Making Customer Feedback Work for You

As customers, we’ve all received requests for feedback. Sometimes we really do intend to fill in that survey or leave that review. But then life happens – meaning one more lost opportunity for the organization in question. So how do you keep from losing potential feedback from your own customers? And how do you then make sure the feedback actually translates into a new and better business? Follow the feedback loop!


Better capture, assess and learn from customers’ experiences to maximize what works and minimize what doesn’t.

What is Making Customer Feedback Work for You?

The “feedback loop” (in full, the A.C.A.F. Customer Feedback Loop) is a way to turn a mass of customer data – much of it subjective, much of it in different formats – into a defined improvement workflow your organization can use to better itself. Essentially, you’re turning your customer base into a focus group. You do this by following four steps: Ask, Categorize, Act, and Follow-up – A.C.A.F., for short. Each step has a variety of approaches, with some working better for particular organizations than others. The important thing is not how to navigate each stage (different solutions will be “best” for different organizations) but to make sure you have a plan for all the stages. Miss one and you break the chain, but act on all four and you are bound for better customer relations – and more repeat business.

How does Making Customer Feedback Work for You improve employee engagement and culture?

The feedback loop is helpful for employees primarily because it reassures them that they – or their colleagues, their product or the organization as a whole – are not inadvertently working against their own best interests. Employees don’t want to feel they are upsetting customers, knowingly or unknowingly. And if employees see that customer feedback is acted upon by the organization, they will feel they work for a company that cares about its impact. Employees with higher workplace satisfaction give better service and bring better energy and ideas to the table, in all kinds of ways. So listen to your customers, and your employees will notice – and be better employees for it.

What are the benefits?

Instituting the feedback loop helps to: sooth, and retain, dissatisfied customers; further impress, and secure, satisfied customers; boost employee engagement; and bring more business, whether repeat customers or new ones via word of mouth.

How do you conduct Making Customer Feedback Work for You in the workplace?

First, someone – or maybe a group of people, depending on the size of your organization – needs to be made “feedback czar,” put in charge of instituting the feedback loop. This should be seen as a significant role, not just some extra responsibilities to squeeze in on Friday afternoon. This person is a liaison between customers and employees and needs to be given the time and resources to facilitate (possibly major!) company changes. Just make sure employees know that this is being done to make everyone’s life easier, not to criticize the job they’re already doing!


Learning to Institute a Feedback Loop

  1. “Ask,” involves just that – getting customers to review your organization. Experiment to see what has the best response rate (email, phone survey, options for rating you at end of each transaction, etc.). Of course, sometimes you don’t have to ask: unprompted comments often come, usually at the end of interactions. Such feedback is likely to be the most heartfelt and therefore most useful, so employees need to know how to record that feedback and pass it along to the “feedback czar.” If it’s not captured, it’s useless – and bound to recur. Remember that people are more likely to go out of their way to leave negative feedback. That hurts, but it lets you patch up weaknesses – and, in the final step of the loop, redeem your relationship with a disappointed customer. But capturing reactions to positive experiences is helpful too. Also be alert to complaints made in public but not to you – the Internet and social media allow you to monitor frustrations and perhaps invite participants to speak to you directly.

  2. “Categorize,” involves developing “buckets” to drop your feedback into. This isn’t “good,” “bad,” and “neutral” but rather topic areas. Customer service gets its own category; so does pricing. A product gets its own category – or several categories, if there are multiple aspects to discuss (for physical products, subcategories could include durability, eco-friendliness, feature requests, sizing complaints, etc.). This is the first step toward transforming the mass of feedback into something your organization can work with. You need to see how many people are saying what, about what aspect of your organization, and how strongly they’re saying it – how passionate they are about wanting or not wanting change in that area.

  3. “Act,” the “feedback czar” shares feedback with those who can decide what best to do about it. Do so on a timeline most helpful for them – teams don’t want complaints blasted at them when they’re already on deadline for something else. Build space into the schedule to convey feedback to those it affects, for them to process it and for follow-ups on how next steps are being implemented. If organizational change feels glacial, remember it costs 5–25 times more to attract new customers than make existing ones happy, so it makes sense to ensure you’re not bleeding money via a high customer turnover. “Act” lets you plug those gaps.

  4. “Follow-up,” is one most organizations miss – but it’s just as important as the rest. One UK study showed 43% of customers don’t leave feedback because they don’t feel the organization cares; meanwhile, so-called “highly engaged” customers buy 90% more often and spend 60% more per transaction. So reach back out and let customers know their responses are being looked at – and, as soon as possible, what actions have been made as a result. You earn customers’ loyalty by being loyal to them too– and staying in touch shows you see a relationship at work.

Reference Material

Customer Feedback Strategy: The Only Guide You'll Ever Need

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