What happens when you fail to feed your teams’ soul?  How much more engaged would your team be if you led them by providing better feedback?  This post shows how the right kind of feedback can improve your business.

For years, I’ve considered myself an optimist with experience.  Such a perspective makes me skeptical at times, wary at others and sometimes means that I miss opportunities.  This post is about an employee engagement opportunity I almost missed – a near miss.

Not long ago I helped establish a continuous feedback cycle to incorporate the voice of the customer into our transactional (vs. relationship) customer interactions.  We worked on who to survey and when.  We worked on what questions were most meaningful and why.  Then we settled down to work on what to do when customers were unhappy with our work.  In NPS parlance, we determined how we would react to detractors (glass “half-empty” behavior).  While this was a good start, we modified our approach over time through a series of phases.

  • Phase 1 – After each transaction our team requested customer feedback directly.
  • Phase 2 – After each transaction we automated the feedback request and created a set of work-flow rules to alert managers when we encountered detractors (“half-empty” behavior).
  • Phase 3 – We kept the automation process in Phase 2 but added work-flow rules to alert managers and employees each time a customer left a comment (in addition to providing the NPS score).  Our [enlightened] perspective was that customers who took the time to write a comment were more invested (either positively or negatively) in our assistance.  We also reinforced positive outcomes by publicly recognizing excellent results in real-time (“half-full” behavior).

The improved results in response rates and NPS show the impact:

We basically shifted from a glass half-empty to a half-full perspective.  When we did this the front-line team:

  • Received feedback of what was going well (and badly) directly from customers
  • Adapted their efforts through greater autonomy to create positive interactions
  • Competed with one another in a productive manner
  • Developed a positive feedback loop that enabled even better results
  • Got recognized for their efforts by their “internal” customers

And of course, our customers received the benefits of this approach – service that better met their needs!

As I look back on this half-full epiphany, I realize the experience was a “near miss.”  I had always thought of myself as a people-centric leader but had somehow missed supporting, rewarding, and activating the people!  Now, when faced with efforts to improve business results, I draw on that “near miss” experience to ensure our team has clear goals and is receiving good and bad feedback.  Focusing on the bad (in my case, prioritizing detractor handling) neglected an opportunity to sharpen the vision of the results we wanted.  (For another perspective, check out this MIT article.)

The pivot point is that reinforcing the positive yielded much better results than managing the negative.  The results were amazing and, unsurprisingly, we invested less time handling detractors.

Better Customer Feedback Drives Employee Engagement
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