How to Hold Operating Areas Accountable for Incoming Feedback

Implementing customer listening accountability is prescribed often, but very few do it well. Most don’t make it a part of a system of tracking and management. You’ll need someone to shepherd this through. This person will need to catalogue the customer feedback you receive, understand how it clusters into areas of the customer experience, and then translate those elements to the operational areas that are accountable.

Every piece of incoming feedback has to have an operating area that will be held accountable for reducing, eliminating, or justifying (and I mean really justifying) that piece of customer frustration. This is a most critical part of the work—and the part that companies fail to do.

Without the clarity of which feedback goes to what area, you’ve just collected more data to add to the piles you already have. And without agreement and commitment to own the feedback they get, you won’t get traction or change. Don’t short-change yourself on the amount of time or dedication it will take to get through this stage. People will be likely to hand-wave it away with the “of course we will” comment. But I’ve found that you need to put down on paper exactly the type of feedback that they will be receiving, in exactly the format, showing exactly the volume. The commitment needs to be made with full disclosure, and executives need to be present when the commitment is made. Finally, leaders need to know how they are going to be held accountable for their progress in the areas brought forth.

After you’ve done the legwork on defining the arena of customer feedback, you will need technology support to create a scalable approach and solution. This can be as simple as putting a prompter with back-end screens on your main Web page for collecting the data. The complexity will be dependent on the cleanliness and synergy among your databases. You’ll need to grapple with the basics: classification of customers, nightly processing to merge the data, and ensuring that the data fields talk to one another, for example. From a resource standpoint, I’ve never seen this work successfully as an add-on job to an already busy docket of work. My recommendation is to make this a focused project for a minimum of six months to do the research and work to get it up and running.

Here are the major action items:

1. Organize the categories of incoming customer information. I have seen customer feedback reports with page after page of verbatim comments on a menagerie of subjects. While these might engender some gasps about the way customers feel about your company, they’re not going to push anybody to make changes to their operation.

Customer feedback has to be classified into something that is actionable.

2. Track the volume and trend of comments and issues, and separate them into operational areas. There are many tools available that will enable the automation of this information into action reports and dashboards for you. Separating this feedback helps identify simple targets to take action on (just like the sales force).

For example, tracking and trending customer comments indicating what they don’t like about your return policy is quantifiable, understood, and actionable, and it can be assigned operational accountability.

3. Accountability can be assigned immediately for the resolution of issues with high feedback counts. Assign the categories directly to operational areas, and send them information about what’s broken.

4. Drive accountability metrics and compensation around the reduction and resolution of issues.  Create public accountability forums  for recording and reporting. Formalizing monthly reviews where the visual depiction of this stuff is posted is truly powerful.

5. Make reliability performance part of the ongoing leadership talk track.


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