‘Voice of the Customer’ is one of those great business tools that can really help to improve a business process.

Earlier this week I got a chance to gain some feedback for one of my clients; one of their clients was willing to let me interview them and with some very focused questions I got some really interesting feedback. Most of it was good, but some of it was poor. This poor feedback, however, was the catalyst to make some simple changes within my client’s processes and working practices that will make an immediate difference to their subsequent enquiries.

Many businesses shy away from feedback like this. It doesn’t feel great when you receive negative feedback, but if you do something with it then you can turn a poor situation into a strength for your business.

There are a number of ways to get feedback into your business:

  • You can have a conversation with your clients and customers. If you take this route you need to be clear about who is taking part in the feedback from your perspective; will they be open with you, or will they give you a sugar coated version? If you can ensure honesty then this approach is brilliant.
  • You can look at data you have in your business with regards to repeat orders, complaints and cancellations. Although data won’t always give you context it will give you enough clues as to what you can do to improve your service levels.
  • Taking a time out from your day to day work so that you can watch your business in operation can also let you witness what is going on. Hang out in the trade counter area, phone your own business, ride on the trains, chat with the delivery staff… whatever makes sense for your business.

Understanding what is generating the issues is the real art behind this kind of feedback though. You need to investigate and dig around to find out why the issues can arise in the first place. Getting to the bottom of it is vital, don’t just apply sticking plasters!

I see non-conformances being raised in many businesses. Many businesses will do just enough to clear the non-conformance from their to-do list. The smart ones will take that little extra time to come up with a ‘flash of the blinding obvious’ action that will close out the non-conformance once and for all. It really is worth the time to get to the bottom of business issues, so that your actions are at maximum effectiveness.

Find your customer feedback, one way or another. Understand what is causing the issues in your business and then create the changes that will improve both the effectiveness and profitability of how your business works.

It is worth the effort.


Giles Johnston

Giles Johnston is a Chartered Engineer who consults with businesses to improve their on time delivery performance, ERP system performance and deploy Kaizen / Lean production methods. Giles is also the author of 'What Does Good Look Like?'.