By closing the loop with customers, you can re-set their perceptions, so they don't feel compelled to carry around negative baggage of past experiences. They can re-set their perceptions to better meet your current realities of improved policies, business processes, and customer experiences. Anytime customers share feedback — whether solicited via survey or unsolicited via complaint or casual comments to front-line employees — it's important to acknowledge the customers' view and thank them, with assurance you're working on solutions. Don't let them feel like they're hanging on a cliff waiting for advice they offered to make a difference!
At Boeing, a top executive writes an open letter to all customers, explaining what they company heard from the most recent customer survey, and detailing the company's achievements to-date and continuing action items, accordingly. For example, the company reports: "Our on-time responsiveness to airplane-on-ground requests has increased dramatically since the inception of the Operations Center — from 73% to 96%; however, we will continue to work to get our on-time performance even higher. … Our goal is to improve our support to you year after year so that you can operate your Boeing fleet as efficiently and safely as possible. Again, thank you for taking the time to give us formal feedback on our business. We always welcome your comments and ideas on how to serve you better."
Motorola's strategy is similar, reporting in its customer newsletter what they're doing specifically to improve in critical areas from the customer's viewpoint. The article begins with: "You spoke … we listened. Once again, thank you for the feedback you gave us through our Customer Satisfaction Survey. We paid very close attention to your input — what you told us we do well, and where you would like us to improve, specifically in the areas of service and repair, product and programming software, and data hardware. Continuing our pledge to assure your complete satisfaction and delight, we assigned Digital Six Sigma teams to address your concerns and to formulate and implement action plans. Below is an update of the progress we have made in each of these areas."
Applied Materials, the leading semiconductor equipment maker in industry customer satisfaction ratings for 18 years, also follows up regularly with customers to report its proposed action plans in response to customer feedback, as well as progress made on existing customer satisfaction improvement plans. In the 1990s the company relied on its own enterprise-wide survey suite to understand customer sentiment after the sales and installation process, and service and spare parts transactions, and on a regular basis for executive listening sessions and an annual relationship survey. For the last decade, the company has shifted its emphasis to listening to its customers the way each customer wanted to share feedback. Although its customers' supplier report cards are all unique to the customer and therefore less amenable to establishing a holistic view of all customers combined, Applied Materials sets aside two days per quarter for each general manager to meet with the VP-Quality and coporate CFO to review action plans and communicate updates to customers. (see www.clearaction.biz/experience)
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