Everyone who provides service and support strives to give the best experience possible. To ensure that we are hitting the mark, we need to implement some way of measuring our success in this area. This involves some level of end-user feedback. The trick is to balance the right amount of input from users, enough communication with those users to ensure that we are listening, and lasting improvements that keep the users as satisfied as possible.
How do we manage this balancing act? You need to build out a feedback strategy. The old saying goes, the more you put into it, the more you get out of it. So, here are a few points on what to do and how I used them to help you get going in the right direction.
Understand Your “Why”
Figuring out what you expect to gain from this initiative will allow you to ask the right questions, which will give the information to make lasting improvements. In some cases, you might be starting from scratch. So, if you don’t fully understand the business needs, you might want to start by getting the information from them directly rather than having a survey. A quick coffee chat can pay big dividends in the long haul when getting to know your business.
If you don’t fully understand the business needs, you might want to start by getting the information from users directly.
What I Did
In the initial steps of looking at the strategy, I went to the people responsible for the service delivery and asked them what they thought were the top three things that they did really well as it related to service delivery and the top three things that they thought needed some work. I also asked them to provide a report that showed the volume of work that was generated by department to get a sense of who their user base was. The second component was to then go to the users based on the report that the providers gave me to ask them the top tree things that the providers did well and not so well.
With this information together, I was able to make a quick assessment of what was working and what was not. Interestingly the lists were pretty well matched up. It turned out that while the provider group was able to fulfill requests and resolve incidents reasonably quickly, they weren’t particularly good at two things:
- The service provider wasn’t good at following up with the users when there were delays in the items that were sent to the service provider.
- The users felt that they had to escalate more issues than they should and that more self-serve items and information would be beneficial to them.
Communicate the Program
We have all seen cases where the communication around the feedback program was great in the beginning but then started to fall off as time went on. When this happens, you will also see a corollary between communication and the feedback you receive. Remember, people want to contribute. So, ensure the audience is aware of how they can do that. The trick here is to create a balance on information you are sharing and the ability the business has to consume it. Again, understanding the business goes a long way to making this component successful. So, if your business wants to go to a website to pull information across rather than getting emailed every week, then that should be taken into consideration.
What I Did
In the movie Jerry Maguire, the title character asks his client to, “Help me help you.”
It is important to communicate with the organization’s user base about the establishment and intent of the feedback program, which would include user feedback sessions and surveys. We wanted them to know that the more detailed information they provided, the better we could help make lasting improvements. I set up a channel to manage this through an existing and well-used application in the enterprise. The intent was not only to gather the feedback, but to regularly provide the results of the feedback, the actions that were underway to address the top items as a result of the feedback, and have a channel open for those to provide further information on the items that we were working on. I wanted to enable as much two-way communication as I could.
Understand the Channels for Feedback
As mentioned above, be open to finding out how your audience wants to communicate with you on feedback. There are many ways to communicate (social media, tools, phone, email, etc.). So make sure that you manage the channels effectively. It could be very easy for us to assume that this would best be done via email or directly from an application. However, making assumptions on this is counter-intuitive to the feedback process in the first place.
What I Did
I had an established group of business users whom we were gathering feedback from. We had several channels in which I could manage the feedback at our disposal, but I knew that to remain effective we could manage this information only on as many as three. So, we asked the group for their top two choices of the five that we could possibly use. We gave them a quick timeline for the response so we could get this established, and there were three easy contenders. We set them up and shared with the group the channel names, links, and any guidelines or training for the channels, and we were on our way.
Now that we are receiving the feedback, we need to make sure that we manage the information that we are getting appropriately. Being able to take the feedback and report to the submitter that we have their information and that we are in fact doing something with it is important.
Far too often the reason cited for not submitting feedback is that “They aren’t going to do anything with it anyways.” While many tools have a canned response after the information is submitted, people really want to have some direct communication that their feedback is being considered in some way or another.
What I Did
I set up a timeframe to directly respond to people who were submitting direct feedback. So that I would be able to do this, I chose a weekly timeframe in which to respond to the users’ feedback. I was also able to do this consistently as the level of information that was coming in was something that I could manage without an issue.
Wherever possible share the findings of the feedback regularly to the targeted audience to drive further submissions. Even in cases where you might think a resolution is not possible, sharing this information may generate some further discussions or ideas that might resolve the issue that may have never been considered before. Inciting this type of dialog enables a better working relationship as a service provider.
Establish regular reporting on the feedback you are collecting. In the reporting, outline areas such as from whom the feedback is coming. For example, what business groups, customer types, or personas are providing the feedback and what content do those groups provide? Are there questions that are generating better responses than others? All this information will ensure that you continually improve how you support your business as well as how you solicit information on how to improve.
What I Did
I established two types of regular meetings: one with the stakeholders and one with the user group. They were both similar in that we would review, the progress we were making, where feedback was coming from, next steps and so on. The difference was in the delivery. The sessions were targeted to the audience so that we delivered information that they needed to hear even if the information was similar for both groups.
For the stakeholder groups I also established a dashboard that linked the feedback to specific performance indicators that were measured already to show where improvements were being made.
Manage for Lasting Improvements
Overall, have a well-defined scope on the information you are soliciting. Engage the target audience with regular updates and set expectations around those. Take the findings from the feedback and share with your stakeholders and target audience for further review. Build out some reporting on how well (or not) your feedback initiative is going to ensure you stay on target. These are a few tips to help you manage the feedback over the long term and make the lasting improvements your business needs.
Ryan Ogilvie has been working in the service management space since 2006. A keen student of the service management ecosystem, he first started blogging after feeling a responsibility to share what he’d learned to a wider community. While his professional focus is IT service management, his experience has taught him that leveraging a variety of frameworks and communication styles will enable your business to meet its business outcomes. Follow him on Twitter @ryanrogilvie.