In a traditional customer feedback process, a customer (usually one that is either very satisfied or very upset) will respond to a survey, send an email, pick up the phone, or establish contact in some similar way. They'll say what they have to say, getting their feedback off their chest and then... nothing. This is where the process usually ends.
A closed loop feedback process, on the other hand, goes one step further. It's less about generating feedback for the sake of it and more about giving both companies and customers the ability to establish a genuine conversation. Traditional programs, on the other hand, usually end a conversation very quickly - if one is able to begin at all.
Make no mistake about it: if your organization is not already working towards a closed loop feedback process, now would be an excellent time.
Why Does a Closed Loop Feedback Process Matters?
One of the factors that makes a closed loop feedback process such an invaluable part of your larger customer experience management efforts all comes down to a single word: action. For such a process to be successful, it requires a company to both identify key touch points across a customer's journey and seek out relevant feedback at those touch points.
Note that elaborate satisfaction surveys that ask "more specific questions" than before are often not enough to get this particular job done because they're typically more imprecise than you realize. The chasm between figuring out why someone is "satisfied" versus "very satisfied" is a big one, indeed - to say nothing of how slow these techniques typically generate results in the first place.
For the loop to truly be "closed," that feedback can't simply "exist" the same way an email that you read once and quickly delete technically existed. The process demands that this feedback be acted on in some way, regardless of whether it is positive or negative.
If a customer reaches out to share a heartfelt "thank you" for an exceptional experience, the loop wouldn't be closed unless a manager responded with a follow up. If that feedback is negative, the loop would be closed by way of a sincere apology and maybe some type of discount, refund, offer, or other gesture.
One of the major advantages of a closed loop feedback process is that, from the perspective of your customers, issues are addressed faster than ever before. You never have to wonder whether a manager listened to your complaint via voicemail or read your email. You'll know, because they (or someone in charge of following up with customers) are reaching out to you no matter what. This not only goes a long way towards increasing customer loyalty (something that also significantly increases average purchases and other factors), but it also helps a business identify at-risk customers while there is still time to stop them from heading into the arms of a competitor.
Perhaps the major disadvantage of a closed loop feedback process, however, is one of "time." It's clear that this is a much more time-intensive affair than a traditional feedback system. It not only requires a great deal of effort on behalf of employees to sift through that feedback and follow up on it all, but it also requires a heavy reliance on technology as well. Luckily, aspects of our daily lives like social media can make this easier than ever.
Can Social Media Help?
Perhaps the most prominent examples of closed loop feedback processes take the form of just about every company that directly interacts with customers via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and similar types of social networking sites. As an experiment, pick one of your favorite brands and watch their official "Support" Twitter account for a few hours one afternoon. You'll notice a few things almost immediately.
First, responses are often generated incredibly quickly, oftentimes just minutes after a customer has reached out in the first place. Second, those accounts normally address ALL tweets - both the good and the bad. Responding to positive feedback can oftentimes be as simple as "Thanks! That means a lot!" or some variation, but rest assured it makes a big impression.
Also note that negative tweets are often greeted with an immediate "So sorry this happened. DM us so that we can find out more information," meaning that the people running the account are about to do a much more personal, "deep dive" into that customer's experience to find out what went wrong and what they can do to make it right.
THIS is the art of closed loop feedback in action. Though social media is undoubtedly a specific example, it is this same approach that can completely change the way you interact with your customers across all areas of your business. With the right customer relationship management software, coupled with alerts that immediately escalate issues to key decision makers and stakeholders, it allows you to take something that was once passive and turn it into the active affair that customers now demand.
In the end, a closed loop feedback process does more than just make it easy to identify at-risk customers and keep your existing ones as satisfied as possible. It truly moves the customer to the front and center of your organization where they belong. By shifting your approach to feedback (and strengthening your technological spine by way of social media and other techniques), you're connecting your customers and their well being directly to both your front-line employees and the management decision makers who are steering the ship.
At that point, you generate the most important benefit of all - better outcomes on behalf of the people who you got into business to serve in the first place.
About Michael Wilson
Michael Wilson is AFFLINK'S Vice President of Marketing and Communications. He has been with the organization since 2005 and provides strategic leadership for the entire supply chain team. In his free time, Michael enjoys working with the Wounded Warrior Project, fishing, and improving his cooking skills.