I have written much about the importance of feedback and the crucial role it plays in securing continuous improvement. However, my focus has always largely been around internal feedback.
So what about external measurement? How much importance do you place on customer service training and customer feedback, and what tools do you have in place to understand how others perceive your performance?
Customers will tell you exactly as it is. They will not be concerned about feelings and they do not have to work with you every day. They are objective. Many fear feedback and feel uncomfortable about the prospect of receiving it, particularly if it is in public view. But the benefits far outweigh the anticipation.
Two years ago, we launched a bespoke customer service training course called ‘The Customer Experience’. This has been a hugely popular and useful ongoing facet of our People Development Programme and has brought about positive change.
As the training programme has evolved, we have introduced a range of measurement and review tools alongside the opportunity to practise skills, reflect and set our own goals and customer service pledges.
For those readers who have not come across it, Trustpilot is a website founded in Denmark in 2007 that is the TripAdvisor of the business world. It has published 13 million reviews about more than 100,000 brands.
We chose Trustpilot as we felt that, while social media, websites, positive client and broker reviews were all well and good, we also know that the credibility of self-publicity is always met with a certain amount of natural cynicism.
Consumer-driven feedback is a hugely powerful tool. True, it can seem a risky approach: the ability for your customers to give honest and open feedback in the public domain can be damaging if things do not go right. Just think how many organisations have social media teams at the ready to counter and tackle bad comments and feedback on Twitter, for example.
If you do not engage your bad reviews are left unchecked
However, if you do not take control of this situation, then it will take control of you. Your customers are at liberty to log on to Trustpilot and leave reviews even if you have not invited them to. You do not ‘set up a site’ as such; your first reviewer puts that into action automatically as soon as they submit a review.
Check out some of our industry colleagues. Some of us monitor and engage with our Trustpilot review sites and some do not. The trouble being, of course, that if you do not engage, your bad reviews are left unchecked, there for your next set of potential customers to view. More importantly, though, you miss a vital opportunity to see how things have gone wrong, to put things right and to learn what to do differently next time.
We are committed to offering the best service we can. When there are suggestions this has not been the case, we respond to them seriously with the desire to find out what went wrong and how we can put things right and instil confidence for the future. Outcomes inform our future planning and training.
Feedback here is sought upon every completion. There is no sifting and selecting involved. Indeed, by meddling and manipulating, the true purpose of this process would be completely lost.
Internally, the feedback received via Trustpilot has been motivational, informative and enriching. It has also provided clarity in our vision and been helpful in identifying training needs. It has given us the opportunity to acknowledge great service when we give it and praise team members accordingly. Externally, it has instilled confidence in those wishing to engage with us or measure us.
This confidence is enhanced through both positive and negative feedback. Indeed, it is important to show that, in the event something does go wrong, people can be confident about how we respond and that we do care about getting things right.
Consumer feedback is the ultimate business barometer. Ignore this golden opportunity at your peril.