Not as much as they could.
This week, I flew Continental from Milwaukee to Boston. I checked in at a Self Service kiosk in Milwaukee, but ran into a problem a few screens into the process. An agent assisted me, and explained that several customers have run into the same issue with the Self Service screen.
I asked the agent why it hasn't been changed or improved, and her response caught my attention: "We don't have a good way to keep track of what customers tell us." She was being honest.
I asked the agent if they get a lot of useful feedback from customers, and she said, "Yes - all the time."
"Hmmm, I thought.... "doesn't Continental want to hear more of the Voice of the Customer?!"
When I arrived in Cleveland for my layover, I approached one of four agents at Continental's Customer Service counter. I asked him what they do when a customer offers a comment, complaint or suggestion. For issues that they don't handle directly, they refer the customer to a page on the Continental website, and suggest the customer go there to provide their comments.
I see two problems with this approach. First, it causes a lot of useful feedback to fall through the cracks, and prevents management from getting a true view of the customer experience. (Let's face it, most customers will never invest the time and effort to express their concerns a second time, on Continental's website.) Second, when a Continental customer service agent doesn't record the comment at the point of service, and tells the customer to go someplace else to voice their opinion, the response can seem dismissive, and send a message that says, "Continental doesn't care."
Before being too critical of Continental, I'll say that this "Comment Capture Gap" is all too common for most businesses and industries. Customer-facing employees are equipped primarily to deliver the goods and churn through transactions; not to capture and recording the Voice of the Customer. This means that a lot of valuable customer feedback is wasted, never to be recovered.
So, what are three things you can do, to leverage the Voice of the Customer, at the point of service?
1. Establish an efficient process for capturing what the customer tells you.
Give customer-facing employees access to a simple "case management" software application that enables them to quickly and easily capture what the customer has to say. If an agent is taking the time to listen to the customer, that same time can be used to capture and record the concern. This information can be easily sorted and reported by the people in marketing, operations and management to gain a much richer and real view of the perceptions and Voice of the Customer.
2. Don't put the burden on the customer.
By sending a customer to a page on a website, you're asking that customer to take another step; you're not making the customer's life easier. You're creating a negative experience for the customer.
3. Respond to this feedback quickly and directly.
If you have a social marketing staff that monitors and responds to comments coming through social media, you should treat these comments that originate at the point of service with the same or higher urgency - they're speaking directly to you, not just about you. If you don't do social media, pick up the phone, and call the customer. An immediate and direct response will boost your credibilty, trust, reputation and brand.
Companies spend millions to learn what pleases their customers. The most knowledgeable people on this topic - the customers themselves - offer this information at no cost. Customer will tell you everything you need to know, to improve their experience, and earn their loyalty. They'll tell you everything, but you'll never hear it if you don't have the tools to listen.
What do you think?