Growing up, I spent much of my time playing competitive team sports. I played soccer, basketball, and (American) football. In each case, almost immediately after some level of effort, I knew how I had done. I got immediate feedback from my coach(es), other players, and often from the crowd. I knew how much weight I had lifted, how fast I had run, if my shot had gone in or not. I could look at the scoreboard and see where things stood.
As I progressed in age and level of competition, we increasingly watched hours of recorded film to analyze steps, movements, body positioning, reaction time, and what actions had led to success or failure.
Daily, my teammates and I attempted to perfect our skills. We took the feedback we received and made adjustments; sometimes immediately, sometimes daily. Refining and honing our skills and performance, we attempted to perfect and ingrain habits of the things that worked, and tried to correct the mistakes that we were making.
John Hagel, John Seely Brown, and Lang Davison start off their book “The Power of Pull” with a story about how 5 surfer kids on Maui used passion, data, analysis, and peer feedback to continually improve the execution of their craft and rise to be considered amongst the best surfers in the world.
Playing with no feedback
While I can’t imagine the futility of playing without any of this feedback, simply doing the same things over and over, and never seeking to improve. it seems to happen all the time in the business world. Employees get a quarterly or annual review. Customers are sent an annual feedback survey that a small percentage of them fill out. Often times, this is a matter of administrative formality, than really useful for any party. Some have put all of their trust in “The Ultimate Question”. But are we really listening and learning to the extent that we could, or should? And, how often is any meaningful action taken based on this feedback?
Without feedback (or the capability to listen and adapt based on it), many organizations and the people within them simply continue on with the same course of action without really knowing how they’re doing, and how the marketplace is reacting or responding to their activities. The result is underperformance.
Shorter Cycle Times / Greater Feedback Mechanisms
In an era where cycle times are rapidly being shortened, and more of our activities are performed digitally, the potential to gather feedback and re-calibrate our responses in real time to align with customer expectations, assist with customer jobs to be done, and provide ever better customer experiences is steadily increasing. In addition to the tried and true feedback mechanisms of the past (focus groups, surveys, etc.) we are able to keep our pulse on our actions in real time. (The counter-argument that a lot of this data exhaust is simply noise is a post for another day)
The social web provides opportunities for real time analysis. Keynote speakers get immediate feedback on how their session went by looking at the stream. Television broadcasters get realtime engagement metrics based on streaming content. Airlines, retail stores, and financial institutions get real time unstructured feedback about their customers’ experience. Elected officials get immediate feedback on their speeches from their constituents.
Mobile feedback vendors are providing opportunities to capture customer experience insights within minutes of the brand experience. Response rates in some surveys have been unbelievably high (and arguably more accurate) by capturing feedback in the flow of the experience vs. several days or weeks later when customers are detached physically, mentally, and emotionally from their interaction.
Text Analytics allows companies to sort through vast amounts of unstructured feedback to surface patterns and themes captured in hundreds, or thousands, or even millions of conversations about your organization.
Speech analytics technology continues to advance into the mainstream and provides the ability to coach and prompt call center agents in real time, providing coaching based on tone and words that might indicate defection, loyalty, or propensity to have interest in a complimentary product or service.
And all of this customer feedback data can be processed and analyzed in a fraction of the time. Terabytes of data can be crunched in milliseconds. Data analysis that used to take weeks can now be done in just a couple of hours, or even minutes. This Japanese facial recognition company can actually scan 36 million faces in one second. (Never mind the privacy and big brother implications)
Answers are there. How are we leveraging them?
So with legions of people providing or potentially providing feedback about your product, service, industry, or need, are you listening? If you are listening, is your organization calibrated to take that feedback and incorporate it back into your product and service development efforts, your customer experience initiatives, your marketing messaging and sales strategy?
The concept of gathering and incorporating stakeholder feedback is nothing new. Technological advances are paving new ways, however, not only to gather, but also respond in real time. How is your organization leveraging the latest technological advances to listen, collaborate, and respond to your customers?