Fast-cycle closed-loop feedback provides employees with a score—and actual reactions from the customers they served—within a very short time of those interactions, and while they are still fresh in the employees’ minds. In this way, the Net Promoter system corresponds to the way we all learn: we take an action, we see the outcome, we draw conclusions and we repeat the cycle.
Leading Net Promoter System℠ practitioners such as Schwab and Apple work hard to contact every detractor, usually within twenty-four hours. Such a prompt response tells customers that those companies really do care. It’s also an opportunity for coaching. Verbatim comments from customers, delivered quickly and in full detail to frontline employees, are a way of providing constructive feedback when service falls short.
Before calling the customer, for example, Schwab managers and supervisors check with employees so that they have the context and background they need to help resolve the problem. This dialogue helps employees remember the transaction in question and is also a natural opportunity for coaching and discussion about what went wrong.
And this process is not just about problems. There is no more powerful reinforcement for an employee who provided great service than hearing in a customer’s own words why their actions had such a positive effect. Celebrating any time a customer gives a score of 10 fuels employee engagement and motivation, and it ensures that the learning process is as much about reinforcing what employees should do as it is about correcting what they did wrong.
And fast-cycle closed-loop learning goes well beyond the frontline—it also forces the organization itself to listen, learn and act. Dialogue between employees and customers frequently brings to light real opportunities for improvement. Once these opportunities have been sorted according to the highest impact potential (see Interaction Prioritization), organizations can use them to design and develop training programs. Allianz, for example, discovered that most employees could benefit from training that teaches them how to communicate with unhappy customers and programs to improve their listening skills and teach them techniques for discovering root cause. Allianz also scheduled regular forums where employees could share best practices and discuss challenges they could not solve on their own.
Such training and coaching is essential, but it only truly works if it is married with the sort of frequent regular feedback provided by a closed-loop system. Employees can’t learn to change their behavior by studying customer feedback or a training manual: They need the clear understanding that comes from hearing first-hand how their actions affected another individual and from resolving or celebrating the results.