Collecting feedback from customers and employees is more important now than ever before. And, as we shared in this recent blog post, there are more ways than ever before to do it. Simply collecting feedback, though, won’t make you successful. You have to take action. But that’s not where the work ends, either.

If your company is growing fast, and you understand how taking action can lead to increased sales or business process improvements that impact the bottom line, it can be tempting to simply take feedback and run with it. But there’s an important follow-on step: close the loop with customers.

What does it mean to “close the loop” with customers?

Closing the loop with customers is about getting back to the customer after they’ve given you some feedback. In closing the loop, you let the customer know they’ve been heard. You communicate the action you’ve taken based on their feedback, or the resolution you’re planning.

Perhaps you share customer feedback internally now among your colleagues and managers. That’s great, and it’s definitely something you should do to align employees around customers. But closing the loop with customers is different. It’s equally as important.

Closing the loop with customers doesn’t have to be expensive, time-consuming, or hard.

Why is it important to close the loop?

Closing the loop is about building your credibility and your relationships with your customers. It’s about acknowledging them. With that acknowledgement, you’re letting your customer know they’re valued, and that your company sees them as a valuable part of your business. There are several ways you can close the loop, and it doesn’t necessarily need to be expensive, time-consuming, or difficult.

When and where you close the loop should be based on the customer, the channel where you received the feedback, and what makes sense for your business. Here are a few ideas.

1. Use technology

We love what the Qualtrics XM Institute had to say about using technology to close the loop with customers in Operationalizing XM:

“…companies should automate and manage a closed-loop process using tools such as ticket management, status updating, and tracking.”

Today’s sophisticated experience management tools, like the Qualtrics Experience Management Platform™, give you that capability. You can create and customize closed loop tickets based on any element of a survey response including score, customer tier, presence or absence of a comment, etc. The platform automatically creates tickets at the time of survey submission for immediate real-time customer contact. That gives you a chance to fix the problems that surface. You’ll want to link to your case management system to track feedback all the way to a resolution. Always check the content of any automated messages to ensure they speak to the nuances of the customer’s feedback, and not something unrelated.

2. Respond to online reviews

Online reviews or customer comments posted on social media sites like Yelp or Facebook, for example, are almost an inevitable part of doing business today. Even government agencies and embassies aren’t immune. Sometimes the feedback is positive, and sometimes not. At any rate, it’s important to the credibility of your business to close the loop with a response. We love what Qualtrics’ Diana Kaemingk wrote in this blog about how to acknowledge and respond to online feedback.

3. Write a letter

Sometimes, depending on the way you’ve received the customer feedback, it may be more appropriate to respond to customers in a general way, like through a written, open letter. We’ve seen these in the opening pages of in-flight magazines like Southwest Airlines, for example. The point is to let customers know what changes were made based on customer feedback, and what customers can expect moving forward.

4. Create a sign

Creating a sign may sound so simplistic but the truth is, closing the feedback loop doesn’t necessarily have to be flashy! Depending on your business or how and where your customers share feedback, it may be more appropriate to close the loop at or near where they provided feedback in the first place. Here’s an actual example of a simple sign on the front door of a restaurant in Pennsylvania where the restaurant owners communicated that customer feedback had been heard, and what the restaurant had done in response.

Posting a sign to show customer service

5. Have a conversation

Don’t underestimate the power of a one-on-one conversation with a customer as a follow-up to feedback. In my past life building feedback channels in the B2B world, one-on-one follow-up conversations frequently led to immediate business development and improvement opportunities. The conversations sometimes went something like this:

Firm representative: “Thanks, Ms. Client, for letting us hear your feedback. We appreciate that you took the time to share your experiences working with our firm.”

Ms. Client: “You’re welcome. I think it’s great that you want to know!”

Firm representative: “You mentioned in your feedback the parking problems you’ve experienced on your last two visits to our offices. I’m really sorry about all the construction right now. That should be cleared up next month. Meanwhile, I’d love to send you a pass for a new, temporary reserved lot we’ve set up to give our clients easier access to our offices. It’s right next to the entrance to the building.”

Ms. Client: “That would be great. Please send it today. We’re just hearing about some new issues coming our way and I’d like to see if we could get your firm’s help with them.”

Don’t assume customers should “just know” what you’re doing with their feedback.

Make “closed loop” feedback systemic

One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen companies and government organizations make in closing the loop with customers (and even employees with their feedback, but that’s another blog post!) is assuming that customers should “just know” without the benefit of your communication what you’re doing with their feedback. Don’t assume customers should “just know.”

Take steps to close the loop, and make it a habit. Make it part of the customer mindset you want to build for your company. If you want to embrace the practices and principles of customer experience as a business discipline, closing the loop is just one of those things that’s central to what you should be doing. Choose the right way to do it based on customer expectations and what makes sense for your business.

For further reading: Closing the loop is a core skill of the experience management discipline outlined in Qualtrics’ XM Institute’s new publication: Operationalizing XM. You can download that publication here.

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Author Bio: Stephanie Thum is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP) and the former head of customer experience for the Export-Import Bank of the United States, a federal government agency that finances and insures exports toward the creation of U.S. jobs. She is currently the chief advisor for federal customer experience at Qualtrics. She has written and spoken extensively on the topic of customer experience management in the government world, and beyond.