Executive has entrusted this data gathering to his staff, it may be prudent to make sure they not simply gathering only the information that you want to hear. Challenge them to also give you the “bad news” to aid your team in making the positive change that leads to Customer Satisfaction and Retention.
Asking the Wrong Questions
It can be frustrating to receive a survey or questionnaire that is not applicable to your job function or situation. Tailoring the VOC survey to an individual’s specific area of expertise or job charter is critical. Developing a questionnaire that asks questions relevant to Engineering, Quality, Project Management or Commodity Management means you will get better and more accurate data. Another pitfall to avoid is asking or wording questions so that it makes you look good or is from your perspective. Put yourself in the shoes of your customer and ask questions that are relevant to the business engagement. Step back from the feedback and don’t just review and interpret it only from this individual customer basis. Consider the feedback “globally” where themes and trends can be identified that point to real organizational strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Evaluate your survey results at both the micro and macro level.
Not Fostering a Candid Process
How you have reacted in the past to feedback and constructive criticism has a direct correlation to a customer’s willingness to respond and give you a candid and honest assessment. If feedback is not accurate or lacks validity, responding professionally with data can go a long way towards fostering a candid process. Schedule a follow up with the customer and go through the feedback and listen rather than trying to refute the responses. This will go a long way in building a strong,trusted, and lasting relationship. Consider engaging an independent 3rd Party to conduct the interviews on your behalf. Customers will open up and talk freely to someone not associated with your company, and it gives them confidence in the impartiality of the process.
Ignore the Feedback
If conducting a VOC survey or collecting NPS data is simply an annual process that checks a box in your policies and procedures, then why are you wasting the customer’s valuable time? Saying you are“customer-focused” is simply lip service if you are not listening and acting. Organizations should gather the department heads to review every survey and put together a formal response with action items and action owners. The customer will value you and the process more if you demonstrate a willingness to listen and address their specific issues.
Conducting and gathering Voice of the Customer or Net Promoter Scores can be a time consuming and resource-draining process. ATG has developed a process and has designed customized and targeted questionnaires to aid your organization with this important undertaking. ATG can conduct customer interviews, collect the data, and provide a summary of the common themes and issues.
Customer Satisfaction and Retention activities such as these can be one of the best ways to obtain testimonials, and help you identify customers that can be some of your best “brand evangelists”. Contact ATG today to find out more about how we can augment your customer engagement strategy to accelerate your tangible growth.