As the New Year unfolds, we begin to feel the pressure to improve our lives overnight. Resolutions are made to eat better, exercise more, stress less, and get things accomplished. Unfortunately, we tend to tackle too many goals, overwhelming and exhausting ourselves before measurable progress is made.
Interestingly, companies – like people – do exactly the same thing when responding to customer feedback: try to accomplish too much within too short a time period. They think they can fix everything and address every customer concern, which means little or nothing gets done, and then they lose focus and move on. All too often these companies lack a sense of realism and priority when dealing with customer feedback. Sound familiar?
Larry Bossidy, former CEO of Honeywell and co-author of Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done, asserts that execution is everything. Companies that execute well differentiate themselves in the marketplace. Companies that learn to execute effectively know how to focus and thrive. Sounds simple, but in reality it is often hard to accomplish.
Customer feedback is a gift. It is provided by customers who want to see you improve, who want to see you get better – which helps them and you. Effective customer feedback processes provide actionable, detailed information you can use to improve. The problem is this feedback can often send you off in lots of directions simultaneously, like the proverbial chicken with its head cut off. At the end of the day/month/year we have little to show for our efforts.
How do we keep this from happening? How do we execute effectively in response to customer feedback? The answer is to take the time to apply a few simple criteria to all improvement efforts. Start by determining:
Avoid the temptation to “boil the ocean.” You can‘t do everything at once, as much as you would like to. Force yourself to focus, completing one or two tasks very well. Create action plans for dealing with one or two issues – achieving visible progress will serve to keep individuals interested, invested in the process, and give them a sense of accomplishment.
Don’t forget to keep your customer informed. All too often companies undertake major improvement initiatives but forget to keep their customers informed of what they’re doing and how they’re progressing. Keeping customers “in the loop” – even if open issues are not yet fully resolved – helps reassure them that actions are being taken, provides opportunities for additional input, and perhaps most importantly, prevents them from feeling forgotten.
Gary Gerds, Managing Partner