Closing the Customer Feedback Loop with Action Management

Businesses across the globe understand that it’s important to capture feedback from their customers, but most fail to act on the crucial information they are gathering with their Voice of Customer initiatives. Customer feedback has value only if a company invests the information back into the business.

Today, only a small fraction of businesses put the customer feedback they gather to work by using the feedback to improve their products, services, or business operations. Companies should be closing the feedback loop by responding to specific customer issues with meaningful actions and dialogue. Otherwise, they compound any customer dissatisfaction by their apparent lack of responsiveness to the customers’ issues.

A "too-busy-to-respond" attitude is prevalent at a time when consumers are more vocal than ever in demanding better service from the businesses they deal with. A recent Global Consumer Satisfaction Report from Accenture discovered that 51 percent of consumers have higher service expectations than they did five years ago, and 69 percent of all consumers switched providers at least once during the previous year because of poor customer service.

To avoid the loss of an all-important asset, their customers, businesses should consider implementing an enterprise feedback solution that includes robust action management capabilities. "Action management" is a term used to describe a process that incorporates business rules, alerts and case management methodologies to give organizations the tools they need to close the customer feedback loop.

The elements of action management

Many companies have established policies for sending "alerts," primarily email notifications, to key stakeholders regarding customer feedback that meets defined business criteria. For example, whenever a customer completes a satisfaction survey and rates his satisfaction with the company 7 or less (on a 10-point scale), an email alert is sent to a customer service manager. However, dispatching alerts is only the first step in an action management process. The receipt of the feedback that prompted the alert must be easy to access and review, and management should receive reports on the follow-up that has occurred, as well as on the results of that follow-up.

One company that has integrated an action management process into its daily business workflow is SimplexGrinnell, a Tyco International company that is a leader in fire and life-safety systems and services. The company overhauled its customer feedback program in 2004 to enable it to better understand its customer opinions, perceptions and experiences.

"We wanted to obtain, measure, and report on customer feedback in an open and honest way and establish consistent metrics so that we could monitor our progress over time. We wanted these processes to be an integral part of the way we do business so that great customer relationships are always at the heart of everything we do," said Karl Sharicz, SimplexGrinnell’s Manager of Customer Intelligence.

SimplexGrinnell implemented the MarketTools CustomerSat enterprise feedback management solution to listen to, analyze, and act on customer feedback. SimplexGrinnell uses the solution to capture and analyze more than 10,000 individual customer satisfaction ratings and more than 35,000 verbatim customer commentaries each year. With this customer feedback, the company has the information it needs to continuously improve processes, as well as to quickly address customer complaints and concerns.

SimplexGrinnell uses action management capabilities to establish a workflow in responding to customer feedback that has been identified for immediate follow-up. Using action management, SimplexGrinnell is able to dramatically reduce the time it takes to address customer issues and close the customer feedback loop.

An action management process improves an organization’s ability to respond to customer feedback in a coordinated and effective manner. Using business rules to automatically generate alerts; open cases; and assign case managers, team members’ priority rankings and deadlines; gives the organization a systematic "action plan" in responding to the valuable customer feedback they are receiving. However, in order to truly "close the loop," the action management process must also provide a way to gauge the results of actions taken to address the feedback. A key element of the action management process is case management—a method for companies to identify issues, improve the customer’s experience and track and measure results. This process allows businesses to identify root causes of problems, answering such questions as:

  • Why are specific case types being opened?
  • How many cases are open?
  • What geographic location or business division has the most open cases?
  • What is the average time for case resolution?

Reports on these types of metrics provide insights that can be used to analyze the root causes of customer complaints or concerns.

A comprehensive action management process also allows an organization to accelerate its responses to customer issues. When business rules are employed to automate the process of opening cases, follow-up can take place in real time. Issues that should be addressed by higher levels of management can be escalated automatically, and cases that have lingered without resolution after a defined period can be easily identified and assigned a higher priority. Simplex Grinnell relies on the action management capabilities of their enterprise feedback management solution to indicate which customers need immediate attention, and who within the organization needs to take the actions to respond to the specific customers’ needs. This allows SimplexGrinnell to return customers to a satisfied state much more quickly than would be possible without action management.

Another component of an effective action management process is the ability to see the impact of company initiatives by monitoring case volume levels, average case resolution times and increased scores for customer satisfaction and loyalty. This allows SimplexGrinnell to objectively measure how effective its responses are and track the results over time to ensure that customer experiences continue to improve. The company has improved its customer satisfaction scores by 210% since it began using MarketTools CustomerSat.

Finally, with an action management process in place, management is able to identify the customer service teams and individuals who are performing best in following up on customer feedback, as well as to point out those who are struggling and need more support from management and training teams.

The essentials of an effective action management process

In seeking to establish a more formalized method for closing the customer feedback loop, companies should embrace a solution that incorporates the ability to:

  • Establish an automated process for responding to feedback, using business rules, alerts and case management for timely response.
  • Gather actionable results from reports that track the entire process of following up with customers from the time that feedback is first captured to the moment the customer’s issue is resolved.
  • Measure the results of the actions taken and their impact on improving customer satisfaction, and the overall customer experience.

An effective action management process helps businesses "close the loop" on customer feedback with business rules, alerts and case management. Action management gives organizations the tools they need to quickly and effectively respond to customer feedback, while giving them the insight they need to prioritize investments to improve the customer experience, increase loyalty and boost revenue.