Feedback is Out There
Your customers are going to talk about you. They’re going to tell their friends and family... and everyone else in the world... exactly what they think of your business, your product, or your service. Here’s the exciting thing. They’re not talking behind your back. They’re talking right in front of you, on your computer screen, and you can mine that treasure trove of honest, heartfelt, and often free information.
Develop a Continuous Improvement Machine
This feedback gives you a truly golden opportunity to build a continuous improvement machine powered by your customers. To reap the benefits, you’ll need to develop your inputs. In one side goes information, and out the other side comes the business improvements. Use the feedback to help increase the quality of your information.
Mine the Data to form Keystone KPIs
First, what goes in. These are your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). You’ll need to decide what your KPIs are and how they’ll be measured. KPIs should be like the wolves in Yellowstone.
You’ve probably heard the story, but wolves are considered a keystone species now. Wolves hunt elk. Elk change their behavior when they’re being hunted: they don’t hang out on the edges of forests where they’re vulnerable. This changes their diet. Elks eating different trees causes a change in the distribution of tree species which makes for easier dam building by beavers... and it goes on. In the end, Yellowstone’s environment was drastically changed – for the better, by the re-introduction of wolves.
The lesson here is this. In business, like in Yellowstone. Some factors have an oversized downstream effect on the whole ecosystem. Developing your KPIs should be a hunt for your business’ keystone species. In part, it is an exercise in continuous improvement itself, and your KPIs should be evaluated and refined as your measurement systems and strategy become more developed. A good place to start is with your customer reviews and feedback.
Analyze Reviews and Unsolicited Feedback
First reviews – sort them out and pick them apart. Identify elements that are commonly commented on. In a product, it might be quality of materials, craftsmanship, durability, look and feel. It could also be presentation, packaging, included literature, instructions. Maybe your customers are commenting on shipping time, cost, value, or comparing your product to a competitor. Develop a system to measure them so that you can mine reviews to help you determine what your customer’s care about (number of comments) and whether you’re hitting the mark (tone of comments).
You can work the same sort of analysis on your unsolicited feedback. (You do have organized systems for your customers to give you feedback, right?) Whether it’s coming into a call center, an email box, via social media, or a less direct route, unsolicited feedback can be a great opportunity. And, let’s face it, it’s usually going to be an ‘opportunity.’ Sometimes your customers will let you know when you’ve done a great job, but more often... it will be negative.
Gain Greater Understanding with Targeted Feedback
Finally, you can refine your understanding of your customers wants, needs, and opinions with targeted direct feedback mechanisms. Spent a ton of time getting pick and packing times down so your shipments can go out on the day of an order... but it’s scoring low on your analysis? Send a survey with a few targeted questions. It may be that they’re not mentioning it because it’s the speed they’ve come to expect, but it may be that they’re not mentioning it because they don’t particularly care if it takes an extra day or two. You’ll never know unless you ask.
Quality in – Quality out
Customer Reviews and feedback aren’t enough by themselves, you’ll have a whole host of things to consider when determining your KPIs. However, if you build the information present in your reviews and feedback into both developing your KPIs and into ongoing measurements, you’ll have better inputs to your continuous improvement machine. And better inputs, mean better outputs, no matter what you’re talking about.