Shot from behind an emergency number operator on the phone looking at multiple computer screens.
PHOTO: MoiraM

How many times have you started an argument with a friend, family member or significant other, and when you stopped to think about it, you realized that the entire argument could have been avoided by simply listening?

Listening doesn’t just matter in your personal relationships — it’s vital to your professional ones, too. We’ve all heard the stat that 84% of companies that focus on the customer experience see a corresponding jump in revenue. For customers, trusting that their feedback is being heard and that it matters is vital to building a longstanding, trusting relationship. It helps build eVoicngagement, nurture advocates, and, most importantly, build brand fidelity.

But how does that customer experience start? We can have all the grand visions, dreams and plans we want, but ultimately it comes down to (you guessed it…) customers. And whether you’re dealing with internal or external customers, getting — and most importantly, listening to — feedback is crucial.

What Is Customer Feedback?

Customer feedback is defined as information customers give you about their satisfaction with your performance. You can get this information in a variety of ways – NPS surveys, customer satisfaction surveys, win/loss calls, customer interviews, advocacy communities, social media, and more.

But getting feedback is just the first step. Like in any relationship, you can’t ask for feedback unless you plan to do something with it.

Who among us hasn’t been frustrated by a roommate or partner asking “What do you want for dinner?” and when you answer, the response is, “Well actually, I feel like something different, so we’re going to have the exact opposite of what you asked for”? Your reaction is likely to be, why did you even ask me in the first place? Just order the pizza and forget it.

Apply that to a customer relationship. You ask them for your feedback, and they take the time to answer. And then what do they get? Nothing.

Related Article: Voice of the Customer: What Is It and Why Does It Matter for CX?

Customer Feedback as the Cornerstone of Great Customer Experience

Getting feedback isn’t the end of the process — it’s just the beginning.

Customer experience is all about a seamless, simple experience that spans technologies, departments and teams. Just five years ago, you could focus on customer experience — what customers see, feel and experience, in your software, online and in-person — and ignore customer success. If you’re looking at your customer experience as a journey, think about the feedback process as the dinghy that goes to scout the unexplored island. You still have to sail back to the crew and provide an update of what you’ve found. You can’t just abandon your crew.

Often, customer feedback falls between the cracks because of misalignment between teams. But customer experience isn’t just a department — it should be a mindset.

Think about these examples:

  • A customer submits feedback about difficulty with product usage. It’s easy to think a customer providing input on difficulties with the interface, or pointing out gaps in their knowledge, is a one-off. But try looping in your training department to review feedback. Maybe you need an FAQ, or a new training video, or a new instructional pop-up in your interface. Whatever it is, your customers are giving you feedback on your user experience with both new and old features. Be sure you’re taking action on it.
  • A customer shares feedback on bugs in your product. Any software is likely to have a bug or two. What matters is how you react when customers inform you something isn’t working — or isn’t working as expected. Do you get defensive? Do you inform them that they’re obviously using the product wrong? Or do you listen to the request and work with engineering and QA to make sure a fix is released — and then let the customer know? Customer feedback isn’t a nuisance. It’s what keeps you in business.
  • A customer provides a feature request. This is great feedback to have, as it shows that your customers are using and engaging with the product. Make sure to loop in the product team and set up customer communication as appropriate — then share that you’re listening and reacting to customer needs. In fact, AWS publicizes that 90% of the features they build are driven by customer feedback.

The more customer-centric you are, and the more you share that, the more feedback you’re likely to receive. Whether these customers are internal or external, collaborating with teams across the organization should be the norm. Be sure to listen to feedback with an open mind, ask for additional clarification if necessary, get the right teams involved and update the customer on the result of their feedback, even if you won’t be implementing it right away.

Acquiring a new customer, or replacing a lost one, is likely to cost you at least 500% more than maintaining one you already have. And according to Gallup, the average cost of replacing an individual employee is conservatively estimated to be 150% of their average salary. Engaging your customers and employees and making them feel respected is one easy way to help with retention. All it takes is listening.

Related Article: CX Decoded Podcast: Amex CX Teams Take Customer Listening to the Next Level

The Importance of Customer Feedback and Digital Transformation

It’s simple: happy customers return to do business, and they tell their colleagues to do business with you, too. A study by global management consulting firm Bain & Company found that improvements in customer experience greatly impacted customer loyalty, with the average repeat customer spending 67% more in months 31-36 of their relationship vs. months zero to six.

Changing your business model or customer experience through digital transformation can bring great rewards. You know what customers want more quickly. You can create better customer journeys. The data you gather will help you with personalization, segmentation, and metrics, to name just a few. More than that, customers want it — according to Accenture, 84% of respondents opted to interact with bots or other computer-based applications that are available 24/7, with 64% thinking they were faster and that they communicated more politely.

Whether digital transformation means self-service or simply optimizing the customer journey, that change also creates risk. Customers have to learn a new way of doing things. They may have to interact with new systems or technologies. One way to minimize that risk is with feedback, whether it’s beta testing or a soft launch. While it’s easy to think we know everything about what customers want, the reality is different. For both internal and external customers, paying attention to feedback is vital and can head off much larger problems in the long term.

Don’t Ignore the Problems Below the Surface

Not knowing what’s happening with your community is a larger problem than most people realize. More than 60% of customers who leave you for a competitor do so due to a bad experience — and many of them could have been retained if you had learned about the issues early enough. Three in four employee resignations are preventable, and employers could have prevented 78% of the reasons employees quit.

Preventing crises requires you to know they’re on the horizon. If you don’t have a feedback mechanism to signal the problems below the surface, you’re likely to be blindsided with churn. In most cases, small fixes can significantly improve customer experience, and ultimately save you time and money.