Recently I was given the task of running a project that will create what is known around here as a Customer Interaction Framework. In short, it’s meant to determine what our internal customers need when they do their job with our product, and then find a way to get useful and meaningful feedback from them. And once we figure that out, create the framework so it can be applied to all the global teams so they can generate a feedback loop to build in improvements.
Man, that is a lot of work.
The project scope is meant to span the globe yet only comprises 5 team members. We decided that keeping the team small and staffed with people who not only have experience in this area, but who are also passionate about having a dialogue with their customers and encouraging feedback. It will focus on deliverables we know we can get good feedback on, and the people in the project all have their area of expertise.
But one of the aims of this project is to set up a framework where we can get pretty specific feedback on certain deliverables and then act on it at a global level. If we don’t, we run the definite risk of alienating our customers. The tricky part is that some people are nervous about getting feedback as they think it will reflect poorly on them personally. But we have to avoid that.
However, the prerequisite for success in this project, in my opinion, isn’t the team itself being competent or motivated. That was a given. It’s actually doing our homework at the start of the project to make sure we know who we are speaking to — so we can speak their language. This will entail mapping our deliverables to the project phases and the roles that come into play at specific points, and what those people in those roles need to get their jobs done. Not an easy task. But with a name like this, I never thought it would be easy.
I hope to post more updates on this topic as the year goes by.
This is just a short post. I had the opportunity to give a presentation to the Montreal chapter of the Society for Technical Communication on all that I have learned over the past few years regarding getting feedback in the world of documentation.
I am always impressed with just how much technical communicators know and understand about what it is they do and how really to communicate in so many different media. And I was happy to see how feedback was something that interested them. I can only hope I did a decent job of portraying my experiences and knowledge in the company I work for. And I hope it wa useful and relevant to them.
I am always keen to get feedback on my feedback knowledge and hope to learn even more as I go on with this topic.
I have also posted a link to the presentation I did: STC_Customer_Feedback
I might as well go into my current client’s office in a space suite because it’s sort of like working in a vacuum. I have lots of stuff — like pages and pages — but at this point in the project really very few comments. In order to make the project a success I need the experts to provide feedback. I can only create so much without getting some kind of validation.
I tried the group thing but that was KOD’d by my project lead (see https://getcustomerfeedback.wordpress.com/2009/10/27/no-control-ko/ ). What has worked has been a rotating series of one-on-one meetings. It has a number of advantages:
- It helps build ownership — everyone that helps out begins to really understand what the project is trying to accomplish
- I am able to reduce the time I need to get comments as I can target a specific resource for each topic I need to cover and can point their feedback to the specific points I want to cover
- The conversations seem to travel all over the place so they help answer questions I didn’t even know to ask
How do you make one-on-one meetings really work for you?
- You must always have something they can comment on. You can’t just have a headline and ask them for the details. You must have at least some details in place already — even if they are 100% wrong.
- As you get them to talk, you have to remember that these are the experts and their comments might push you to a new spaces — one small comment might even mean massive changes. But again, these are the experts.
- Bounce the changes back to them. You have a built-in reason to give them something else to review so take advantage of that.
- Use the new relationship. If you find you have more questions based on what they said, go ask. As you have the relationship now, they will (typically) give you the space for more time for those last couple of things.
Can’t get a bunch of people to give you a little feedback each? Don’t be afraid to get your feedback one reader at a time.
Customer Feedback – What It’s all About?
Well, my friend and in many ways mentor said it best (see his comment). It’s about conversations. If you don’t communicate and talk to your audience, whether they are purchasing customers or merely interested parties, they won’t know you and more importantly, you won’t you know them.
And isn’t that what customer relationships are all about?
How many deals are broken because you don’t know who you are talking to?
Getting the right customer feedback, at the right time and mining it for actionable content is hard work — but worth it. Because once you know your customers, and their needs, you gain wisdom, insight and most importantly, you gain trust. And without trust, you have no customers.