Understanding Customer Feedback Loops
A customer feedback loop, at a high level, is made up of two parts: the feedback and the loop.
Customer feedback is exactly what it sounds like. Feedback in itself can take many forms, but overall, it’s a moment in which you ask for input from your customers or employees. Easy.
The loop, however, requires more explanation. The loop starts with the feedback points, or what we call listening posts. Listening posts capture feedback data from your customers about their experiences. This data provides insight into the customer experience—what’s working well and opportunities for improvement. The feedback loop is complete when action is taken and customers observe change.
Implementing a feedback loop should be driven by the desire to have customer input influence business and design decisions.
Customer feedback is about much more than just collecting the feedback—it’s about gathering feedback with purpose and fully understanding the customer experience. This understanding of the customer experience will help to prioritize where you might evolve your customer experience and provide you with guiding feedback as you introduce new features or offerings, supporting your design process.
Feedback Loop Considerations
As we’ve reflected on a recent project in which we created a customer feedback strategy with a client, we have captured key considerations for setting up a customer feedback loop. So, as you think about building a customer feedback loop, be sure to consider the following.
1. Get a grasp of the overall customer (or employee) experience happening today. Document the touchpoints and where you may already be capturing feedback. Maybe you already have listening posts in place. If so, surfacing what exists today for collecting feedback can help you plan for additional listening posts. If you don’t collect feedback today, just start with the customer touchpoints. It helps to create a touchpoint map like the one shown here, visualizing the customer processes and key interactions they have with you.
2. Set feedback goals. Clarify what you hope to learn to give your feedback purpose, help frame questions, and get you thinking about how you will use the feedback. Weak feedback goals are vague and broad. For example, “Get customer input on the onboarding process” is not a good enough reason to collect feedback. It’s difficult to ask questions that line up to this goal, and results may include a wide range of responses to one question. Try to dig a bit deeper; what specifically about the signup process do you want to know more about, and why? Strong feedback goals tie directly to something actionable. For example, “Understand how customers perceive their effort during the onboarding process” is more focused and will point to opportunity areas to reduce customer effort during onboarding. With more specific goals comes more purposeful listening posts and a clearer direction for changes.
3. Choose the touchpoints to focus on to meet your feedback goals. Well framed goals will make it easier to choose the right time to ask for feedback. Take the time to align goals with relevant points in the customer experience—highlighting the best touchpoints to ask and answer each question you may have. For example, if you want to learn about effort in the onboarding process, choose the interactions that often involve high customer input. This might include any in-person transactions, any complex digital platforms to set up, or anything that spans long time periods. In our example, asking about effort right after these kinds of interactions is best, when experiences are fresh, instead of waiting until the end of the entire onboarding process.
4. Evaluate the frequency of feedback. Try to prioritize what feedback you need now. We’ve all been there—inundated with surveys or “quick questions”. Almost immediately, we close out or delete them from our inbox. Consider how often you are asking customers for input and where you may be able to make cuts. Think about what each listening post will bring and compare that to your own business goals. Which points will give input you need now? You can also consider where you might be able to complement the feedback with other available data such as usage analytics or customer service feedback.
5. Decide how you’ll close the loop with customers. This means thinking about how your customer will know their feedback is valued, and continue to give it. People are more inclined to give feedback when they understand where that feedback is going. Give customers a glimpse into why their feedback is particularly helpful and how it will make their experience better in the future. The way in which you respond to customer feedback should consider the time the customer put into responding and the tone of their response. For example, specifically frustrated responses might warrant a direct follow up. Some ideas on how you might close the loop with your customers:
- Give insight into the purpose of a survey before they begin, especially long-format surveys. Make it worth their time.
- Always be sure to thank customers for their participation and give some insight on what will happen now that they’ve shared information—i.e., a new feature is being worked on, a new feature will be launched soon, a new product is in the works.
- Communicate at large, to all your customers, a summary of what feedback you’ve heard over the year and how or if you’ve implemented change because of it.
- Actually act on the feedback. Making changes based on feedback will resonate with customers. Experiencing improvements related to feedback is the best way a customer can feel heard.
6. Define the feedback governance. Maintaining a customer feedback loop requires ownership and planning. This is probably the most important part. Without it, your feedback won’t continue smoothly over time. Determine who should be involved, when, and to what extent. Overall, we recommend breaking the operationalization of a customer feedback loop into three main parts—the listening posts, the data, and closing the loop.
- Assign an owner of the listening posts. In order to keep consistency and reduce duplicity across the feedback landscape, someone (or a group) should own where and how feedback is collected from customers. This will reduce duplicate feedback requests of your customers and help you keep your touchpoint map up to date.
- Assign an owner to the feedback data. Collecting feedback means collecting data. This data needs a place to live, a way to be analyzed and a way to be shared. Set a schedule for when data will be assessed and synthesized. Share feedback insights with those whose efforts or roles may be impacted. Consider customer service teams, product design teams, executive decision makers—the right people need to know what changes need to occur.
- Assign an owner to closing the loop. How and when you close the loop with customers will vary. Each listening post, and sometimes even each type of response, should be considered for closing the loop possibilities. Having someone own the response protocol and process is invaluable.
Overall, Start Simple and be Realistic
As with most things, a customer feedback loop takes time to cultivate. It’s not about perfecting this model, it’s about creating starting points for connecting and listening to customers. Remember to be realistic about your capabilities when setting up the loop. Take time to think through these considerations and be open to iteration—in how you collect feedback, how you assess the feedback data, and how you close your loop. After all, this process is about growing, evolving, and learning new things for better outcomes.