We have been in the customer feedback business for a long time. For many surveys, especially those designed to measure a company’s service quality, the act of contacting the customer alone, not counting what was said on the survey, can raise customer expectations. What are some of these expectations and how can you best manage them?
- When a customer tells us she has an issue with our client, our interviewers try to uncover details of the issue and alert the client. Our interviewers tell the customer we’ll make sure our client receives the feedback, while stopping short of setting expectations that our client will follow up. The customers’ default expectation often seems to be, “I will never hear back from anyone about my issue.”
You can prove this expectation wrong and surprise customers in a positive way by following up promptly. There is a “magic window” of about 24 hours for response. Don’t wait too long. The longer you wait the more it reinforces their expectations that no one is going to follow up!
A story illustrates the impact. One of our team interviewed a customer in the morning. He was upset about a recent service. A store manager at our client received our email alert about the problem and by early afternoon was in the customer’s office determining the exact nature of the problem and getting it resolved. The customer said he never expected anyone to contact him about the problem. Several weeks later, he made a large purchase of equipment. The quick response helped to turn an upset customer into a loyal one.
- Customers give all kinds of ideas for improvement, and many are quite valuable. Customers expect to hear and see that at least some of their feedback was acted on. If they don’t, they’ll be less inclined to keep giving feedback and they may conclude that the “feedback” effort is more of a marketing tactic than a sincere desire to better serve customers.
A lot of companies have room to improve their communication back to customers. They’re asking for feedback, but not following up to let customers know they are listening and taking action. This can lead to missed opportunities to generate well-deserved goodwill. The best example of this comes from a real life experience for one of our clients.
There had been a rapid increase in equipment business and parts were frequently on back order. Customers complained long and loud through the survey process about their frustration with parts not being available. Our client solved the problem by making a significant investment in parts inventory for this location. What the client failed to do was promote the actions taken in response to customer feedback! Eventually, customers may have had a better experience ordering parts, but most of them would not have connected the dots that what they said actually caused the provider to change and improve!
I think most customers want to see continuous improvements from the companies they’re loyal to. Personally, I nearly always answer a survey from Hilton Hotels because I like staying in them and want to see them get even better. I have complained on a couple of occasions and was contacted by Hilton about my concerns. I have made suggestions for improvements and in most all cases I have received answers from them, e.g. one hotel had a need for new carpet and wall paper and they let me know it was on the schedule. Because of this two-way interaction, I have become a more loyal Hilton customer.
If you have a service improvement process underway keep in mind the by the simple act of asking for customer input you are creating expectations. Consider how you respond to these expectations so customers stay in the process and become more loyal because they see you are listening and acting.