Want Better Customer Experience? Listen to Your Employees

September 30, 2016 Appirio

By Zoe Schiffer

Have you ever had an idea — maybe a solution to a persistent work problem — that didn’t go anywhere? Maybe your coworkers had similar ideas, but there simply wasn’t a way to have them heard. While companies increasingly recognize the value of real-time customer feedback in improving their products and services, surprisingly few listen to their employees in the same way. The fact is, they’re missing out. As Thomas Edison once said, “We often miss opportunity because it’s dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

Front-line employees know a lot about your customers and their experience with your brand. They can tell you when customers are unhappy, why they are unhappy, and in many cases, what can be done to make them happier. But many companies fail to ask their employees about their interactions with customers or what might be done to improve those interactions and enhance the customer experience. In a recent Medallia Institute survey, 56 percent of front-line employees said they have suggestions for improving company practices, yet a third said they were surveyed once a year or less, and more than half said employers weren’t asking the right questions.


When companies collect and combine both customer and employee feedback, the benefits can be tremendous. A linked feedback system transforms employees into agents of change and builds a deeper understanding of customer-employee interactions. It helps companies to identify and address customer problems at their source and build more authentic customer relationships.

Why then don’t we see more companies linking their feedback systems and realizing these benefits?

According to Beth Benjamin, Senior Director of Research at Medallia, companies face some big challenges when trying to link employee and customer feedback systems. Oftentimes, customer feedback is collected by marketing, retail, or an operations function, while employee feedback is usually handled by corporate HR. Implementing a successful, integrated system requires buy-in from executives across the organization, which requires a well-designed system that produces tangible results.

Without question, designing a linked feedback system can be tough. Even with the best of intentions, managers make a number of common mistakes. Three of the most common are:

Mistake #1: Designing a system that doesn’t contribute to a high-level business objective

Feedback systems produce the greatest returns when they are aligned with a company’s key business objectives. Be clear about the needle you’re trying to move. Are you trying to simplify the Customer Experience and make it less effortful? Are you trying to fix problems and reduce your cost to serve? Without a clear business rationale, you’ll collect a lot of information, but that information won’t shape critical decisions or drive productive change. Instead, be sure you can articulate how feedback from both customers and employees will inform actions relevant to your company’s objectives. This will determine what you prioritize and ensure you ask the right questions.

Mistake #2: Collecting feedback too often, or not often enough

There’s a fine line between collecting feedback so often that your employees get tired of surveys and stop responding and collecting it so infrequently that you’re unable to catch problems as they occur. A good rule of thumb for employee feedback is to go at the pace at which you can act. This way, you can implement changes in response to feedback and demonstrate that you’re actually listening and taking action.


Mistake #3: Failing to build trust into the system

Oftentimes, employees worry about the negative repercussions of their feedback, particularly if they’re voicing concerns. Counter this mindset by rewarding employees who raise difficult issues and recognizing those whose feedback helped drive the business forward.
Ultimately, linked feedback systems enable companies to be more responsive by helping them learn from both employees and customers. But designing linked feedback systems can be tricky; it’s easy to overlook things that can come back to bite you later. To learn more about designing linked feedback systems that avoid these and other common mistakes, read Medallia’s new Harvard Business Review article, “Listen to Your Employees, Not Just Your Customers.

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