I was listening to an interview the other day with the world-famous Author J K Rowling. And she was being asked about how she came up with some of the ideas, and how she was able to keep up the high levels of creation and innovation that have made her books so popular.
And the answer she gave really surprised me.
She said: ‘The key is feedback. I’ve never been arrogant enough to believe I don’t need good and constant feedback’.
And, as an avid promoter of feedback systems for businesses, my ears really pricked up at this.
It really struck a chord because:
‘If one of the most successful authors of all time says that she needs good and constant feedback, then why do so many businesses not believe or do this?’
‘Is the willingness to gather, listen and respond to feedback key to success?’
And, of course, the answer is ‘Yes, of course it is!’
So, why is it that so few businesses do it well, and what tips can I suggest to help them perhaps do it a bit better?
From experience, I suggest that there are probably 3 main reasons why so few businesses do it well, and of course, they are all linked:
- Belief: feedback comes after the sale, so it’s very often not taken seriously (if it always came before the sale, the marketing people would be all over it). Mostly businesses use a simple ‘off the shelf’ web-based response system, or a written survey form, which fails to deliver any meaningful results.
- Time and money: because it’s after the sale and because ‘normal’ systems usually produce poor levels of response and even less helpful information, businesses are, quite understandably, unwilling to spend a lot of valuable time and money on them.
- Fear: there is a fear of listening too closely to the customer: they don’t understand the complexity of what we do, and, if we listen too closely, we could be led on lots of wild goose chases!
So, bearing these issues in mind, it’s not surprising that so few businesses do it very well.
Let’s compare this to two world leading, super profitable businesses: Amazon and Apple: what do they think of customer feedback?
“We always start with the customer and work backwards. We work vigorously to earn and keep customer trust. Although we may pay attention to competitors, we obsess over customers. Customer Obsession is where we get our energy from…wanting to do the best for our customers.”
“Contrary to the common belief that Apple doesn’t like to listen to its customers, Apple was one of the first big proponents of Net Promoter Score.
A focus on continually improving and increasing Net Promoter Score affects every level of work at Apple, from the big picture to day-to-day operations.”
So, there you have it!
Of course, like all these things, it’s common sense!
But, unfortunately, as ever, common sense is much easier to understand that it ever is to actually do … we’re all busy and we’re all familiar with the 3 reasons for not doing it stated above!
So, what can I suggest to help break this impasse? To help you start doing what you know impulsively is a good idea, but are perhaps struggling to actually put into practice?
Here are 4 tips, based on the ‘Slow Selling’ 4 ‘BEAR’ principles:
- Beliefs: change your belief from this is a ‘pain in the arse’ to ‘this is hard to do well, so if we can do that, we’ll be head and shoulders above our competition’. This is the same belief, just worded differently!
- Emotions: turn your fear into excitement. You’re already surviving: you can only get better by doing this! How exciting, what amazing things might you learn! What incredible things might you be able to achieve over time!
- Actions: commit to small steps: this will take time to do it right. See ‘3 small steps’ below.
- Results: measure and improve what you’re doing step by step: this will help you see how helpful this is and give you the energy to keep going.
And one more thing: horses for courses: every business is different: someone selling widgets will want to do feedback totally differently from someone selling B2B in a long-term relationship … and there are unlimited variations in between.
So, don’t let anyone try and flog you an ‘off the shelf, all purpose’ solution: they may call it a solution, but it’s NOT a solution until it:
- Enhances the customer experience by its operation.
- Gets a very high level of customer engagement.
- Gives you continual helpful feedback in small chunks, so you can take effective action.
- Makes sure you pick up serious problems quickly and helps you take swift effective action to save the customer.
- Gives you a simple, powerful score that effectively measures your customer reputation and attractiveness.
It ain’t simple.
So, as mentioned above, here are 3 small steps to help you get started:
- Share this information with all your people, and embrace the tips.
- Start a feedback process with your top 20% of customers: they will help you get the process right.
- DON’T DO IT ALONE: this is an area where the short help of a 3rd party adviser is essential. You cannot see yourself from the outside in, please take the time, and spend the money to get some proper advice from a well-trained, professional adviser … preferably one committed to the principles of ‘Slow Selling’!
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