Building a customer centric business only starts with asking for your customers opinions or feedback

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Creative Commons License photo credit: gatogrunge

It’s been a while since I wrote about customer surveys and feedback. Almost a year, in fact. Here’s a few of the things that I’ve written about in the past:

So, it seems appropriate to review where we are with surveying, feedback and building customer centric businesses.

Over the last year, my feeling and experience tells me that more and more businesses are starting to survey their customers and ask for their feedback.

That’s good but not so good too.

Don’t get me wrong, I think surveys and feedback systems done in the right way are great but aren’t they only the start?

Speaking to many business owners and executives who are surveying their customers, I often ask them what they have gone on to do with the results. That’s where I’ve heard various responses like:

  • Good question!
  • We packaged up the results and sent them out to the team
  • We presented findings to the Board
  • We were quite happy with our customer satisfaction numbers as it hit our targets so we haven’t done anything else
  • We haven’t done anything with the results yet
  • We’re happy with the way the numbers are
  • We have no plans
  • We’re thinking about what they mean for our business

Isn’t asking for someone’s opinion and then not doing anything substantial with it or not telling them what you are going to do following their input tantamount to not asking at all?

Follow up and follow through seems to be where there is a real issue. Recently, I found a piece of research (below) that supports this. It comes from the folks over at Customer Champions, which shows that whilst most companies do survey their customers only a small number actually follow through completely by doing something with their feedback and then communicating back to them what they have done.

customer champions survey

In my previous post: #Likeminds – Innovation and Opportunity – How to best lose your customers! – Great ideas, insight and time to reflect, Delphine Remy-Boutang defined a social business as:

“A social business is one that listens to its customers and those around it, responds, takes action and transforms”.

For me, building a customer centric organisation is a lot like building a ‘social business’. The most important parts being missed currently by many businesses are the ‘responds, takes action and transforms’ elements.

What do you think stops companies with the follow up and follow through? Is it to do with incentives, culture, perceived value, understanding, process, responsibilities…..?

25 comments On Building a customer centric business only starts with asking for your customers opinions or feedback

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  • Asking customers opinions or feedback is a good strategy in business. It is one way of showing customers that you care them, knowing how your customer feel about your service, and you obtain the chance to improve from things that may have spent incorrect. Thank you for sharing this.

    • Hi. You are welcome. Asking for feedback is a great strategy but there is a real danger that you ask and then do nothing with the results and don’t communicate what you have done. Really important to close the loop.

  • Guy, you say:

    “Isn’t asking for someone’s opinion and then not doing anything substantial with it or not telling them what you are going to do following their input tantamount to not asking at all?”

    No, it’s worse than that, it is ignorant, in the literal sense.


  • Adrian
    Great post.

    Let’s start with intention. Is your attention to keep your business in harmony with the needs and experiences of your customers? If that is the intention – the foundation – of the customer surveying exercise then it is likely that you will have:
    a) established a x-functional team made up of the heads of each function;
    b) this team would be chaired by the CEO;
    c) a vehicle for turning feedback into changes – assign actions, set deadlines, monitor progress, measure impact.

    Maybe your intention is simply to follow the crowd and to be seen doing the right things without actually changing anything that is significant. I call this the ‘fad school of management’: quality circles without the foundation principles and practices essential to quality; BPR without taking a x-functional process view of the organisation; CRM without the customer-centric, relationship orientation…..

    The graphic that you have produced suggests that most companies are in the second camp.

    Most companies are wasting time and effort dancing around shouting slogans and hope that will produce the rain!


    • HI Maz,
      Thanks for your comment. Intention is a great place to start. Your suggestion makes me think about another element and that is Belief. Belief that we want to be a certain way. Belief that some things are better than others. Belief that one way of doing business is better than another etc.

      But to change someones beliefs is hard. Maybe you start by changing your intention and then hiring people that share your beliefs. What do you think?


      • Hello Adrian

        A remarkable man has stated that our behaviour is correlated with the way that the circumstances that we are dealing with / working on (including ourselves) show up for us. Through our believes we make the ‘unreal’ ‘real’ – if we belive in witches (as people did once upon a time) then some people end up being burned as ‘witches’. So beliefs have a huge impact on how ‘stuff’ shows up for us.

        Is changing beliefs difficult? It can be remarkably difficult if there is no agreement about your beliefs. You may believe that every man should be free and treated with dignity. If you live in a society where slavery is the norm and the smooth functioning of society depends on slaves and slavery then you are going to struggle to get an agreement for your beliefs.

        Change. We change ourselves always! I cannot change you and you cannot change me. I can frighten you (fear/punishment) or I can seduce you (greed/opportunity/rewards) into behaving the way that I want you to behave. Yet, it is alway I who is in charge of my behaviour – I can always so no.

        Your suggestion is a great one and I would modify it slightly based on what I have actually done. You start by being clear on what your stand is: what exactly you are standing for both in terms of outcomes (what you are seeking to achieve) and your values – what you are willing or not willing to do to achieve your outcomes. Then you communicate that stand so that people know what you stand for. Next, you allow the magnetism to work – the people who are drawn to your stand will come to you and want to participate. Finally, you have to be willing to allow your stand to be ‘our stand’ and share leadership, responsibility, accountability etc.

        Does that make sense?


        • Hi Maz,
          That makes complete sense. And in the interest of completeness I would suggest that when you/we/I are stating what we stand for that we also state what we do not stand for too as often stating what we stand for does not uncover exactly what we do not want to happen. This can be especially important and useful when defining our ‘rules’ as it were.


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    • Thank you Kenneth for your comment and for giving the readers of this blog the heads up about the plugin. What feedback methods do you use with your customers and what do you do with the results?


  • Adrian thanks for writing such an important and interesting post. It’s true what you say that so many companies do nothing with their customer feedback findings. Many times I find that the feedback methodologies don’t uncover actionable data and therefore if a company’s results go up or down, no one can pin point why. I always believed that it was not necessary to conduct thousands of surveys that just touched the surface. To me having a “conversation” or a comprehensive telephone interview with a sample of 100 customers can provide organizations with detailed findings which allow them to both make and a publicize the proposed improvements that will be implemented over time. Hopefully, your terrific blog will get people’s attention. Richard Shapiro, The Center For Client Retention @richardrshapiro

    • Hi Richard,
      Thank you so much for your comment. It points to the old adage that says focus on quality not quantity. I hope the survey professionals take your point to heart and we see a change in how we ‘converse’ with our customers.

      Thanks again,


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