Customer feedback revolution drives training opportunities

Customer feedback revolution drives training opps

A revolution in the way customer feedback is collected is changing the way businesses train their staff. Leaving and receiving customer feedback is faster than ever before. On-the-job training based on this information means customers effectively training staff to provide outstanding service.

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Customer feedback revolution drives training opportunities

By Michal Osusky 

  • Faster feedback loops mean customers effectively training staff to provide good service 
  • Businesses built on customer experience – catering and retail – are best placed to take advantage
  • Evolving technology requires intelligent application from line managers

A revolution in the way customer feedback is collected is changing the way businesses train their staff. Leaving and receiving customer feedback is faster than ever before. On-the-job training based on this information means customers effectively training staff to provide outstanding service. 

A McKinsey survey found 70 percent of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated. Real-time feedback within minutes or hours of engaging with customers provides tangible evidence of how customers feel and why. This allows managers to move the focus of training from abstract learning to analysing specific experiences. This quickly improves the customer experience and in turn increases profits.

Simple real-time feedback is not the same as in-depth research. It is a quick hit of information focussing on the most important issues, but it can provide headlines of what does or does not work. Employees become more aware of their performance, which psychologists call self-monitoring, and speeds up the learning process. 

Businesses built on customer experience are ideally situated to take advantage of this fast feedback loop, with coffee franchises and large restaurant chains among the early adopters. We have all seen the QR codes on our receipts inviting us to leave feedback in exchange for a free coffee or entry to a prize draw. Other customer-facing businesses will follow, with these processes becoming ubiquitous in around five years.

The tech focuses on being user-friendly and is constantly evolving. Examples include feedback buttons at checkouts, buttons in public toilets to report a lack of paper and even technology that analyses the emotions on customers’ faces during transactions – subliminal feedback if you like. 

These developments require considerable investment. The experience of giving feedback must be entertaining and fun for the customer if you want to keep them engaged. I have seen first-hand how easy it is to get it wrong. No one will engage with a system that is difficult to use or crashes before it sends out the data. 

Several different business functions need to co-operate to run these systems; including HR, IT and distribution managers. I would suggest that HR should take the lead, as the feedback is used to create an ongoing training process.  

There are some barriers to adoption. Customers are more likely to leave feedback after an extreme experience – either positive or negative. The extremes balance each other out, but an ongoing issue is how to engage customers over the longer term – particularly those whose experience falls somewhere in the middle. One answer is gamification – allowing customers to get a reward in exchange for feedback.

Feedback processes also need to have anti-fraud measures built in. Imagine a restaurant where there were only ten instances of feedback a day, staff could ask their friends to come in and leave positive feedback in order to gain a promotion. Again, technology can help here. Algorithms exist to weed out fake social network accounts and small sample sizes.

Managers will need to reassure staff that the aim of these monitoring techniques is to improve performance generally, rather than to target and pressurise individuals. It would be unreasonable to criticize an employee because of one unhappy customer, although a series of unhappy customers would show up a genuine problem. 

The technology comes into its own when it not only identifies problems, but also shows up solutions by highlighting instances of positive customer feedback. It will need sensitive implementation, but it does present an opportunity for customer-facing businesses to improve their service. 

References: 1. McKinsey & Company – Insights 2006

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