The Customer Confidential Podcast

Customers Want to Be Heard: Can You Use Feedback to Build Relationships?

Carolyn Saunders, former senior vice president, Consumer & Small Business (Retail), International Banking, at Scotiabank, shares how transparent communication boosts NPS.


Customers Want to Be Heard: Can You Use Feedback to Build Relationships?

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Carolyn Saunders recently left her role at Scotiabank and now works with Bain & Company as an external advisor.

When you submit feedback after having a great or horrible customer experience, you’re likely not expecting a follow-up. And so often for companies the great inhibitor to providing exceptional customer experience isn’t a lack data or feedback, but rather what to do with it all. Where do you make improvements, and how do you measure success?

In her former role as senior vice president, Consumer & Small Business (Retail), International Banking at Scotiabank, Carolyn Saunders observed this firsthand. On a mission to transform the customer experience, she realized that customer feedback can serve not only as a valuable way to gather data for improvements, but also as opportunity to build customer loyalty.

“You can sell as much as you want, but if you don’t start to create the relationship and the respect for the customer, you’re never going to obtain that loyalty,” Carolyn says. “When you take the time to understand your customer, the customer feels appreciated. The customer wants their voice to be heard.”

To jump-start this process, Carolyn used tools from the Net Promoter System to collect customer feedback and centralize it across the organization. Through pilot programs, she found that by providing teams with the tools to provide excellent customer experience and collect feedback, they could generate lasting loyalty and provide more value to frontline employees.

One effective way to do this, she found, was through follow-up calls to detractors, even when there wasn’t necessarily something that could be fixed.

“Customers started to yell, and then suddenly they calmed down and said, ‘Thanks for listening.’ And we didn’t solve anything, but they just needed to be heard,” she says.

And, while very few organizations make follow-up calls to promoters, calling them can be even more important.

“There’s a thing to be said about calling promoters, right? People who love a company. That’s the easiest phone call. ‘Thank you for your feedback.’ But it’s also one of the fewest that organizations do,” Carolyn says. “But it’s important because it shows the customer that you heard them.”

Over time, this engagement cements the relationship customers have with the company. It also gives frontline workers a boost to get detailed feedback from both promoters and detractors. Importantly, when improvements are made as a result of these conversations, your customers will notice.

“When you can close the loop and say to customers that we’ve heard your feedback and we’ve made a change,” Carolyn says, “there’s a ‘wow’ factor.”

In this episode, Carolyn and I discuss why it’s imperative to ensure customers and employees feel heard and why ensuring that even senior leaders are in regular dialogue with customers can make a huge difference.

In the following excerpt, we discuss what a successful follow-up call looks like in action.

Rob: One of the most important things about follow-up calls is making the customer feel heard. There’s an argument against that: “Yeah, but that's just one customer. We have thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, or millions of customers. You picked up a grain of sand on the beach. So what? That's not scalable.” That’s the response.

Carolyn: But it’s amazing how scalable it can be. You're not going to talk to everybody you know in terms of callbacks, but when you start implementing targets on callbacks—not on score, but callbacks—three to five per week per branch, then you start looking at what your branch footprint is. You have contact centers and digital teams calling back. You have executives doing callbacks. You’re getting to thousands. So, sure. You’re not touching every customer on that callback, but what you’re still doing is creating that notion of, “I want to stay with this organization.” Often, people will want to call some promoters. People who love a company. That’s the easiest phone call.

Rob: But it’s also the one that few organizations do. Very few organizations call promoters.

Carolyn: Yeah. It’s important to do it. Because I think it creates a feeling of, “You still heard me.” They took the time to reply and say thank you.

“We’ve looked forward to serving you again and is there anything more we can do for you?” You’re still creating that relationship and connection. And the most fearful people making callbacks for executives want all the background history. And I say, “No, you can just call back the customer and ask them what happened.”

Rob: Like a human being.

Carolyn: Like a human being.


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