Matthew Miller
Apr 16, 2014

Customer relations: Enterprise feedback creates virtuous circle

Closing the loop between customers, user-experience and frontline staff, this may be the IT system no CMO can do without.

Full circuit: Enterprise feedback systems link customer feedback with service
Full circuit: Enterprise feedback systems link customer feedback with service

When a Chicago businessman spent US$1,000 to promote a tweet about poor customer service from British Airways last September — an act that coined the term ‘complainvertising’ — he underscored for about the millionth time that companies claiming to be customer-focused need to get their houses in order.

Failing to listen to social media won’t cut it, nor will having social-media responders who are powerless to actually resolve a crisis situation. In fact, companies that are serious about treating the VoC (voice of the customer) as more than a buzzword need to do a better job of not only listening to social media but also of closing the loop with existing CRM efforts and customer-service staff.

Enter the enterprise feedback management (EFM) system — a set of IT tools that allows a company to capture the VoC from structured surveys, social media, or both, then distribute those data to both leadership and frontline staff. Companies can use EFM data strategically to improve user experience, as well as for customer-service to immediately resolve situations before they become social-media disasters.

The VoC and EFM are topics du jour, and software firm CEOs believe enterprise feedback can propel a big wave of IT spending. Yet CMOs would be foolish to ignore the trend, because EFM offers a tremendous opportunity for marketers to prove their worth in the C-suite. Put another way, failing to take ownership of enterprise feedback (and letting, say, the CIO, get all the credit)  threatens to further diminish the marketer’s importance. 

Companies of all sizes are adopting EFM, according to Kate Leggett, principal analyst with Forrester Research. “To understand customer sentiment, customer satisfaction and specific issues that are being voiced, feedback — unstructured and structured — needs to be separated from the noise and routed to the appropriate department so it can be acted upon and addressed.” 

Done properly, this has a direct impact on brand affinity. David Kwok, regional director of marketing for Greater China with Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, says his company uses a US-based company to consolidate social-media comments from channels such as Tripadvisor and Ctrip, and then feed those in real time to its hotels. 

“It has been very successful, and there have been many occasions where we have managed to surprise and delight guests, as well as correct service mishaps, because of the system,” Kwok says. “Sometimes when something goes wrong and you manage to correct it spectacularly, that makes a deeper impression on the guest than when everything goes smoothly.” 

Kwok refuses to divulge the name of the company Mandarin Oriental works with, saying it is a competitive advantage too valuable to share.

John Carroll, global head of clients for Ipsos Loyalty, describes the benefits of EFM as a dynamic chain. The availability of feedback drives employee engagement, which translates into better customer experience, which builds more brand trust, satisfaction and affiliation. That leads to better retention and recommendation, which improves revenue and profit, which further energises employees.

Most EFM deployments in Asia-Pacific are MNC efforts originating in North America or Europe, Carroll says, although he adds that forward-thinking Asia-based businesses such as property developers in China, banks in Singapore and retailers in Hong Kong are experimenting and preparing to roll out.

That lagging adoption in Asia-Pacific, and among smaller businesses, is a shame, Carroll says. “A CMO who attempts to deploy and maintain a patchwork of CRM, social media, website, and other technologies without a centralised EFM hub will only get sub-optimised, disintegrated results.” 

Besides fixing that issue, Carroll says, a good system helps marketers prove ROI. “EFM systems, because they capture customer experience from survey, social-media, and even employee-feedback sources, provide an extremely finely detailed measurement system which can be used to detect customer-experience improvements based on marketing treatments,” he says. 

If the system also links customer-feedback scores to financial systems, the CMO can show the CEO the ROI of marketing tactics in near real time. 

“By deploying EFM, the CMO regains the rightful role of orchestrating all the functions of an organisation to respond to the voice of the customer and begin to take predictive and proactive actions to optimise the customer experience,” Carroll says. 

For marketers whose reaction to such an impassioned argument from a consultant is that it sounds very expensive, Leggett advises small steps. “Start by surveying customers after every interaction with the company using simple, structured surveys. Ensure that gathered feedback is acted on. Set up keywords to monitor your brand and use the feedback for continuous improvement projects. Increase breadth and depth of feedback management as you gain confidence in the results you gather, and in your internal feedback processes.” 

Failing to use feedback properly may be more costly than the required investment. “Ceding customer experience and operational brand management to another functional leader would simply place any CMO far down the senior executive ladder, relegating the CMO to be not much more than a communications role,” Carroll concludes.

CASE STUDY Cleanliness is next to profitability

Choice Hotels International, operator of more than 6,000 properties worldwide, used feedback-management techniques to improve its likelihood-to-recommend (LTR) scores. Working with enterprise feedback-tool vendor Medallia, the company found the condition of a guest’s room had an outsized impact on LTR scores, and that even a small problem could strongly affect the guest’s opinion of room conditions.

Choice instituted the ‘Great room condition’ programme, which focuses employees on 36 specific potential faults, such as a hair on a pillow, a burned-out light bulb or a malfunc­tioning TV remote. The company collects 1.2 million customer surveys a year, and 32,000 users in the company have access to the ongoing data stream.

Hotels participating in the programme demonstrate significant improvement in LTR scores, and Choice reports the programme generated US$18 million in revenue in its first year.


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