I’m a big fan, as you know, of negative feedback. I suggest that CX professionals be greedy for negative feedback. Since slaps on the back and hoorahs from your most ardent fans don’t really help you improve, you should be eager to hear “suggestions” from your Customers as to how you can better serve them. Fortunately, there’s rarely a shortage of such inputs. So what do you do with this feedback? There are three ways in which you should be using every negative piece of information you receive from your Customers, regardless of the method of transmission:
- Fix the current issue
Especially for open cases where the Customer is waiting for resolution, the primary triage need is to stanch the bleeding. Fix whatever immediate issue it is that is aggravating the Customer and leading to the negative feedback. I trust that makes pretty common sense, and in fact, this is likely not advice you need from me or anybody else. If something is causing acute pain, you address that issue.
Customers will be more forgiving of errors in their experiences if they’re resolved more quickly. In fact, in many cases your Customer’s experience may even be enhanced over an otherwise flawless execution if you recover graciously and quickly from a spill.
- Feed your knowledge base
It’s the least sexy of the ways in which to use data and information, but you’ve got to feed the machine of knowledge. If one Customer is experiencing something frustrating, it’s likely he or she is not the only one. For that matter (and we all know this), if one Customer is complaining about something, that likely represents at least a dozen instances of the issue. Once you solve the issue (do step 1 above), document how you did it. Ask yourself (and document the answers to) these questions:
- What were the circumstances under which the issue presented itself?
- What did you do to fix the problem?
- What advice or recommendations do you have for others helping Customers who come across the same complaint?
- Are there related issues that can lead to this issue that your peers need to be aware of in order potentially to avoid it in the first place (more on that in step 3 below)?
Feed your knowledge management (KM) platform with your experiences and advice so other folks helping your Customers can more readily and easily help them. If your organization doesn’t have a KM system, start one organically. You’ve surely got a shared space on your intranet or Sharepoint system. Even something unofficial and rudimentary is better than nothing. Share this information with your peers.
- Fix the underlying problem
Finally, fix long-term, the conditions that led to the problem. Remember that the entire purpose of a Voice of the Customer system is to drive change, not simply to report results. Collect and analyze negative feedback regularly in order to categorize the sorts of issues your Customers are having. Then, among those categories, determine which ones to tackle first (note, it may not simply be the category with the most incidents...it should be the category that causes the most pain or aggravation to your Customers, which may not be the same thing).
Once you’ve identified where to go, do some root-cause analysis using tools such as Ishikawa/fishbone diagrams and current-state mapping to isolate the parts of your processes that are causing the issue. Fix that and the issue goes away. Track your negative feedback to ensure it’s having the intended impact (you may have to go back to the drawing board if you’ve misidentified the root cause...don’t get discouraged, that happens!). Q.E.D. Don’t worry, though, there are other issues to handle next—just look at the next biggest problem and do the same thing there.
If all you’re doing with your negative feedback is collecting it, chalking it up to a bad day or something slipping through the cracks, or just counting it up in comparison with good feedback, you’re missing the whole point. Use these three approaches along with a robust closed-loop feedback system to address your Customers’ negative experiences and avoid them in the future.
(Originally Published 20200910)
- LtCol Nicholas Zeisler, CCXP, LSSBB, CSM
- Principal, Zeisler Consulting