I was reminded what a small world this is when a survey from my mobile-phone provider popped onto my telephone’s email screen. The survey contained only one question: How likely is it that you would recommend us to a friend? Of course, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to learn how this company was utilizing such feedback, so I keyed in the score I felt the company deserved—a three (out of 10).
A few days later, I discovered a message on my home answering machine from a manager at the store where I purchased my last phone. So I called her back, and after a couple of rounds of phone tag we finally connected. It turned out she was the area manager, responsible for a handful of local stores. She explained that she had received my feedback, and she wondered if I could explain the reasons for my score.
I tried my best to be constructive, but a deep reservoir of resentment had accumulated over the past few years. I launched into the list of complaints: complex pricing schemes, contracts designed to trap me into wasting minutes and/or incurring outrageous overage fees, inexplicable roaming fees, and unintelligible bills with additional fees for text messages when our plan supposedly included “unlimited” text messages. You get the picture.
So did the manager on the phone. First, she apologized. Then she explained that most of these things were frustrating to her as well. For a variety of reasons, she said, the cell-phone industry had fallen into these tactics, but her firm was committed to improving them. Some of the changes would take time, she added, but there was one thing she could do for me right now. She had analyzed my recent bills, and she was confident that there was a more suitable plan they could offer me. She promised that her store manager would be in touch shortly with a proposed set of changes—and indeed he did get in touch, eventually mailing me new contracts that were much better matched to my needs.
Before she hung up, I asked the area manager what she thought about this system of getting feedback on one question, and then closing the loop with the customer by phone to diagnose the score and determine appropriate responses. Without a moment’s hesitation, she exclaimed: “I really love this process.” She went on to tell me that for years her company had attempted to put more emphasis on customer satisfaction. But despite all the good intentions, the programs had consistently failed to deliver.
She went on: “You know, everyone these days is so busy. We’re glued to these computer screens that govern our lives. There are not enough hours in the day, so only the urgent items get addressed—and satisfying the customer slips to the bottom of the queue. The advantage of this new approach is that it’s simple and practical.” She described how the process has been hard-wired into the daily rhythms of team members via their computer screens. Whenever a customer gives a low score, the information is emailed directly to the store manager. (A few go directly to area managers so they become familiar with the system and provide effective coaching.) Each store manager knows that he or she must contact the customer within 24 hours, and that the customer’s response (and actions taken in response) will be reviewed with the manager at the weekly staff meeting.
This closed-loop system recognizes an important truth: in a world where no one has enough time to finish all their tasks, only a system connected to the email and to accountability at the weekly team meeting can change the way branch managers and their team members allocate their precious time and balance priorities. My cell-phone company has finally recognized that satisfying customers must rise to the top of the front-line teams’ to-do lists. It is about time!