A customer feedback process has many parts. Operating it should be efficient, repeatable and follow best practices too. But what about speed? How important is it that your customer feedback is fast? How do you achieve instant feedback, and what are the benefits of doing so?

What is instant feedback?

Instant feedback is where customer feedback is collected and can be acted upon without delay. Our definition relates to all aspects of the customer feedback process:

  • Asking for feedback the instant the customer may be likely to form or change their opinion.
  • Enabling the collection of customer feedback to be completed in the shortest possible time.
  • Categorizing received customer feedback in real time using automation.
  • Acting on specific kinds of customer feedback appropriately with minimal delay.
  • Processing and reporting customer feedback instantly for immediate analysis.
  • Closing the loop with customer feedback respondents within a defined period.

Remember that much the same model holds true for employee feedback too; something we focus on later.

We’ll return to each of these components in turn to describe how organizations can optimize customer feedback speed and achieve instant feedback.

Why is speed so important in gathering feedback?

Customer feedback (and employee feedback) is like catching fish. You want to catch as many as possible, and not only the ones that are easy to catch. But just as important as volume and variety is ‘freshness’. Like fish, unfresh customer feedback is of limited value.

Fresh customer feedback is reliable, relevant and actionable – the three essential characteristics of good business data. 

Alas, there is no equivalent way of refrigerating customer feedback. Speed is therefore incredibly important. And that applies to the entire scope of the customer feedback process. 

What are the benefits of instant feedback?

Fresh customer feedback beats stale customer feedback. But freshness is a spectrum, and the ultimate objective needs to be achieving as fresh and as instant customer feedback as possible. Here’s 6 reasons why:

Instant feedback stops customer churn in its tracks

Being quick out the blocks on customer feedback will uncover customers who could churn at any moment. If they’ve just finished a service interaction they didn’t like, you’ll need to be on the spot to find out there and then. Not only that, if you’re able to act fast to address the issue – congratulations, you just prevented a customer from churning.

Instant feedback increases trust and loyalty

Trust is a precious commodity that is earned and not given. Inspiring trust is possible when you deliver on your promises and create a reputation for responsiveness. Instant feedback supports this by showing customers with problems that you’re listening. Not only that, but you’re taking immediate action to resolve their issues. Trust adds up to customer retention and loyalty, which are very valuable from a revenue perspective.

Instant feedback maximizes the number of customers you can divert from pain

If you can use customer feedback to spot trending problems, you can be in position to save other customers from the same fate. Some situations demand fast action to stop the rot setting in. The faster you act, the fewer individual customer issues you have to repair.

Instant feedback underpins continuous customer relevance

How relevant are you to customer expectations and market norms? Not yesterday’s, but today’s? For organizations that deliver continuous service (like MSPs, for example) in circular business models (e.g. subscription based), relevance is extremely important. Instant feedback keeps you in tune with fast-moving changes that ensure you aren’t left behind by more ‘relevant’ competitors.

Instant feedback encourages more customer engagement

Customer feedback is a source of valuable business intelligence you don’t ever want to dry up. The great thing about instant feedback is that it encourages customers to keep on providing it! This is because they can see that the feedback they provide isn’t just going down a black hole – it’s being acknowledge and acted on in visible ways. Sometimes customers perceive that organizations don’t do anything with feedback when, in truth, they are but only after having sat on it for too long. Increasing the pace of the customer feedback process mitigates this risk and increases customer engagement more widely too.

Instant feedback narrows the ‘fail fast’ window of jeopardy

‘Fail fast’ is the business culture that breeds rapid innovation. It’s based on the principle of being prepared to fail with new ideas and initiatives, and learn from them in order to deliver a better product or service. Put another way, it’s being prepared to experiment on customers with the objective of better meeting their needs. The downside is that ‘failures’ can be damaging. And so having an instant feedback process is critical to being able to finetune innovation.

How do you measure the speed of customer feedback?

The speed of the customer feedback process can be measured, but this is only worthwhile when there are objectives behind it. There is little purpose to measurement for measurement’s sake. Suitable objectives would be:

  • Accelerating customer feedback speed from an initial baseline.
  • Optimizing the speed of specific parts of the customer feedback process.
  • Correlating feedback speed with other measurements such as customer churn, NPS and CSAT to determine the impact of a faster customer feedback process.
  • Ensuring feedback speed is not at the expense of data accuracy, appropriate responses, compliance requirements, etc.

A total elapsed duration of customer feedback process can be determined by aggregating the individual components. However, this is only applicable within the bounds of a unique organization – the measure has no comparative value unless with other very similar organizations.

A far better approach is to look at how long each step in the process takes and examine ways at eliminating unnecessary delay.

Step 1: Asking for feedback

This concerns finding opportunities to ask for feedback that immediately follows an interaction. For example, asking for feedback about a help desk interaction immediately following the closure of the help desk ticket. Latency can be minimized by having the ticket closure notification email triggered by the ticket closure and embedding a short 1-question survey into that email. We look at the relationship between speed and context in a later section of this guide.

Step 2: Collecting feedback

Some feedback mechanisms take longer and demand more effort from customers than others. Short surveys containing a single question take least effort, are fastest to complete and are more likely to be responded to. The speed in which customers can be expected to deliver their feedback can be measured and optimized by selecting an appropriate format and delivery mechanism.

Step 3: Categorizing feedback

Feedback data should be categorized using automation. The most obvious approach is to compose survey questions with defined response options. These can be easily counted and sorted as applicable. This does not have to remove the facility for customers to leave richer, qualitative feedback – this should be supported as an optional extra so as not to slow down the process unnecessarily. Such feedback is very valuable and may need to be categorized manually, even if keyword or language (i.e. sentiment) diagnostics are also applied automatically.

Some metrics, such as Net Promoter Score®, are based on categorizing respondents according to their range of responses on a numbered scale. This makes data categorization extremely fast. 

Step 4: Actioning feedback

Knowing what you’re going to do about certain types of feedback before it arrives is critical to speed. The alternative is engaging in a thought process that may then require secondary signoff before being actioned. All feedback deserves an acknowledgement of thanks, and most feedback can be dealt with in preset ways according to defined criteria. This in turn can include maximum time intervals if escalations or human intervention are needed. For example, committing to personally contacting all customers giving very poor feedback within 1 hour. We examine this in more detail in a later section of this guide.

Step 5: Processing and reporting feedback data

Again, much of this can be automated by applying data visualization to raw information. Customer Thermometer has a live dashboard that administrators and managers can customize to their own set of reports and charts. A large group of web widgets is also available to publish internally or externally, providing a real-time view on a range of metrics. These capabilities ensure that there is virtually no delay to achieving visibility of trending data to make decisions from. And that only deeper, and highly specific analysis would consume more time – using the initial analysis already provided as the advance starting point.

Step 6: Closing the loop with feedback respondents

The final step of the process concerns closing the loop with respondents that have provided feedback. This is more than performing an initial action, as in step 4, but bringing things to a satisfactory conclusion. The challenge isn’t ‘opening the loop’ but in closing each loop without an acceptable time period. Step 6 inevitably takes the longest and is best supported by a process that tracks, alerts and chases the individuals responsible for closing the loop until they do so.

What role does context play in gathering instant feedback?

As we’ve established so far, asking for feedback ‘in the moment’ is a key objective in maximizing the speed of customer feedback. By presenting customers with a feedback survey question in the context of a very recent interaction you get:

  • An optimized response rate because the email is expected and relevant to the customer’s live experience
  • A hot take on exactly what they’re thinking
  • More honest feedback
  • More accurate feedback
  • Less risk of negative bias in your feedback results
  • Feedback that you can tag to individuals within your business e.g. the agent the customer dealt with.

Instead of sending an email survey separately, embedding the question into an existing communication makes it faster and far more likely to elicit a response.

More examples of how and when to embed feedback requests include:

  • Asking how was the product delivery in the courier email notification 
  • Asking how was your stay in the hotel check-out email confirmation 
  • Asking were you satisfied we resolved your query in the help desk ticket closure alert.

Planning ahead makes feedback response faster and more effective

Before feedback collection begins in earnest, you need to orchestrate a slick back-end process for knowing what to do when feedback arrives. Specifically, identifying what the feedback says or means and responding accordingly. 

Planning suitable actions in advance can cover most of the kinds of feedback you’re likely to receive. This saves time and optimizes the result, both in terms of addressing individual customer issues and making the broader improvements that benefit everybody.  

Instant feedback response planning

Get a team together and assign responsibilities. Devise a rota for who is going to read qualitative feedback at given times. Work out what manager escalations are necessary for what kinds of eventualities. 

Then work out what your responses are going to be according to different categorizations of feedback response. For example, customers that gave a “promoter” score on their NPS rating. Or who provided a “very dissatisfied” response to a CSAT question. It will depend on the kinds of questions and surveys you are putting out there. Set an SLA (e.g. 1 hour) for the maximum time you will allow before a response is issued in relation to a particular kind of feedback.

Recognize that it’s worthwhile acknowledging all feedback you receive with thanks and a brief explanation of how you’re using feedback to improve your service. Certain types of feedback – the most positive and most negative – will require more than that.

Planning how to deal with negative feedback

First, define what constitutes negative feedback in advance. You don’t want to waste time having to decide later. This is because responding to negative feedback quickly can be decisive in avoiding customer churn. It can also be the catalyst for what is known as the service recovery paradox

The service recovery paradox is the net gain in loyalty and satisfaction that results from a customer first suffering a service failure and then having it resolved. In fact, customers frequently end up being happier and more loyal after a problem that hurt them but you subsequently fixed, than if the problem never occurred. But achieving it rests on resolving the issue quickly.

However you execute your response to negative feedback, ensure that you:

  • Apologize and take responsibility
  • Ask for more information about what went wrong (it may also be necessary to assign a team member to investigate this in parallel)
  • State your intention to resolve the matter quickly and effectively.

You can download this customer feedback response planner and fill it in. 

Planning how to deal with positive feedback

Responding to positive feedback is less time critical than for negative feedback. It’s still worth doing in order to optimize the result. However, whereas addressing negative feedback quickly can impact customer churn, a fast response to positive feedback is all upside. 

Essentially, the opportunity presented by responding to positive feedback is to learn about what you’re doing so well in order to do more of it for other customers. Also, to determine whether the individual customer is sufficiently positive to engage in promotional activities.

In some instances, speed can be very important. For example, a newly opened restaurant which hasn’t accumulated many Google reviews yet. Asking customers as quickly as possible if they had a good meal/experience, and then following up the happiest ones to encourage them to leave a review, would be a very important tactic. People are less likely to leave reviews days or weeks after an experience when memories have faded and they are left to question whether in fact the experience was all that great.  

3 excellent examples of instant customer feedback

An instant feedback response can dramatically improve the satisfaction and loyalty of individual customers and feed into service and product quality improvements that benefit everyone. For example:

  • When part of the digital customer journey is slow or faulty 
    • Say there are digital processes that usually work like clockwork but which suddenly start failing customers, making them wait longer and causing annoyance. A sensitive and well-targeted customer feedback process will detect this immediately. And if you act fast you can ease the blockage and avoid customers leaving or bad-mouthing you.
  • When a customer-facing employee is having a personal crisis
    • We all want staff to bring their best selves to work each day, right? But sometimes they don’t and their personal issues can manifest themselves in impatience, rudeness or anger towards customers. Customer feedback that you can tag to individual agent performance should show up patterns very quickly. It’s then a case of taking that individual offline immediately to avert more harm and give them the support they need. 
  • When there’s a localized issue at a branch, office or store
    • A big organization with 500 locations needs to know how customers are feeling at all of them. Take a hotel chain, for example. All the high-level customer feedback metrics may be showing good ratings overall, except at one hotel in particular where things are going badly wrong. Again this is about speed of detection and speed of action. 

Instant employee feedback

Earlier we touched on the applicability of speed and real-time processes in employee feedback, not just customer feedback. The benefits are almost identical, with freshness of feedback data being key:

  •  Instant feedback prevents employee churn 
    • Problems, obstacles, issues with workplace stress or colleague conflicts can escalate quickly. And once an employee decides they want to leave, the task of bringing them back into the fold is incredibly difficult. Fast feedback gives employers the opportunity to address employee churn before it happens
  • Instant feedback increases employee trust and loyalty
    • Listening, being seen to listen, and acting to alleviate problems all inspire employee trust and confidence – especially so when done immediately rather than eventually. It also makes staff more likely to get involved in their work, engaged in opportunities and contributing to shared objectives.
  • Instant feedback makes you more relevant to employees, their expectations and their goals. 
    • We’ve seen how quickly things can change for employees with issues such as homeworking. Having your finger on the pulse of employee sentiment – individually and across the whole team – makes you more personally relevant to them, their values and their career aspirations.  

Employee pulse surveys

A common mechanism for instant employee feedback is the pulse survey, so called because of its frequent and rhythmic cadence.

Pulse surveys enable organizations to ‘check-in’ with staff to obtain feedback on all kinds of issues. They usually feature a much shorter set of questions than other kinds of employee surveys – often just a single question. This makes them the most engaging form of employee survey with the highest response rates. Pulse surveys are effective because of their speed and simplicity, which in turn makes it easy to action fast changes from.

Using pulse surveys gives organizations:

  • Rapid feedback on strategic initiatives and operational effectiveness
  • Instant insights into live and trending employee wellbeing and related drivers
  • Early identification of nascent staff issues

Start Getting Instant Customer Feedback Today

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