Frontline Feedback: The Key To Business Success
When it comes to continually improving your product and processes, the most vital resource is right in front of you: frontline employees.
Successful companies constantly evolve and adjust their customer success efforts to serve customers in a better and more innovative way. The majority of executives believe innovation is critical to growing their companies.
But too often companies prioritize getting customer feedback and neglect listening to the people who are in the trenches living and breathing the product, processes, and clients every day. The valuable intelligence companies can gather from these employees can greatly impact customer satisfaction. Frontline intelligence plays a vital role in driving customer success efforts, but it requires thoughtful strategies and standardized processes to be successful.
Frontline Employees Understand Customers and Business
It may seem counterintuitive, but the best form of customer intelligence comes from employees.
That’s not to say that customer feedback isn’t beneficial, but it isn’t the magic bullet to a strong customer experience. Customer feedback is best used to validate your ideas, not to tell you how to improve your business. Amazon didn’t send out a survey asking how it could improve and get customer responses suggesting free two-day shipping. Instead, Amazon tested free two-day shipping and used customer feedback to validate the decision.
But that isn’t how most B2B companies use customer feedback. The Kellogg School of Management found very few B2B companies incorporate feedback into their product development and commercial-launch processes. Instead, most companies only measure whether they hit their margin targets or sales forecasts.
But there’s more to a business than sales forecasts and margins.
Frontline employees and CSMs have the perspective of both the customer and the business and understand the marriage of the two sides. While a customer only goes through the onboarding process once and can provide limited feedback and context, a CSM goes through the onboarding process multiple times a week and can tell what is and isn’t working. CSMs partner with clients to help them meet their goals, so they understand the client’s perspective, but they are also involved in the goals and mission of your company, so they can connect processes to the big picture of the company’s progress.
“Think of your colleagues throughout the organization as canaries in coal mines,” said Forrester VP Maxie Schmidt. “They can warn of potential experience issues before customers notice them, alert you to processes, policies, and technology systems that prevent them from providing a good customer experience, help understand how product-related activities that are behind the scenes — like pricing — affect customers, and highlight how the workplace culture affects employees’ motivations and abilities to deliver the intended experience.”
Employees can be your greatest resource and provide insights from multiple sides when it comes to collecting feedback.
Create a Feedback Pipeline With Your Employees
Frontline employees are gold mines of information for the business, both in how to improve products and processes. Inviting them to share their ideas creates a culture of improvement and builds a better experience for customers and employees.
Companies can gather feedback in several ways, including in-app feedback, employee idea exchanges, and the employee intranet.
One of the most effective ways to get continual, usable employee feedback is through Voice of Employee, or VoE, surveys. Think of these surveys as a cousin to the popular Voice of Customer (VoC) surveys. VoC systemizes customer feedback at various touchpoints, and VoE gathers feedback from employees on behalf of the customer throughout the journey.
Tapping into employee feedback with regular surveys creates a steady feedback pipeline. Employees are guaranteed to return feedback versus customers and provide real-time insights into the product or process.
To understand what VoE is, first consider what it isn’t. The purpose of VoE isn’t to evaluate your people. Questions should solely be about the product and process. A VoE survey isn’t meeting notes about the customer interactions; it’s a place for feedback and suggestions. A Voice of Employee program doesn’t need to be complicated. In fact, the best results come from purposeful but straightforward surveys after each stage of interactions.
For best results, systemize your VoE approach. Have CSMs complete a short survey after every significant benchmark, like onboarding or renewal. These surveys shouldn’t take the CSM more than a few minutes to complete. The survey can include a few basic questions, such as rating the process or how the customer reacted to the product. But the most valuable insights will likely come from leaving a place for unstructured feedback where employees can suggest solutions to improve the product and reduce friction.
Turning Feedback Into Action
Feedback is only beneficial if it turns into something greater.
In space exploration, mission control has the tools and vision for what needs to happen. But before the controllers make any launches or adjustments, they get feedback from the astronauts experiencing space firsthand. The input from the astronauts gives mission control insights to know the next steps to take.
The same principle is true in B2B companies. CS leaders have the vision and tools, but they need the feedback of frontline employees to know the next steps.
Simply having CSMs complete VoE surveys isn’t enough. That information has to be used to improve the company and its products and processes. That’s where feedback loops come in.
Frontline intelligence focuses on two main areas: product and process.
Ideally, to kick off a feedback loop, a Client Success Leader sorts through VoE results and sends insights related to processes to the Head of Customer Success and insights related to the product to the Head of Product. Those leaders can then disseminate the feedback through their teams to implement suggestions and improve the correct areas to complete the loop.
Employee feedback can adjust things as small as the timeline for reaching out to new customers or as large as changing the product interface. The crucial piece is actually implementing feedback in an organized and systematic way so that valuable insights don’t fall through the gaps.
Connecting Employee and Customer Feedback
Although frontline intelligence is the most powerful form of feedback, it isn’t the only method. Your VoE efforts can be bolstered by connecting employee feedback with customer feedback. Once you use employee feedback and feedback loops to improve the product or process, you can test those adjustments and validate the idea with customer feedback and engagement.
B2B companies live and die by feedback. In the rapidly changing world, improving and adjusting is crucial to a company’s success — and the success of their customers. Employee feedback is the foundation of strong and constantly improving CS efforts. But customer feedback brings it all together to validate those efforts and keep the company moving forward.