4 reasons why you need a customer feedback process

All but the most backward-looking IT teams have accepted that they’re a service provider, not a guardian of technology whose job is to stop pesky users from breaking their toys. Internal support teams now see their colleagues as customers and ITIL has been instrumental in this. After all, you can’t have a service without customers, right?

ITIL is a process-oriented framework and ITIL-based initiatives revolve around the design of processes and implementation of those processes within an ITSM tool. Ironically, given ITIL is a service management framework, the resulting culture of service delivery teams is often process-centric rather than customer-centric. We’ve got service delivery process and service delivery tools nailed. But a service delivery culture. Not so much.

culture triangle

But there’s a way to redress the balance.  With a good customer feedback process. Here are four reasons why having one is more important than ever:

1. Service improvement

Customer feedback helps you improve your products and services. By asking customers what is important to them, and by looking for themes in that feedback, you can identify what service improvement initiatives to undertake, and which will have the biggest impact on service quality. Conversely, customer feedback can save you from wasting improvement resources in the wrong area. And although this may sound counter-intuitive, providing better service actually costs less.

“We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve” – Bill Gates

2. Customer-centric culture

Customer feedback can be used to foster a customer-centric culture. It can be used to provide evidence of desireable, customer-focused behaviours and evidence of less desireable behaviours. And feedback that comes from the customer is often easier to accept than when it comes from a colleague. The recipient of the feedback knows the feedback is genuine and that there’s no hidden agenda. Feedback can also be used as the basis for reward and recognition initiatives. And when feedback is frequent and timely it can be used in regular coaching sessions, reducing the reliance on the dreaded annual performance review.

“The Ritz-Carlton’s ‘wow,’ if you would, or the mystique of our organization, comes hands down from two places: our culture and our people” – Joe Quitoni, Corporate Director, Culture Transformation at The Ritz-Carlton.

3. Measuring satisfaction

Too often, the success or otherwise of IT support is measured via time-based Service Level Agreements. And those measures are used to infer customer satisfaction – green traffic lights mean the customer must be satisfied. But many factors, not just time, are used in the assessment of service quality which in turn drives customer satisfaction. At the end of the day, quality is all about the perceptions of customers, not objective measures of response and resolution times. Asking customers how satisfied they are with the support they are getting enables customer perceptions to be converted into a metric. When you have a measure of customer satisfaction in place this can be used to determine the success of changes and improvement initiatives, compare support team performance, and identify trends in customer satisfaction.

“Only customers judge quality. All other judgements are essentially irrelevant” – Valarie Zeithaml, author Delivering Quality Service.

4. Customer relationship

By asking for their feedback (and acting on it), you can show customers that their opinions matter, making them feel valued and strengthening your relationship. Not providing a channel for feedback can make customers feel even more frustrated (and consume management time dealing with the resulting informal complaints and escalations).  And when it comes to IT support, capturing feedback about negative service experiences enables Team Leads to respond quickly, acknowledge the issue and attempt to recover the situation. Good service recovery can lead to a customer being more loyal than they would have been if there hadn’t been an issue in the first place.

When you have a strong relationship with your customers, they are less likely to bypass you, more likely to forgive your mistakes, and more likely to remain loyal. Which in the case of an internal IT team should translate into less budget pressure and outsourcing threats.

Let’s take most of the money we would’ve spent on paid advertising and paid marketing and instead of spending it on that invest it in the customer experience/customer service and then let our customers do the marketing for us through word of mouth – Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos

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