"We listen to our customers."
That's the thing about some clichés--they're often repeated because they should be (and sometimes are) true. The old trope of paying attention to customer feedback has endured for so long simply because so many companies--surprisingly--still don't do it.
At these companies, customer experience often gets lost in the shuffle because of one simple factor: Those in charge of listening aren't close enough to those in charge of everything else.
So, how do you ensure that what your customers are saying reaches the right people? It's pretty simple, actually: Put the customer service team physically in the middle of everything.
It sounds like the most basic, hyperpractical tip you could imagine. For a company in its first few years, it's a low-cost, high-impact strategy that will produce nearly immediate gains for your business.
We did it at my company--here's why:
That is, we're into feedback loops. Particularly when you're just starting out, you need to create an excellent feedback loop by co-locating your member services team with program management, development, sales, engineering, fulfillment, and finance. Customers contact your member services team, which then relays their comments to the right people across different functions, who make changes and roll out updates to customers, who then use them and provide more feedback.
The frontlines are for leaders.
Sit with your customer service team and listen in on calls--or do a few of your own. It's not a terribly revolutionary idea, but it's one that's catching on in all kinds of companies; even Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos spends two days every year attending call center training and encourages his managers to do the same. As I've written before, I did all the customer service for the first several months when our company began. In fact, I still read customer emails every day and take the occasional customer service shift.
The learning curve is steep for new companies. Integrating your member services team with everyone else accelerates that learning process, because everyone hears about what's working--and what's not--at the same time. Customer service is also one of the best and earliest indicators of whether or not your business will succeed. Call it the sensor network of news you can use. The member services team provides the information that everyone else can act on, but if this team is separate from the rest, any actionable steps are delayed before they even begin. And it's no secret that quick action produces happier customers, who in turn drive that intangible, wish-you-could-bottle-it secret sauce: customer loyalty.
Of course, parking teams together can generate sparks, but in small doses, friction isn't a bad thing. The next big thing often comes about when different ideas are brought together, and teams that can perform through positive discord offer more value to a company than ones that can't.