Ask customers for feed-forward, not feedback

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Who’s the most powerful person in a firm? The CEO? No. The CFO? No. The head of sales? No. It’s the customer. When a customer complains, the CEO sits up. When a customer wants to leave, the head of sales gets on the case. In a firm, the customer’s voice trumps all others. To lead change, use the power of this voice.

Customer feedback is good, but here’s a much more powerful option: feed-forward.

Picture this: It’s 7am. You’re standing in the hotel checkout queue. You have a flight to catch. When you finally reach the counter, the agent types in your name, prints out some pages and finally looks at you. He then asks, “how was everything?” In a split second, you think about the stained carpet, the broken light, the noisy neighbours, and then you say, “good” because you don’t want to disappoint him and it would all take too long. He’s happy because you’re happy.

Just imagine if the agent, instead of asking you for your feedback, asked you for your feed-forward. “What’s the one thing we could do better?” Now, he’s inviting your ideas. He’s even asking you to prioritise your concerns.

Now, you might say, “clean the stained carpet”. He’s happy because you’ve helped. You’re happy because you’ve helped. And chances are that carpet will be cleaned. Customer feed-forward is a powerful force for change.

Try This >> Instead of asking your customers how they liked something in the past, co-create. Ask them for forward-looking ideas. “What’s the one thing we can do better?”

(From my Marketing Week column)

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