No substitute to real-time meaningful feedback

This article originally appeared on Livemint.com.

If your inbox is like ours, it’s probably full of customer surveys—from airlines, hotels, online merchants, etc. Chances are you will never fill them out, and with good reason. They typically ask for a few minutes of your time but end up taking 15 to 20 minutes. Worse, you never get an acknowledgment beyond an automated thank you. You have no way of knowing whether the company actually read your survey, thought about the issues you raised and took action. Where’s the incentive to invest your time?

Contrast that all-too-typical experience with one that Raj had a while ago. As he was leaving a store of a leading Indian retailer without making a purchase, he was asked to fill out a survey on a tablet. The survey had just a few questions, including the ultimate one: Based on this experience, how likely would you be to recommend us to a friend or family? Raj keyed in the score he felt the company deserved at the time—five out of a possible 10.

The next day, Raj got a call from the retailer’s dedicated customer feedback team. The executive asked if he would spare a few minutes to discuss his feedback. Raj explained that he was looking for a specific blazer in size 44, but his size was not in stock at the store. He also said that the store staff searched for the blazer in other stores in the city, but couldn’t find a suitable one. The executive took down a few more details and promised that she would convey this to her merchandising team. Given the real-time nature of the communication between the customer feedback team and the merchandising team, the blazer was located in another city within 24 hours, and requisitioned. The team then updated the store manager, who let Raj know that the blazer would be with the store in two days and he could either pick it up at his convenience or have it shipped to him for free.

Look closely at what happened here. Raj’s response to the customer survey didn’t disappear into a black hole. Instead, an executive called back, understood his needs and addressed them quickly. Crucially, the retailer closed the loop, almost as if it was a reflex built into the organization. Closing the loop turned Raj into a far more satisfied customer and made him feel that the feedback was worth his time. Globally, leading companies such as Apple Inc. and Charles Schwab Corp. have built in velocity to contact every customer who gives them a negative rating or registers a complaint—within 24 hours. The prompt response communicates the message that the firm really does care about the customer.

Read more at Livemint.com