Continual Service Improvement: Soliciting Feedback
How many times have you received a survey after purchasing a service? How many times did you fill it out? When soliciting for feedback, many organizations rely on simply sending out a survey and hoping for the best. Is this truly effective? Is there a better way? In my previous blog, 3 essential elements for any Continual Service Improvement program were discussed. The first element was soliciting feedback. In this blog post, soliciting feedback will be covered in more detail. Different forms for collecting feedback, different executions and incentives will be discussed.
Collecting feedback can be tricky. Which form for collecting feedback is the most effective?
Surveys: Surveys always seem to be a popular choice. There are advantages and disadvantages to using surveys.
—Advantages: The first advantage is that they are fairly quick and inexpensive. Once a survey is created, it can be used over and over again. It also doesn’t take a whole lot of effort. A survey link can be included in a closing or follow up email. As long as the clients clicks on the link and fills out the survey, not a whole lot of effort is expended. The next advantage is that a lot of coverage can be obtained quickly. As fast as you can email or dial a phone, surveys can be sent out.
—Disadvantages: The biggest disadvantage is response rate. Even the most simplistic surveys have a poor response rate. For external surveys a response rate ranges between 10% and 15%. I’ve witnessed even lower response rates, some as low as 2%. The next disadvantage is skewed data. People tend to fill out surveys when they are dissatisfied with a service. This is good, but not ideal. An organization needs to know when something has gone poorly, but it may not tell the whole story. Any great organization wants to change what is going poorly, but wants to repeat and continue the things that are going well.
Focus Groups: Another collection method is a focus group or lessons learned sessions. This method involves an organization bringing together various stakeholders to solicit feedback.
—Advantages: The advantage of this method is the ability to bring together various stakeholders should bring about a broader picture.
—Disadvantages: The biggest disadvantage of this method is cost. It will take time and money to organize a focus group. It will cost an organization and the stakeholder’s time to participate. Many stakeholders may be reluctant to give up their precious time commodity. Also, some stakeholders may be reluctant to give feedback in front of others.
Ad Hoc Feedback: A third collection method is ad hoc feedback from various stakeholders.
—Advantages: The advantage to this method is cost. It doesn’t cost an organization much to listen.
—Disadvantages: The biggest disadvantages are lack of structure for gathering and documenting. This method may be the most difficult to gather and document. An engineer may pass on information to a project manager and the project manager may not hear or know what to do with it. A client may make an off the cuff comment that simply gets ignored.
Now that some different collection methods have been discussed, let’s dive into a couple of different execution methods.
Email: The first execution method is a simple email. This can be used following a closeout to a service, at regular interval during a service, or shortly after the service. This execution is fast and can garner a large coverage window. This method may also be the most ineffective. It is extremely easy to delete or ignore emails.
Phone Calls or In Person Solicitations: Another execution method is phone calls or in person solicitations. This can be a little more effective. People are more likely participate in a survey or give feedback if personally contacted. Unfortunately, this execution method will take more time because individuals will need to make phone calls or in person visits vice just sending an email. Another issue could be reluctance to give feedback to the individuals that provided the service. A recommendation to overcome this would be to use individuals not involved in the service to solicit the feedback. An organization can use a manager from another department or even a third-party service.
Incentives: Incentives can be used to garner a better response rate as well. Some typical offers are a gift card to some local coffee shop for completing the survey or free lunch if they participate in a focus group. Incentives can be good, but be careful to use them wisely. Are the respondents giving good feedback or just going through the motions to get the freebie?
Combination: Probably the most effective form of soliciting feedback is to use a combination of methods. Try combining a survey with email and phone collection methods. Combine a preliminary survey with a focus group and free lunch and any organization is sure to get the feedback flowing. Be creative. Try different combinations and don’t be afraid to change them periodically when the feedback is not coming in or it is not of high quality.
Continual Service Improvement is important and a key element of improvement is soliciting feedback. Whether you use surveys, focus groups, make calls or provide free lunches, chose the right combination to get the feedback you need to make a difference in your organization.
A proven leader, Jeremy Niedzwiecki has over 20 years in the IT industry. As the Director of Customer Support at ABS, Jeremy works to ensure that the ABS Customer Support team continuously provides the highest levels of support possible ABS clients.