I had a coffee with a couple of friends from another department at work last week. The first discussed how a friend with a new baby was coping with lack of sleep. The second had been out of the baby business for some time but immediately offered a number of suggestions. Friend #1 responded, somewhat wearily, “I’m not sure she’s in the market for any more unsolicited advice at the moment.”
The trouble with feedback isn’t getting enough of it. The problem is the timing. At certain intervals (birth of a new baby, an annual customer survey) we are inundated with it. The rest of the time we’re flying blind. To combat this,
- Elicit feedback at every opportunity. Don’t wait for the annual customer survey. Only your most committed or dissatisfied customers will respond (I’ve seen those surveys ‘summarized’ as 160+ slide decks that are never acted on). Instead, use every transaction and touchpoint to gather feedback. Include a ‘tell us how we’re doing’ link on every communication. Run polls constantly on the website – not monolithic surveys, just one simple question at a time. Take advice from Chris Brogan and others by using social media as a listening tool. Keep a ‘comments’ notepad at the cash register and give cashiers an incentive to use it. You’ll find you have a constant stream of useful insight instead of an occasional paralyzing deluge. Ben and Jackie advocated this in 2004 as part of their 10 Rules of Feedback, but I still see many companies who think of themselves as ‘responsive’ because of an annual deep-dive effort instead of a constant listening posture.
- Categorize the feedback collected on the matrix. A surprising amount of it will fall into one of two no-brainer categories: easy stuff with high business benefit (“Grand Master of the Obvious”), or hard stuff with low business benefit (“Banging your head against the wall.”) You know what to do with these. The other two require thought and analysis. If you have something that’s high-benefit and hard to execute, ask yourself if you can meet the same need in an easier way. Something that’s low-value and easy to execute is handled differently. Is there other value that can be extracted from it by demonstrating responsiveness to customers, increasing satisfaction and retention? If so, again, we’ve shifted into Grand Master of the Obvious mode.
The smartest thing you can do as a businessperson is to make every decision a no-brainer. Developing an appetite and process for feedback is one of the best ways to do that.