Astute Planning, Flawless Execution,
Delighted Customers

Issue #138

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Getting Serious About Customer Feedback Management - Continued

by Stewart Nash, QuestBack Boston LLC

In our previous article in our Customer Feedback Management series, we reviewed the Feedback Management Maturity Curve and discussed two elements of successful customer feedback management: management commitment and feedback objectives. In this article, we conclude the topic of Getting Serious About Customer Feedback Management with the presentation of two more characteristics: process and tools.

Process

Managing anything requires a process and customer feedback is no different. At a minimum, you need to determine what to do with the feedback that you collect. This means some analysis of feedback is required and some set of actions will need to be taken based on the analyses performed. People will need to be assigned to both analyze and act on customer feedback. You will need a communications process both for disseminating feedback results (different analyses to different constituencies) as well as to communicate regarding actions to be taken. How much process you need depends on how much feedback you are collecting and what you want to do with that feedback. We recommend limited objectives and limited actions initially because it simplifies things, keeps cost low and improves chances for success. At the same time, objectives and actions need to be designed so that improvement in the metric you choose can take place. Keep in mind that one of the objectives for your feedback management process should be to make customer feedback management a formal part of your company's business culture. Communications planning is a key to doing this.

Tools

The right tools make organizing and implementing your feedback management process much easier. Using tools that support more of the entire feedback management process (rather than less) is a good idea. Using tools that also integrate or interface with your other systems (CRM, Sales automation, etc.) can be helpful as you get more "mature" with feedback management and you begin automating your feedback management process.

At a minimum, we think your feedback management tool set should support:

  • Survey design and implementation
  • Results analysis for aggregated response data
  • Results analysis for comparison of response data against customer profile data (e.g. How do our most profitable customer's responses compare to the aggregate responses?)
  • Results dissemination
  • Follow up action
  • Period over period comparisons

There are many tools available that support one or more of these capabilities. There are relatively few that support all of them. Price ranges are from a few hundred dollars per user to several thousand dollars per user. We believe there are middle tier products available that support all these capabilities and which are available at reasonable cost. There are merits to both low and high end solutions. As a general rule, choosing low-end tools will require you to use suites of products and to manually perform a number of tasks. Higher end tools will do more within the tool and require less manual effort.

Note: We have observed that companies in the "getting started" phase of feedback management maturity often use low-end feedback tools. These tools offer low cost but typically require substantial manual effort to create analyses, do comparisons versus customer profile data, disseminate results, do period over period comparisons, etc. In fact, most of this type of work is actually done using Excel spreadsheets or Statistical analysis packages (SPSS). More advanced feedback management tools have higher out-of-pocket costs but typically offer much better cost/benefit profiles in the context of an on-going feedback management effort as they often include analytical tools and other types of feedback management process support as part of their offering.

As vendors of a customer feedback management product, we are probably biased towards tools like our own that are designed to support a customer feedback management process. That said, we believe the right tools are vital to making customer feedback management an automated (or at least automation supported) process, and we've attempted to outline the trade-off you will need to make as you choose tools to support your customer feedback management effort.

Conclusion

If you organize well, focus on limited initial objectives, define a team and choose the right tools - achieving success with customer feedback management can be surprisingly low in cost and powerful in results. You can do this kind of project yourself. Very often many of the skills required already exist in your company. For instance, if you have market research (MR) people you can call on, they often know how to design surveys and have experience using survey design tools. You'll need to coach MR people on the "management" aspect of feedback management as they are mainly "feedback" oriented. You also may have access to business analysis (BA) skills and products. Again you'll need to coach them on analysis for management of feedback. And lastly, it's likely that you have access to project management people. So if you try to do it yourself, use the people and skills available but orient them to the purpose of the effort, to enable the business to take advantage of customer insights operationally.

If you don't have easy access to these skills, or if you want all of the skills fully dedicated to your project, companies like Customer Centricity can take them on for you. It often makes sense to get help and guidance with organization and planning, objectives and process definition, survey design and implementation, results analysis and actions all centered on your feedback management objectives. If you have MR and BA skills available, you can always bring them on as you add feedback cycles over time and your process stabilizes.

So getting down to getting serious isn't hard or necessarily expensive and help is available. Doing it has a great many benefits. We hope we've helped you understand the path to "getting serious" with customer feedback management.

About QuestBack: QuestBack is an enterprise feedback management tool for gathering, analyzing and acting on feedback from critical constituencies. With unique ASK&ACT(TM) follow-up capabilities, QuestBack makes customer feedback data immediately actionable and supports the implementation of feedback management processes. The company is based in Europe and represented in the US by QuestBack Boston LLC.

Read previous articles in this series.

 

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