The frontline talks to your customers every day. On a regular basis, sit yourself down and ask them to identify critical issues.
Do more than listen, write down the issues and assign someone to take care of the major ones. Then personally reach out to customers to understand – at a greater level of granularity – what is happening, so you know what to do about it and fix the issue.
This is simple, it works, and it puts your skin in the game. When you let your company and customers know of your direct understanding and involvement in resolving issues, it will have an impact. Set the standard and be an example employees will emulate.
Beyond the conversations you have with the frontline, give them some sort of tool to track and trend issues. By doing this, you have an immediate “hand on the throttle” management device for steering your company.
As you track this feedback month after month (and year after year), the trends will help you understand your customers’ needs in more detail. Most importantly, this type of discipline will let you take “real time” action on resolving issues that may be sending customers away.
I know that everyone wants to survey their customers – but really – we’ve exhausted our customers with the mass that goes out with no apparent action that follows. If you must survey to get that statistical data we all crave, you will find that it validates what you will have already found out by trending and tracking customer complaints and issues. In fact, if your survey is telling you new things you don’t know – you’re too distant from your customers – and in a most precarious position in your relationships with them.