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Your Opinion Is Valuable To Us…

Well, that is, if we ever get around to doing anything with your opinion.

Sadly, that’s often the internal corporate dialogue that happens around customer surveys and feedback mechanisms.

Once upon a time when I was a membership development director of a nonprofit association, I had a long chat with my Board of Directors. They wanted to conduct an extensive member survey to solicit opinions on the state of the professional society. At this point, it was my job to ask questions – a lot of them – in order to fully understand the purpose and objectives of this project. When I asked about the purpose of the survey, most responded that they wanted to know how the membership felt about the state of the industry as well as gain their feedback about the association. “Terrific!” I thought. It had been a while since a survey had been conducted and this would help me and my staff (along with executive management and the Board) to learn about and improve the member experience.

But imagine my utter dismay and horror when I then asked, “So, what will we plan to do with this information once we collect it?”

“Oh nothing. We just want to know how our members feel about their membership, to understand their sentiment.”

So, in essence, we would be collecting opinions for funsies but cloaking it in the disguise that our members’ opinions would be used toward taking some action.

Time for some tough love and honesty: is your organization collecting data but not taking action on what you receive? Are you conducting surveys and gathering opinions with no plan for corresponding actions? Are you mining the web for sentiment data but not committing to doing anything with it?

Here are three simple steps to fix it:

Have a plan. Simple? Yes. Easy? Maybe not. But start to build a plan for how your organization will utilize all the various feedback you receive – both formal (through surveys) and informal (through social media).

Involve everyone. Every single person in your organization is receiving feedback. Your sales folks get it when talking to prospects, your techies get it when they hear about feature requests and bugs, your accountants may even get it when talking to friends at an outdoor barbeque. Now help them share what they learn and integrate it all together.

Err toward action. Don’t wait for the perfect timing to act on feedback, particularly if the feedback is beneficial to enhancing the customer experience. Your customers are giving you a gift in their opinion. Now, say “Thanks a bunch!” and do something remarkable with it.

photo credit: pink_fish13 (via flickr)

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