Whereas the importance of internal communication is universally embraced in a corporate environment through investment in training, systems and procedures; in fact only the positive actions of your existing customers will determine whether you thrive or decline. In fact customer feedback is the lifeblood of any business. So because many organisations are proficient at communicating with internal departments or employees they automatically think they’re equally good doing the same when it comes to engaging their customers. But here’s the key, they only ‘think’ this until they’re surprised by customer churn, stalling sales or an underperforming new product or service. The result is often a director-inspired ‘quick fix’ campaign to rapidly engage customers in a bid to understand why.
At that point, a company will spend lots of money and time on their employees or tasking departments to know what their customers are saying. This is typically done by doing what they’ve always done – mystery shoppers, telephone, mass email, feedback cards, website, listening to social media. Whatever the results, the approach evolves to become a dangerous scenario of ticking boxes to either comply with legislation, accreditation, or senior management requests. These types of campaigns are, by definition, short term i.e. a temporary infusion of lifeblood which takes place in hindsight, long after the customer’s experience has happened. The thing is, while employees are usually continuously engaged in a business (and therefore easy to communicate with), individual customers are only periodically engaged with it. So taking a brief retrospective snapshot of a situation, which is precisely what a campaign-driven exercise is, becomes even more dangerous because it only captures a narrow sample of customers in a short period of time. By comparison running a continuous engagement program gives you a far better appreciation of wider customer sentiment. The problem is further exacerbated by low response rates because customers have no incentive to give feedback so the company tends to only hear those at the extremes i.e. customers who are either deliriously happy or very disappointed – so the silent majority, which a continuous customer program can capture, are largely ignored. However until recently running a continuous real-time customer engagement program has been beyond the financial and operational resources of most companies - so most don’t bother. In fact, our on-going global research of almost 1,200 businesses suggests that although 96% of people appreciate the importance of customer feedback, 55% don’t bother collecting it.
If this sounds like you, then as a business decision-maker you need to ask yourself, “how often do you want sales coming through your door?” My guess is your preference is, “continuously”. I mean what type of business would you be if you just waited until supplier bills become due until you aggressively pursue sales, until you lose a pitch, a contract renewal because you wait to get feedback just before the event renewal. “If they only told me, I could have done something about it” is a common excuse for lost business. As a business you already know you need continuous sales, therefore you need continuous customer feedback (as well as employee feedback). You need to know what your customers value right now about what you’re doing to make their lives easier – because really those (often little) things combined with the relative uniqueness of your offering is what is driving the sustainability of your business.
So with all this in mind why is it when it comes to client feedback most businesses only collect it sporadically when sales are down? This is where mobile applications have become a great leveller, accessible by even the smallest businesses. Mobile applications make it easier than you think, cheaper than you know, and all possible within your existing skillset.
So whereas a campaign becomes a temporary infusion of intelligence or lifeblood, a continuous intelligence program using mobile application means thinking, listening, and actioning responses to real-time feedback.
For every business decision-maker on demand access to relevant, objective information and customer insight is the basis for improved decision-making. It saves time in the decision-making process and also tends to result in less duplication of effort. As a business decision-maker myself, operating in the fast-moving world of mobile application technology listening to our customers and actioning their ideas in real-time has become a major source of inspiration that has driven our technology forward quickly and efficiently to over 64 countries within a year by word of mouth (evidenced with a >70% positive net promoter score). Our reality although much smaller than our competitors is that through our own mobile ‘reward for feedback’ application we encourage innovation from anywhere and have now come to expect it from everywhere.
The reality is that if you don’t engage your customers then someone else will. With so much new technology available, the speed with which you can listen to your customers and take action to improve their experience has also become of paramount importance. We use SurveyMe to reduce our customer feedback loop from days or weeks to real-time, across 64 countries. Prior to mobile we simply could not have engaged with tens of thousands of geographically diverse customers, let alone in real-time.
In this way, sustainable business growth starts with people at the top (key decision-makers) of any business embracing continuous intelligence and mobile technology. Unless the opportunities created by customer engagement mobile applications are embraced from the top down, then people throughout the business won’t understand it as a serious integral part of the future sustainability of your business. It’s exactly the same concept as giving someone a pen and paper i.e. these tools record information – but often doing that rapidly becomes a short term tick box exercise or something just to please ‘head office’ with nothing tangible for customers to encourage them to do it again. And apart from being expensive, slow, time consuming and resource-heavy to operate, every piece information collected then requires human intervention for collection, collation, analysis and interpretation. All this takes vital resources and many weeks to happen whereas mobile application technology can deliver that vital information pre-analysed in real-time from unlimited points anywhere in the world within seconds and doesn’t require much more resource than what customers already have in their pockets or bags. The smarter mobile applications also enable you to reward customers for their feedback meaning they’re more likely to help you next time.
So given the choice between running a snapshot campaign or collecting continuous intelligence and the dangers of doing nothing, would you give mobile a go?
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