Collect Customer Feedback and Foster Engagement as Customer Service Specialist Marriott Does (2024)

[Originally published in Written by Micah Solomon, an author, keynote speaker, and consultant on customer service, customer experience, and company culture.Reach Micah by email or phone, 484-343-5881, or visit his website.]

It doesn't matter what kind of business you're in; it's essential that you have a process to determine whether and why customers are satisfied (or not), delighted (or not), loyal (or not). You need tofigure out what’s inspiring some customers not only to do business with you but to refer their friends and colleagues–and whether and why you have other customers who are so dissatisfied that they'reready to jump shipat any minute.

This is where Medallia, a pioneering customer-sentiment company, can help, by offering a unified view of your customers’ feedback, whether that feedback occurs post-purchase, in-app, or via social media and third-party review sites. They can do this, if need be, across millions of customers, retaining the verbatim comments to boot; and, at that point, Medallia can help with the daunting task of reviewing both statistical and verbatim feedback, pulling insights that can help you determine what’s working at your business and what you need to fix. (This isn’t just for external customer feedback, by the way; Medallia can help you round up and parse feedback from “internal customers”–employees—as well.)

Ahigh-stakes example of this occurredinthe aftermath of Marriott’s acquisition of Starwood in 2016.With so much value on the line in terms of the need to preserve customer service levels and employee engagement, one of Marriott’s first actions in the companies’ technical integration was to deploy a unified guest feedback system that could cover all of their many subsidiary hotel marques. Known as guestVoice, this system was built with the help of Medallia, and, as Marriott told me for this article, it succeeds in “bring[ing] the voice of the customer to people at all levels of the [Marriott] organization.”

A similar approach can benefit companies of almost any size in almost any industry, and I recently asked Borge Hald, Medallia'sCEO and co-founder, to share insights that could be applicable universally for my readers.

Micah Solomon:Do you have a single piece of advice that could apply to readers regardless of the scale of their companies, that could help them slay the feedback beast and learn from customers?

Borge Hald, CEO and Co-Founder, Medallia:What you want to do, no matter how you undertake it, is to put a system in place that allows you to properly understand what your customers are thinking and what matters to them, so that you can take reliable action in response. Before you do that, you're probably sub-optimizing; you're focusing on things that aren't important and you're not getting to things that are important. The result? You're losing customers.

Once you have that data, there are many wonderful ways you can make use of it.

Solomon:Such as…? What are some novel ways of making use of customer feedback that might not immediately occur to a “green” business leader?

Hald:One often-overlooked use is to invest in energizing your employees with recommendations from customers. When customers give feedback about employees who have served them, are often extremely positive, and can be very specific. When you take this kind of feedback and expose it around your company, you will get employees to feel super-energized. It can reduce employee churn rates, make them love coming to work, and gives them energy to learn more.

Solomon:Absolutely–though inevitably, you will bring in negative feedback as well, perhaps even verypersonalnegative feedback. Are there wrong ways to use feedback, particularly with employees?

Hald:Yes—and I should give a quick warning: Some companies will use a customer feedback system in a punitive way, to penalize people for not getting the “right” scores. That is completely the wrong approach. If your employees don't see this as being about recognition and employee development that they can take with them and become better, then you're doing it wrong.

Solomon:You’re making me thinkabout the sad sack car dealers who warn you that a survey's coming and that you have to give them a “five” or they're all going to lose their jobs…

Hald:Yes—that’s absolutely terrible. This is a response to a situation where people know the survey results are being used punitively, and all that they can do in response is to self-preserve. If you end up telling [employees], "Hey listen, if you go below 4.5 then you're fired," what do you think the employee is going to think about negative feedback? Do you think that they're going to say, "Yeah, that was totally my fault”? No, they're going to try to game the system, or they’re going say, "The customer is wrong,” “you're picking the wrong customers to ask," only the angry ones answer,” and so forth.

When you’re punitive, you're not encouraging the learning, you're encouraging the score. People are goal-oriented and they will achieve the score, but in the process, you’ve killed the learning. And by the way, you made the customer experience worse! Because customers don’t like to be asked to vote a particular way on a survey.

Solomon:One final thought on making use of customer feedback?

Hald:My last bit of advice would be this: The same way you want engagement from your front lines in using feedback from consumers as energy, you really want the company leader to be engaged [with the customer feedback coming in]. There are many ways of doing this; our way is an executive-only mobile app that allows a select number of quotes from customers to get to them on a daily basis. It allows them then to give recognition to people in their organization for the work being done.

Solomon:This sounds like that great story in the[New York]Timeslast year about how the White House staff chooses 10 letters a day from constituents for Obama to read.

Hald:It's funny you'd say that because that's the model for our app. We don’t do it by hand like the White House; rather, we have algorithms that are picking the inputs based on what people find to be interesting.

Solomon:You have an "interestingness algorithm"?

Hald:We do!

Solomon:Are these only happy letters that the algorithm selects for the CEO to read?

Hald:No, they can be negative, too. My philosophy is that you've got to give your executive a real picture. It can't be biased. With our system, you basically get a selection of representative quotes, and in response you have the ability to do two things [within the functionality provided by the Medallia system]: You can send recognition for the awesome job the employee has done, or you can send a message [delegating that] "I need to have something done about this." But the essential point is that the executive gets customer stories–and, by the way, executives love to tell stories about customers; they bring them up in company meetings, they share them with sales prospects, they share them with press… so to have a constant stream of them, based on a 30-second investment daily is really something.

Micah Solomonis an author,consultant,speakeron customer service, customer experience, culture, innovation, hospitality, 484-343-5881

Collect Customer Feedback and Foster Engagement as Customer Service Specialist Marriott Does (2024)


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