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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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Feedback: Karaoke With Tube Socks?

Steve Roesler published a great post (then again, has he ever written a bad post?) titled Talent: Accurate Self-Awareness or Karaoke Feedback?. The main focus is feedback and he offers suggestions on how to give it as well as how to receive it.

For me, I find the hardest thing to remember about feedback is that it is a gift. Yes, sometimes that gift is like receiving tube socks for Christmas but every so often I get the kind of feedback that is right up there with receiving a first edition signed copy of Frank Herbert’s Dune. Feedback is learning and I have to remind my ego that learning is good if I want to grow (it helps to talk to my ego like it’s a five year old).

It also helps to frame the experience of receiving feedback in this way. Steve notes:

And remember: Feedback is more indicative of the person giving it to you than of you yourself. It tells you what’s important to them, reflects underlying values and expectations, and reveals ‘how you measure up’ in their eyes.

It’s a terrific post and made even more so by the addition of Wally Bock’s comment where he tells the story of how his father, a Lutheran pastor, asked for and received feedback from his family after each service and sermon. His experience offers additional elements that are vital in making feedback the powerful learning tool that it can be.

How are you practicing good feedback to those around you?
Are you asking for candid feedback and taking notes?

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