share
by Razor Suleman | January 17, 2011
How well does your organization deliver service to your customers? What do your customers really think about your organization, and what are they saying about your organization to others? 

In last month’s column, we talked about pushing the boundaries of employee recognition beyond the walls of your organization through social recognition on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. This month, we’ll look at strategies for extending employee recognition to the most important people outside your organization–your customers. By opening a direct line of communication to enable timely customer-to-employee feedback, your organization can:

• Encourage repeat positive behaviors that contribute to quality customer service
• Monitor the performance and quality of customer service reps and call center agents
• Give your customers a voice in shaping service improvements
• Boost customer satisfaction and make “raving fans” of your customers 

For any organization that delivers sales, service, or support to customers via the Web, e-mail, or call centers, customer feedback can provide valuable business intelligence that can be used to drive business and service improvements, as well as increase customer satisfaction and loyalty. 

A happy, loyal customer will not only purchase your product or use your service again, she will also tell her friends and colleagues about you. This kind of viral, word-of-mouth advocacy can be priceless in growing sales and creating awareness of your brand. On the flip side, if you don’t do a good job of capturing customer feedback and acting on it, you may find your unhappy happy customers voicing their dissatisfaction on social networks, user review sites, forums, and blogs. 

Give Your Customers A Voice
First, a little myth-busting: People want to share their feedback. Your customers want the option to speak their minds and want you to listen–and act–when they make their opinions known.

Many organizations make the mistake of downplaying the importance of customer feedback. They believe, falsely, that customers won’t take the time to think seriously about what the organization did right or wrong, or clearly state what was good or bad about their experience. In many cases, organizations mean well when it comes to collecting feedback and improving customer responsiveness, but they struggle to make sense of the feedback and use it to improve their products or services.    

While it may surprise you, many customers have a passion for providing feedback–not only when things go wrong, but when things go right. All you need to do to tap into this passion is create a direct communication link between your customers and your employees that is easy to use, fast, and convenient for customers to submit feedback.

How It Works
The collection of customer feedback begins with a simple link on a Web page or in the footer of the customer service rep’s e-mail that invites customers to click to provide instant feedback of a recent transaction or interaction with your organization. The headline might read “Help Us Improve” or “Tell Us How We’re Doing.” The headline could be further personalized with the name of the customer service rep, such as, “Wendy Would Love Your Feedback on Her Service Today” or “Help Wendy Improve.” 

The link takes customers to a feedback form where specific information can be captured. The questions asked and the type of customer feedback that is captured can be fully customized to meet your business requirements. Feedback can be given anonymously, or you can provide the option for customers to provide their names and contact information for follow-up.

When a customer completes the form and submits his or her feedback, a number of actions can be automatically triggered:  

• The feedback can be published directly to an internal newsfeed
• The feedback may be sent via e-mail to a specific person such as the customer service rep’s manager, or to a number of people in a specific group, such as the entire customer experience team
• Employers who receive positive customer feedback, or meet specific criteria such as a receiving a perfect service rating, may qualify to be rewarded through a points-based rewards and recognition system

• Feedback can be automatically integrated into your customer relationship management system or other business systems for further analysis and reporting 

By creating a direct line of communication between your customers and your service reps, call center agents, and business leaders, you can:

• Highlight top performers who receive fantastic customer feedback
• Drive repeat positive behaviors that contribute to quality customer service
• Capture important information about what your organization is doing right and wrong, so you can act on this business intelligence to make service improvements

While customer surveys are nothing new, tying customer feedback directly into your employee recognition strategy offers a fresh approach to monitoring and improving service quality. When your front-line customer service reps and call center agents, who are the public face and voice of your company, know what their customers think of them in their own words (and also know that you know!), it can be a powerful motivator. By making timely customer-to-employee feedback a part of your recognition strategy, you can improve the quality and consistency of your service, attract and retain customers, build customer loyalty, and win market share. 

Razor Suleman is the CEO and founder of I Love Rewards, a provider of Web-based employee reward and recognition, sales incentive, and service award solutions. I Love Rewards works with top employers across North America to recruit, retain, and inspire employees, and drive results most important to business success. For more information, visit  www.iloverewards.com.