Feedback and Feedback Loops

By Michael Royal

Free Plug:

No matter what area of your business you are looking to fix, feedback is the breakfast of champions.

We have all heard that expression many times before.

The fact that it seems a bit of a cliché does not mean it is not right, it just means that as an expression, it becomes a bit of a yawn.

What we do know from research is that feedback is the place to start if you are looking to Build your fast growth business, Improve the profitability and cashflow of your business or Restructure your business so it remains viable and solvent.

Research tells us this is true and, common sense tells us it is true.

BIR Solutions are the champions of feedback with zing! Feedback which you can use to Build, Improve or Restructure your business.

Feedback – the first step

Feedback works best when it embodies a genuine care for your customers and your customers ‘get it’ that you care.

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In this digital age, virtually anyone can develop a feedback survey – and many survey tools are free.

You send something out. You get something back. It really is that simple to get started.

However, getting started with a survey is important but if you stop there, it can do more harm than good. Why?

  1. Issuing a survey and obtaining responses does not, in itself, mean anything will change for your customers. You know that. They know that. They are not stupid.

  2. If nothing changes for your customers, you are more likely to annoy and disengage them than if you did not ask for their feedback. No-one likes to think they have not been listened to.

  3. If nothing changes for your customers, you have wasted your time and money and you have mis-used their time and energy. No-one likes to have their time, energy and initiative wasted.

  4. Feedback without transparency and communication creates a black hole of uncertainty for your customers – even if you make some changes. If they can’t see what you are prepared to change and what you can’t or won’t change, then they won’t trust you and they won’t respect you.

  5. Feedback surveys work best when they shorten communication lines – both timelines and people to people lines. If feedback surveys increase the distance between your customer and the people in your business who are responsible for your customers then you are going into a black hole of disengagement. It might keep your managers in a cosy job where they don’t have to deal with the uncomfortable truths of your customers, but it does nothing for building the trust and respect from your customers.

What conclusions can you draw from this?

Feedback is often illuminating, it can be reaffirming, and, it can be surprising. But, most importantly, it will drive your business in the right direction

  • You don’t know what your customers are going to say and what they are going to demand of you.

  • Your management team are going to have to deal with the issues raised and figure out how to solve the problems raised by your customers.

  • No longer will your management team be operating behind the safety of a desk, a switch board and a ‘Contact Us’ web page. They will be front line and front and centre – and there for your customers to tell them what to do.

  • You have given the power of developing the direction of your business to your customers. You no longer drive strategy – you now have a co-driver that will take you in directions you might never have thought possible.

  • Your managers will now be being directed by your customers, as your customers will become their number one KPI.

Talk about challenging! But incredibly rewarding and invigorating if you do it with the right intent: because you genuinely care for your customers.

Your business will have partners not customers. Partners who willingly assist you grow your business.

To be done correctly, you can see why feedback needs to be:

  1. Part of a feedback system customised for your business. Not a ‘one size fits all’.

  2. More than just the right words, the right tone, the right reports. You need to get the right feedback interpreted the right way.

  3. ‘Real time’. Not annual, not 6 monthly, not quarterly. I don’t know about you, but most people I know are so busy they cannot remember what happened yesterday let alone last week.

  4. Quick on the turnaround time. Between the customer and you – and back again.

  5. Transparent. All the feedback from your customers: the good and yes, the bad and the ugly needs to go back to them. (At first, I can guarantee you this will hurt like hell but ‘going public’ with your customers is the only way you are going to avoid doing a Yes Minister and end up skirting around the issues).

  6. Freshened up regularly – otherwise it has the potential to engender the thought from your customers of ‘not another survey!’.

  7. Put into action. You need to be able to answer and respond with action to:

    1. ‘what’s next?’

    2. ‘what’s important?’

    3. ‘what’s urgent?’

    4. ‘who does what and when?’

    5. ‘we have a people problem, how do we fix it?’

    6. ‘we have a process or systems problem, how do we fix it?’

People often think of feedback and surveys as ‘what do they think of us?’ – but they are – and should be – much more than that – if you do it right.

To find out how you turn feedback and surveys into a Feedback System read about Feedback Loops below….

Feedback Loops

There are 2 types of communication loops: what I have called Closed Communication Loops and Open Communication Loops.

Both types of communication loops have the potential to add enormous value to feedback and surveys and the actions you are taking. They are all part of the communication pathways set out above.

Communication loops take the static ‘one way’ feedback from respondents to you and convert this feedback into continuous communication loops with your target audience.

Closed Communication Loops

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In the case of Closed Communication Loops, the communication stays with the respondents. An example would be providing the respondents with the results of the survey (we recommend ‘warts and all’ for transparency) and what you are going to do about their issues and concerns.

Whilst this is a significant step up from most ‘one way’ static feedback tools and surveys, in that it leverages the one way feedback into an ongoing communication pattern with the respondents, Closed Communication Loops do not maximise the possible leverage from this feedback.

Open Communication Loops

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Maximising leverage in your communication model is achieved when you set up Open Communication Loops.

With Open Communication Loops, the communication starts with the respondents then morphs into your entire potential audience. This includes anyone who is touched by you or your firm via future promotions, your website, social media (Linked In, Twitter) etc.

The opportunities for Open Communication Loops are endless – and exciting to contemplate.

An effective Open Communication Loop allows you to maximise the leverage from the feedback you have obtained by using it over and over again – often in ways you did not even contemplate when you first started.

Feedback is a great resource to leverage. It ticks at least 3 critical boxes (there is probably more but this is a good start)….

  • Feedback reflects the views and issues of your customers – not you. 

    When we offer our customers something we think is of value, we can find it difficult to really and deeply understand what is important to them and why. 

    Your customers don’t. They see every issue in real time and if you are not giving them what they need, their timely feedback will reflect this.

  • People do not buy from people they do not trust and respect. 

    These 2 attributes are a gimme for many corporate brands as their brands are in the public arena. People use them every day and see them every day in the media, in the retail outlets, on their computer screen…. By their very ‘every day’ presence, people make almost sub conscious decisions to trust and respect them.

    For most SMEs, however, they do not have the brand recognition of a major corporate so they have to use other means to achieve trust and respect.

    Feedback and testimonials are great ways to quickly build trust and respect. It is particularly believable when the feedback is able to be attributed to a real person by name and by company/suburb. 

  • You are seen to be ethical and honest and you operate with high integrity and transparency. This is becoming more and more important in today’s social media landscape. As we are being told every day in the world of Facebook, Twitter etc ‘if you don’t fix your customers’ problems, your customers will make sure they fix you’.

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