How to Close the Loop on Customer Feedback

Customer Experience | Customer Experience Management | PeopleMetrics LIVE

Reading time: 43 minutes

Trusted Experience Management Partners

Can customer feedback improve performance? Absolutely! But that all depends on how effectively you're closing the loop with your customers. Closing the feedback loop means that your organization has a process in place for reaching back out to customers who provide feedback about their recent experience (positive or negative!) to ensure that their problems are resolved and increase the likelihood that they'll return to, and ultimately advocate for your brand again and again.

In this session, we talk about closed-loop feedback best practices, share some examples of closed-loop feedback processes and communications, and show you a few ways to use customer feedback to increase customer loyalty, improve employee experience, and grow your business.


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Sean McDade: There's data that shows that when a customer has a problem and you follow up with them and make it right, they're actually more loyal than they were before they had a problem, or if they didn't have a problem at all. And it sounds a little crazy, but it's true...

Madeline Good: Hi everyone! Welcome to PeopleMetrics LIVE! Today we are talking about how to close the loop on customer feedback and why closed-loop feedback processes are such an important part of strong Voice of Customer, or VoC, or CX programs. If you've got questions for our team, please drop them in the comments below and we'll be sure to answer them. So Sean, can you tell us why it's so important to close the loop with customers after they've had a recent experience?

Sean: Closing the loop is one of the most valuable parts of a Voice of Customer experience management program. The main reason is it allows you to follow up on individual customers who've had a poor experience with your company and make it right with those customers so you reduce churn, reduce negative word of mouth, and increase the chances they're going to buy more from you in the future. There's data that shows that when a customer has a problem and you follow up with them and make it right, they're actually more loyal than they were before they had a problem, or if they didn't have a problem at all. And it sounds a little crazy, but it's true. I think this is where people get great value out of their Voice of Customer program because it's happening daily. This isn't something where you're getting a report once a quarter, or you're looking at a trend that's maybe monthly or quarterly. You and your team can be following up on negative customer experiences every single day and both save them -- and Audrey can get into this in a second -- not only save an individual customer, but identify the root cause of why these problems are happening. And if you can then fix those problems that people keep saying they're having, then you can have less alerts in the future and a higher NPS score. So if you are not actively managing alerts and cases within closing the loop, you're definitely leaving money on the table with your customer feedback program. If you're taking snapshots every year, every quarter, and then reporting them in PowerPoint and showing them on Zoom meetings, that's great. But you need to follow up with customers systematically to get the most value out of your program. What do you think of that, Audrey?

Audrey Squaresky: I think what you said about leaving money on the table is a really important point. There's two big things that you're really able to do with your customer experience feedback program, and one is act on individual feedback -- so you're asking individual customers what they think and how they feel. You need to be acting on that individual feedback. The other thing is looking at your data in aggregate and then identifying systemic issues that need to be addressed, or things that are going really well that you can duplicate in other parts of your business. But today, we're gonna focus on acting on that individual feedback and actually closing the loop with customers, and I'll be able to show you what that looks like in our platform.

Madeline: That's great. So let's start with some basics before we jump into looking at the process. What is an alert?

Sean: Yeah that's a great question. You know, I've been doing this a long time -- 20 years -- and 20 years ago, people looked at me like I was crazy when I suggested doing this because this isn't market research anymore, really, right? So market research is looking at data in the aggregate and understanding and trying to figure out an answer to a question. That's what market research has been -- from a sample of your population. But what's going on with experience management is we're surveying every person at a certain touch point -- so whether it's after a call, or a visit to a store, or a visit to a website... Now sometimes it's randomly selective -- there's a lot of customers, or we're not going to over-survey customers -- so we have rules around that, but in general, everybody's getting an opportunity to provide feedback. And what an alert is, is if you have a Net Promoter Score -- which is, "Would you recommend this company to a friend or family? 0-10" -- and let's say it's 0-6, which is a detractor -- that could trigger an email that would go into a designated person's inbox saying, "Customer X..." or Audrey, if you're the customer, "Audrey had a very poor experience indicated by the 6 out of 10 on NPS." It also can be triggered by other things like "did they have a problem?" And what are some other things our clients trigger alerts off of?

Audrey: Whether or not the the customer wants to be contacted. There's a follow-up that we trigger specifically for that. And then there are also positive alerts, where you can trigger if someone mentioned that one of your staff members went above and beyond
to help them, or if they indicate that they're interested in more information about another one of your products or services.

Sean: Absolutely. And for B2B -- to go off in a little tangent here -- if you're a B2B company with a limited number of customers or clients, then you can trigger an alert off every completed survey. So you could literally get that survey in your inbox, and even if there wasn't a problem, or even if someone didn't do a great job, you can still be alerted that someone provided feedback for you. And the reason why you'd want to do that is you don't have a lot of clients and every one of them has a very large lifetime value, so you want to know how every client feels. But today, we're talking about what we call "Recover Alerts," and those are alerts based on a poor experience a customer, client or guest has -- typically indicated by a low Net Promoter Score, a low most recent experience score, and/or a low "was there a problem?" and that's when the alert will be triggered.

Madeline: So of all of the different types of alerts, the Recover Alert would you say is -- if you're not doing any alerting right now or doing any loop closing, would that be the number one type of alert to focus on first if you're just starting with loop closing?

Audrey: Yeah, that's always what we recommend starting with. In its most simple version, to trigger for detractors -- which are people who answered a 0-6 on the NPS scale -- it is a great place to start.

Sean: By systematically following up on Recover Alerts, listening to what the customer had to say, identifying why it happened, and making it right, you're then creating a customer-centric culture. It really is the best way to do this, because it's not one person that
typically is following up on these -- especially if you have high volume. We can get into the model in a second how different companies organize this, but if you're consistently following up, you're listening to the customer pain points that you know your company's providing them, and you're starting to think about, "okay,
how can we solve them?" And it's not just one person -- when it's many people within the organization, it becomes pervasive. Customer listening is something we do every day, and we take action on customer listening every day, and we're reducing churn every day, and we're increasing positive word of mouth every day. That's how customer centricity becomes real within an organization.

Madeline: That's a perfect segue into talking about... it's one thing to to have one person listening to one customer, but when you're trying to operationalize that process and put a system in place, I know, Audrey, you're going to take us on a tour of what that can look like -- so that you can have your entire loop closing team following up on the individual... and on that aggregate level so you can take action.

Audrey: Yeah, absolutely. And there are a number of different ways that we have clients doing this. Some of them have a centralized loop closing team who collects all of the alerts for their organization and follows up with the customer that way, and then other clients use the decentralized model where you have the branch manager or the general manager of a specific location handling all the alerts for that location. So there's no right way to do it, it just depends on what your organization looks like and what makes the most sense for you. I'm gonna start sharing my screen here, and we'll jump in and show you what this can look like.

Sean: I'll just say one thing -- if you want  a more detailed deep dive into centralized versus decentralized models, there's a good discussion of that of Listen or Die, which is my book on customer experience -- there's 40 lessons in that book, two of which focus on on loop closing and alerts, and there's good information if you want to learn more on the different ways companies have structured closing the loop.

Audrey: Okay, are you able to see my screen?

Madeline: We can see it!

Audrey: Alright, so let me set some context here. We are in the alert management section of the PeopleMetrics platform, and what this page here is, is an overview of all the alerts that this organization has received. And what I'm able to do is quickly scan here what's the alert status, who is the customer that submitted the alert, some other information about that customer that I might need when the alert came in, and then what kind of alert that it triggered. We said we're going to focus on Recover Alerts, so let me click into one of these and I'll give you a quick tour of how this loop closing system can work. What I'm looking at now is the specific alert related to this survey response that I clicked onto, and by clicking here, I can see the entire survey response -- so I can take a look at everything that this customer said on their survey. Here you can see, "my experience was terrible," so now I know they had a really bad experience -- they're a detractor, we need to close the loop figure out what happened with this customer and what we can do to make it right. Over on the right here, I have some more information about this customer: some interaction IDs, some numbers that will help me get their information so that I can reach out to them -- up at the top right, I have their email address right here so that I can start crafting a response if I need to. But I might want to assign this alert to someone else. I might say, "Hey this should go to the general manager of this branch -- I'm going to assign it to them," and then I have some options of people who are other loop closers -- I can assign it to them. I assigned a user, and now that user will get a notification that they need to work this alert. Over here, though, I'm going to track what happens while I close the loop. So the first thing I'm going to do if I'm the loop closer who's handling this alert, I'm going to reach out to the customer. I'm going to talk to them. I really need to understand what caused their terrible experience. What happened, and then what can we do to make it right? And so that's the most important piece of this -- to make sure that we're really addressing it with the customer. Once I do that, I have some things that I can track here, so I want to track, "What did I do?" I attempted to contact the customer, I was able to reach them on my first attempt. I can tag that here, and then these other pieces of information, "What was the root cause?" What caused this person to have a terrible experience? So I have some tags here that we can customize for each client based on their business, but what I found out from contacting this client was that there were issues with the operations of our company. And so now I'm going to tag that. I'm going to say it was "Call Center Hours," and then I can add any notes that I might want to add here for tracking, so "not open on the weekend." So that really caused a problem for this customer -- they said they had terrible service because of that, and then I can add that here so that it's tracked in this alert. And then finally, I can track here what our reaction was -- what did my company do to make sure that this doesn't happen again? And I'm going to say that I escalated this to a manager so that they are aware of this complaint, and I have the option of adding another comment, or I can tag without the comment. So now that I've added all these tags here, I've taken all the action necessary -- talked to the customer, I found out what they needed, I resolved
their issue -- I can come over here and I can actually close this as "Resolved," because I was able to do all the pieces that I needed to do. If I couldn't resolve it, we're able to track that here. If I wasn't able to reach the customer, we can track that as well. And so the important thing is to make sure you track everything you're doing. And so I mentioned there were two things that we need to do in the beginning: one is act on individual feedback -- I was able to do that here; and then the other is to look at our data in aggregate and see if there's anything bubbling up to the top that we need to focus on.
We have reporting on all these tags so that we're able to analyze, and if we see that these call center hours are really important and a lot of people are complaining about them, then we can make an organizational decision to change our hours or do whatever we might need to do to address the issue at hand.

Sean: Yeah Audrey, this is a great overview, and I think one thing I would say before we start, when we just started to do this closing the loop, I think it was good enough just to call the customer and write some notes about what the customer said and track that somehow --  and that's how we used to do it, but I strongly believe if you're closing loops now and you're not tracking root cause and you're not tracking what the organizational reaction is to this alert, you're definitely leaving more money on the table. Because in many ways, the root cause is everything -- and if you can track that, it's a game changer for loop closers. This is a grind, right? Like grinding out alert after alert and talking to customers who are not happy -- that's definitely a grind, you've got to do it -- but what's really strategic about it is once you do it for a while and start systematically putting root causes, you can start identifying patterns within the organization that needs improvement, and that's when you can make a huge impact for future experiences, which is really exciting.

Audrey: Here's an example of one of our dashboards that are reporting on root causes, and you'll be able to see how many times each of these different root causes were tagged. Here we have a number of people saying that lack of self-service was the issue, or a number of loop closers saying that lack of self-service was what the customers that they contacted had an issue with. So I can see right at a glance that lack of self-service is an issue that's coming up time and time again, and maybe we as an organization need to address that. I'm also able to see, "Okay, sales expectations -- that was mentioned a number of times, but isn't really the thing that we need to focus on," and so we're able to report on this. I'm able to see what kind of problems were here, and we can customize this dashboard in any way that makes sense. We can track the respondent, reach out, that's what I was looking at, so we can track what our employees are doing when they're closing the loop A number of different ways to report on it, but really the most important thing is that at a glance I'm able to see what is causing all of these alerts.

Madeline: That's really interesting, and you know something -- if you're not doing this loop closing, where you're tying the internal processes to a customer conversation, you're missing this information, right? Like a customer might not indicate on their survey feedback if they just say, "My experience was terrible," but they don't indicate one of these root causes -- because in a lot of cases, why would they -- you're missing that information. So that's a great part of having the loop closing there.

Sean: And the other piece to it is... those who are closing loops need to understand what these root causes are, and the way you get root causes is, we often will take a look at customer comments after a question -- so if normally we'll ask NPS and then we'll ask why, the why is just freeform customer comments -- people typing in stuff -- so we'll review lots and lots of those comments to come up with what we're finding as root cause commonality, and then we pass those across the to the client to make sure they make sense, and then they might have others they want to add that they think are common as well, and that's how we get to it. And if there are others that we don't even have as root cause categories, the loop closers can suggest one to add to the list too as they're hearing more and more comments from customers, so this is a very iterative process. These things just don't get invented. Although these are a lot of common things that you'll see, like the categories that Audrey put up here are common.

Audrey: Yeah Sean, that's a great point. We have buckets of tags that are particular to industries that we've learned over the years, but we work directly with our customers to figure out what their customers are saying and what makes sense as tags, and then you're right, that it's iterative and we can always edit when necessary.

Sean: Audrey, what is the time frame we're seeing our clients close these alerts, and what is best practice these days in terms of number of days? Let's say an alert gets triggered. What happens? Like what are you seeing?

Audrey: So the great thing is that the alert is triggered in real-time, so right as the customer submits their survey, an email notification is triggered if the survey response meets the alert criteria, and so that means that the loop closers are getting these in real-time. Best practice is to follow up as soon as possible. We have clients who are tracking their loop closers getting in contact in the first 24 hours. I would say in the first two days is really imperative while the experience is still fresh and in the customer's mind.

Sean: And how many attempts are we seeing our clients trying? We saw in one of those dashboards, it was three attempts. Is that typically what we're seeing these days?

Audrey: Yeah, most are able to be contacted within the first or second attempt, but we do have clients who go for that third attempt, and that's when they would say they weren't able to reach the customer, or that they weren't able to resolve the issue, if after three tries, they weren't able to make contact.

Sean: Now, you may be asking yourself, "Is it really worth it to do all this?" And I can tell you without question it is. We actually did a survey with people who had a problem and were followed up with -- we called this a "Full Circle" survey. So a customer had a problem, an alert was triggered, then our client followed up with them. Then what we did is we reached back out to those customers to see if they had any improvement in Net Promoter Score, and we saw a dramatic improvement in Net Promoter Score from what they indicated at the time they had a problem, so in the time the alert was triggered. So we're seeing this absolutely works. And I wouldn't recommend necessarily doing that Full Circle survey all the time, but if you wanted to prove ROI and you're getting pushback from your leadership team or whomever, then that's a great proof point. You know, take 100 alerts, see where their NPS score was on those 100, follow up with those 100, and then re-survey them just on NPS after the follow-up and see what your net improvement is, and I think you're going to be shocked to see what the ROI is on this effort.

Madeline: Yeah, we often talk about how the survey taking experience is an experience that's part of your overall customer experience, but it sounds like what you're saying, Sean, too, is that the recovery from the loop closing experience is also an experience and an opportunity to really wow a customer or make them feel even more loyal to your brand than they were when they first filled out a survey.

Sean: Absolutely. I mean, it's all an experience. I think we've talked about that. And listen, when you're sending a survey to a customer, guest, client -- that's an experience in and of itself. So if you're sending very long surveys that are hard to answer, that are cumbersome -- that's a customer experience you really have to think about, as is what do you do with the data -- are you following up with the customer? That's an experience. Are you thanking the customer after they provide the feedback at the end of the survey? That's an experience. It's all part of their customer experience. I would argue -- with social media going crazy, where people are sharing all sorts of information and people are putting things on Twitter when they have bad experiences and expecting a follow-up, this is expected. And back before, it wasn't. And I got a lot of pushback, by the way, by the market research community on this, because they were saying, "Well you can't follow up with people on an individual basis," but the truth is you can as long as you have their permission. And now everybody wants to be followed up with if you have a poor experience -- that isn't anything that's even an issue anymore. The question for you as an experience deliverer is, "How am I going to set up my process to make this as efficient as possible internally and make it a great experience for our customer when we contact them?" and then, "How do we extract the information we need from that customer, learn as much as we can, save that
customer, but also prevent the same problem from happening in the future?" So to me that's what this is all about, and this is really what pays for these type of programs, frankly. If you can save -- some of our clients are B2B -- if you can save one a year, its pays for itself. But even on our B2C client customers, if you save 50 to 100 customers a year, lifetime value, that's more than paying for these type programs.

Audrey: Oh, absolutely. I mean, that's real money. We have clients who have demonstrated that they've saved millions of dollars from being able to reduce the churn on their customers from our program, so it really is amazing. and it's so important. And I think, Sean, you mentioned something that I wanted to elaborate on, that now people who are submitting a survey expect that someone is reading it and is going to do something about it. It's another touch point where -- if I'm giving you feedback, I want you to show that it's valued and that you're doing something about it. So I think it's another "moment of truth" -- we've talked about that in a past PeopleMetrics LIVE! -- about how important those interactions are, where people have an emotional connection. And I think the survey follow-up is one of them.

Sean: Yeah, that's a great point. When you're following up with a customer after a poor experience, that is a moment of truth that has to be right. And that's why we have data going down to rep levels on this as well in terms of follow-up. There's a lot you can do with this data -- we're just scratching the surface -- but we wanted to give you a high level overview of what goes on with closing loops.

Madeline: Yeah, there's definitely that short-term benefit of immediately closing the loop with an individual customer, but then, like you said, over time, being able to see those trends and make the larger internal organizational improvements that are going to improve the experience for everybody and hopefully reduce the amount of problems that you're encountering with those certain thing. Well this has been a great conversation. We have a couple of questions coming in -- so Audrey, I'm gonna let you take the first one that came in, and then I'll tee up the second one.

Sean: Okay, I can read it, Audrey -- "Do you guys have any specific workflow to collect each feedback under one place?"

Audrey: Okay, so I think I know what you mean here -- but for customers who are surveying at a number of touch points, we have that all feeding into that alert management section of our platform that I showed you, and then we're able to either filter by individual touch points or just have the data separated that way, so that if you are only interested in following up on the Service touch point or a retail bank experience, whatever you're responsible for, you're able to show that data yourself, but when we look at it in aggregate, you can see it all together.

Sean: Here, I got this last one This is interesting: "With thousands of customers, calling is not an option -- what are your thoughts on following up with email?" Two thoughts on this one --  I still would break up your customers into customer lifetime value, and I'd have to believe that your top customers are still worth a phone call, right? So if there are those that buy more, or are more important, or you think have a higher lifetime value, definitely do that. The other way is, yes, you can definitely follow up via email, right Audrey? That's happened many times. And if you have a high volume of customers, that's something that's definitely part of the loop closing process. Anything you would add to that, Audrey?

Audrey: No, I think email is great. It's so important to follow up. Calls are great, but some people don't even want to be called -- and everybody is sort of tied to their the way that they get their email now, so email is a great option.

Sean: And the last question is around how to get this kind of data into a CRM, and that's something that we talk a lot about, right, Audrey? Yeah, so we integrate with many CRMs. Salesforce is the big one, but we're able to connect our data so that it can be pulled out into your CRM where you can report at the contact level or at the account level know how many alerts were triggered, how are they followed up on, and same thing with all the survey responses and and scores like NPS. Or we can pull operational data into PeopleMetrics, and you can use it to slice and dice your data in our platform and look at it that way.

Sean: Those are great questions. Thanks everybody, appreciate that.

Madeline: Thank you everybody! Alright, great -- well it looks like we're right about at time, and I just want to say thank you to everybody for sending your questions in, and to Sean and Audrey for this great conversation talking about how to close the loop on customer feedback -- it really is the heart of CX, right? If you're doing customer experience measurement and management, this is the gold, right? The outcomes of doing loop closing.

Sean: You know, Madeline, like the term for the industry now is "Experience Management," right? That's what everybody calls it. This is really experience management at its heart -- truly managing individual experiences that people are having, following up appropriately, making it right, learning and fixing. That's experience management at its core.

Madeline: Absolutely. Well thank you both for your time and your expertise today, and thank you to everyone on the line for joining us for PeopleMetrics LIVE! today.

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Posted on 02-18-2021