Stop Listening and Start Acting on Customer Feedback


Sure, listening to customers is important. Too much of it can be counterproductive, though.

Surveys, especially, will ultimately bury you with customer malcontent and your own frustrated inaction. Should we ignore customers and what their needs are? Of course not. However, we do spend an awful lot of time collecting and measuring sentiment — and not nearly enough time engaging with customers in more impactful ways.

Hindsight of a Chief Customer Officer

In my many years as a chief customer officer, I wish I had put less emphasis on perfect surveys and impressive reporting and spent more time working on better account management, more productive customer engagement and demonstrable customer outcomes.

The team did great work on all of these things, but we focused first and foremost on data collection, analysis and chronicling the customer experience. The goal was to gently guide the organization toward better customer engagement and realization of value through revealing customer perspectives. Sometimes those perspectives were compelling, and sometimes they just weren’t. The power, we thought, was in dispassionately measuring and analyzing everything we could observe, all the time. While this approach was great on paper, it can be taken too far — and that happens before you know it.

Related Article: Chief Customer Officers: 6 Principles to Reach Maximum Impact

Don’t Be a Chief Scorekeeper

There is a steep price to be paid for centering the office of the chief customer officer around the role of chief scorekeeper. Measurement for its own sake will yield organizational indecision and passivity. Reports are not outcomes. Engagement, business results and transformational changes are.

So, stop asking your customers what they think. In most cases, you already have the answers. And your customers know that you know. Fatigue, frustration and the realization that answering the same questions repeatedly yields diminishing returns and then counter-productivity.

Accept for a moment that investing in customer outcomes is the single most important thing you can do for your own business. The question you should then ask is, exactly what investment will create the best return? Customer feedback is certainly a means to that end, but once you have even some of the answers, get on with the things that are most meaningful. And do that with a manifest sense of immediacy.

I accept that knowing the answers and convincing the rest of your company are two different achievements. There is no substitute for telling the right stories, but the best stories are about what you have materially accomplished and how that creates real value — for your customers and for your company.



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