In the world of business programs and metrics, customer feedback data isn’t a heavy hitter. Business audit activity, on the other hand, puts the stuttering “f” in f-f-f-fear. What many organizations don’t realize is that with every single customer interaction, an informal audit is indeed being conducted.
Traditional audits, usually conducted by an external accountant who might be a cross between an IRS hit man and a Franciscan Nun, put us on our best behavior. It can be painful, but coming out you should understand how your business could run better, which in turn can increase stakeholder confidence.
Customer feedback programs, if handled correctly, can drive improvements in your business in the same powerful way audits can. They provide an opportunity to conduct research on one’s own organization. Here are four qualifying conditions of any good audit that can also be applied to assess customer feedback programs:
- It Provides Validity: Beyond basic accounting rules, many businesses do not have an understanding of accounting principles. Beyond revenue sales, many businesses do not have an understanding of what drives their customers’ purchases with them. This can provide that insight.
- It Discovers Errors: Audits can discover errors in accounting processes that may prohibit business owners from making the best decisions. In an effective customer feedback program, customer issues are discovered that could otherwise go unspoken. If those issues aren’t resolved, your customers could be more susceptable to offers from your competitors.
- It Limits Legal Issues: Professional accountants provide businesses with information on legal issues related to accounting. Consistent, smart and calculated outreach to customers can serve as preventative medicine to manage serious issues in the delivery of your product and/or service.
- Educates Business Owners: Audits reinforce the value of integrating deeper accounting principles into business operations. In this way business owners have a sense of their process limitations. Customer feedback gives you the same perspective, but from the user’s viewpoint. If done properly, this continuous insight helps you manage needed change in a very competitive marketplace.
In our view, customers are external auditors. We’ve written before about the value of the Net Promoter Score™ as one of the better approaches to collecting and categorizing customer data. The bottom line is you need a method to collect, make sense of and most importantly act upon customer feedback at all levels of your business.
Ultimately, you don’t have an IRS-esc obligation to listen to what your customers have to say, but some risks just aren’t worth taking.
Do you have a customer metric that everyone in your organization understands?