I think we would all agree – customer surveys are everywhere. Despite such prolific use of surveys as a central component of customer experience programs, many B2B companies are failing to maximize their return on investment. This happens because few capitalize on the feedback in such a way that it resonates with customers and enhances their experience over time. I often call this where the rubber meets the road in customer experience programs.
Organizations are often so focused on key performance indicators like Net Promoter Score, C-SAT, or Customer Effort Score that they tend to overlook the feedback gathered and the tremendous value that is created when the organization properly closes the loop.
Why is closing the loop important?
Following up with customers after they have taken the time to share feedback (commonly known as “closing the loop”) is one of the most critical determinants of a successful customer experience (CX) program. For customer-centric organizations, closing the loop with their customers is arguably just as important as collecting the scores in the first place.
The follow-up process conveys an important message to customers that their feedback was heard, and the company is committed to acting. Above all, rigorous closed loop efforts can often strengthen customer loyalty and convert frustrated customers into passionate fans.
The benefit of involving Customer Success in the closed loop process
Alone, those benefits provide significant justification for closing the loop. But another valuable outcome is the learning experiences that broaden the professional development within the Customer Success (CS) team.
Designing a closed-loop training process that enables the CS team to prepare, conduct, and document the closed loop follow-up to a customer feedback survey will ultimately lead to the team acquiring better emotional intelligence traits.
Importantly, this training and the conversations your CS team will have with customers will put them in a position to be empathetic, to listen, to want to help, to communicate better – these are all much-needed skills in the CS role.
Closing the Feedback Loop: Five Tenets to Instill Upon Your Customer Success Team
When designing your closed loop policies special attention should be placed on these five essential tenets to help ensure your CS team is ready to conduct their closed-loop follow-up with customers:
1. Ensure the Customer Success team has an objective mindset
Remaining open-minded and utilizing active listening when closing the feedback loop with customers can be challenging, especially when your CS team member is faced with constructive feedback. This comes up all too often in feedback surveys, where team members want to write off what someone said because of their known demeanor, or some event that occurred in the past.
Closing the loop is not about seeking blame. Rather, it’s a time to identify opportunities to improve. A great teaching example for your team is to have them learn a Latin phrase: post hoc ergo propter hoc, which translates to “after, therefore because of it.” It means one thing follows the other, therefore it was caused by the other. But it is not always true, in fact, it is hardly ever true.
Coaching your CS team to approach these conversations with an open mind will go far in strengthening the closed loop process, but also help instill the customer-centric themes within the CS team, and allow them to build stronger relationships with their customers.
2. Devise your Customer Success team’s closed-loop outreach strategy accordingly
When contacting customers to close the loop, it’s generally advised to first email the customer to schedule a call (or in-person meeting when possible) and note that the focus of the discussion will be to expand on their survey feedback. It conveys the appropriate sense of importance to the conversation and gives the contact time to organize their thoughts or speak with their team.
Crafting scripts for the CS team to follow can be helpful to lay the groundwork for a consistent and thorough approach to the closed loop follow-up. These scripts should focus on the type of feedback provided, whereby the CS team can initiate the conversation with a straightforward and sincere approach and avoid beginning the conversation in a defensive way.
Each script should also encourage candid discussion with customers while seeking to dig deeper into the “why” behind the survey feedback. Healthy discussions should spotlight issues that can be addressed in the short term. If a shorter-term fix is not possible, CS team members should be trained on not committing to a timeframe or making promises, but instead commit to either:
1) fix the problem,
2) get back to them with additional information, or
3) lay out a plan for escalation.
The most important thing to impart on the team is that they are conducting additional outreach, not looking to repeat what was already shared by the customers in their survey feedback. The goal is to dig deeper to get at the root of the feedback customer provided.
3. Provide your CS Team with a conversational framework
One of the ways to help train the team for closing the loop is to focus on the conversational tone and methods for interviewing customers based on their survey feedback. Again, active listening is critical. Coach your CS team to concentrate on what is being said rather than just hearing that the person is upset. Encourage them to listen, remember, and respond back to ensure they understand what is being said.
Finally, express to the CS team that these conversations are the organization’s line of sight into where bottlenecks or simple impediments can occur for customers. Identifying these occurrences and triggers will allow for the CS team and others in the organization to be watchful for them and either avoid them or be proactive and address them at the time they occur.
4. Have your Customer Success team reach out to customers who did not respond to the survey
Many CS teams are already running lean. But, as resources permit, have your team reach out to customer contacts who did not provide feedback to the survey as their silence could indicate they are apathetic or considering alternative options.
Outreach to this group should be different than your other closed-loop process. Therefore, involve your CS team on how best to tailor the language of the outreach as they know their customers better than anyone. Above all, utilize language that the team agrees would work best on an individual customer basis, as opposed to a general closed-loop outreach email to all the individuals who did not provide their feedback.
Some research suggests a higher risk of defection among non-responders so connecting with them could prove valuable. If your customer feedback program has a low response rate, by not reaching out to these customers your organization could be ignoring half or more of your accounts, which could be opening the door for your competitors to steal their business.
5. Have the Customer Success team document the feedback they receive during the closed loop process
Documenting the conversation, summarizing the lessons learned, outlining any follow-up actions, and communicating back to customers the actions gleaned is critical to the success of any closed loop program. Therefore, the CS team member should be documenting both positive and negative feedback, no matter how small.
In particular, document comments that share the overall impression about the organization, the reasons for the customer’s scores, the value they receive, results achieved, and positive and negative experiences they’ve had over the last 6 to 12 months. Additional areas to focus on would be impressions shared about sales, the CS team, support teams, and communications channels. From this summary, team members should develop (if possible) one or two action items and the team members within your organization that would be necessary to complete the listed items.
Sharing Insights After Closing the Loop
The closed-loop process should be shared amongst the whole CS team in a collaborative process. Shared stories can help to expand industry knowledge and problem-solving skills across the entire team. Also, it will sharpen your team’s ability to identify red flags or spot improvement opportunities, before reading it on the next survey.
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