9 Easy Ways to Ensure Customer Feedback is Effectively Incorporated for Product Innovation

The very foundation of a CRM solution is to move the ownership of your customer away from an individual department and amalgamate the ownership at the corporate level. While individual departments remain accountable for customer interactions, the corporation, as a whole, is responsible for the customer. This amalgamation revolves around each customer “touch-point” which combined feed the data which is the backbone of your CRM solution.

Using customer information to enhance customer relationship management

There are four basic types of data which a company must collect for their CRM solution to be most effective in the management of their customer relationships, these include:

  1. Descriptive Data - Data which focuses on the customer as an individual, a household or a business entity. It can include demographic and lifestyle data or any other type of data which attempts to describe the customer. Descriptive data is often generic in nature and not company specific. 
  2. Relationship Data - Data which details a customer's transactions and interactions with the company and proprietary to the company and its subsidiaries. 
  3. Contextual Data - Data which provides an understanding of the environment of a company’s relationship with its customers. 
  4. Customer Feedback Data - This is a fourth emerging data source that the most successful CRM users are mining. This data is provided directly by the customer via the utilization of a feedback form – either electronic or manual. Alternately, they may post their feedback on social networks, which forward looking organizations capture and follow-up through social CRM. This type of data which is collected from multiple customer interactions and amalgamated over time is critical for providing a measurable satisfaction level.

Customer feedback can enter your CRM solution from as many channels as your customers themselves. For example, your marketing department may conduct on-going customer satisfaction surveys, while the warranty department is collecting demographic information on the same customer through manual warranty cards, simultaneously your call center or sales force are taking customer calls with anecdotal information on the same customer. The challenge then becomes the consolidation of this information into a usable and effective tool. 

How to effectively manage feedback for matching customer expectations
Customer feedback is the key to understanding your customers, by collecting and integrating this valuable information into your CRM solution, you can begin to manage your customers’ expectations through product innovation and service improvements. Some basics for this consolidation include:

1. Define the goals and objectives for collecting this data.

  • What decisions will your company make based on this information?
  • What reporting methods will you use to make this data an effective tool?
2. Define the support your will require for data collection.
  • Secure buy-in from the top executives down to the call center coordinator in the importance of customer feedback.

3. Develop a formal program for the collection of the data.

  • Establish your feedback channels.
  • Implement the required technologies to support the collection and collation of the data.
4. Manage the data that you collect
  • Investigate and invest in a formal “Voice of the Customer” or VOC program so that you are not dealing with multiple channel feeds into your CRM solution.

5. Advocate for your customers

  • Respond rapidly to the feedback your customers are providing.
  • Be prepared to change if your customer relationship requires it.
  • Act on critical or constant complaint quickly and efficiently.
  • Let your customers know what you are doing.

6. Communicate

  • Don’t keep customer information in the “silo”, be sure that management from top to bottom understand what is being said.

7. Information should be real time and on-going

  • Gather information in real time and respond to your customer in the same.
  • Make it easy for your customers to talk to you.

8. Integration with business strategy

  • Make your customer feedback part of your business, be sure that it is integrated into your corporate objectives and strategic goals.

9. Make it real to your company and employees

  • Integrate your customer related measurements into your business outcomes.
  • Set realistic goals and measurements for customer satisfaction, customer retention and product purchase which can then be tied to the metrics of customer feedback.

Gathering customer feedback is more than just finding out about your customers' concerns and desires, it’s about developing a solid understanding of your customer. Once you have this understanding, you can then begin to address your customers’ needs or desires for new and innovative products.

By integrating customer feedback into CRM solutions, you make the data available to all levels of the company. Across the company, you can begin to develop the products your customers require. You can begin to more aggressively design and execute cross-sell and up-sell programs. Most importantly, by listening to and understanding your customer, you can insure your company’s long term success in any chosen market.