Why brands should ask customers for feed-forward, not feedback

Rather than asking customers for feedback, ask them what you could do better in future.

fast forward

Who’s the most powerful person in your firm? The CEO? No. The CFO? No. The head of sales? No. It’s the customer. When a customer complains, the CEO sits up. When a customer wants to leave, the head of sales gets on the case. In a firm, the customer’s voice trumps all others. To lead change, use the power of this voice.

Customer feedback is good, but here’s a much more powerful option: feed-forward.

Picture this: It’s 7am. You’re standing in the hotel checkout queue. You have a flight to catch. When you finally reach the counter, the agent types in your name, prints out some pages and finally looks at you. He then asks, “how was everything?” In a split second, you think about the stained carpet, the broken light, the noisy neighbours, and then you say, “good” because you don’t want to disappoint him and it would all take too long. He’s happy because you’re happy.

Just imagine if the agent, instead of asking you for your feedback, asked you for your feed-forward. “What’s the one thing we could do better?” Now, he’s inviting your ideas. He’s even asking you to prioritise your concerns.

Now, you might say, “clean the stained carpet”. He’s happy because you’ve helped. You’re happy because you’ve helped. And chances are the carpet will be cleaned. Customer feed-forward is a powerful force for change.

Thomas Barta Try This

Try This: Instead of asking your customers how they liked something in the past, co-create. Ask them for forward-looking ideas. “What’s the one thing we can do better?”

Thomas Barta is a marketing leadership expert, speaker and the co-author of ‘The 12 Powers of a Marketing Leader’. He has teamed up with Marketing Week to launch the Marketing Leadership Masterclass, a new CPD-accredited online course designed to equip marketers with everything they need to become a better leader. To find out more and book your place visit leadership.marketingweek.com

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Comments
  • Miroslav Cerny 28 May 2019 at 9:40 am

    It makes perfect sense and can help the companies to get the helpful customer feedback. Nevertheless in many companies the managers are not encouraged for receiving such customer feedback. On the contrary they want to hear “good” as many times as possible as then they show, with some fancy powerpoint charts, on the management meetings how “good” they do their job as XY% of customers sais “good”. It is about the leadership and company culture when sincere managers confession “I shrewd it up and here it is how I can do better for the customers” is more appreciated than showing meaningless “good”. I know, easy to say , pretty difficult to do, as everyone wants keep the “good” job.

  • lisa walklin 28 May 2019 at 10:25 am

    It’s always something we always to customer feedback, not only asking what they thought, but asking what could we do better, what would you like to see. Constructive feedback or feedforward gives you the opportunity to address any issues and also take any ideas forward and give the customers what they want.

  • Ken Jones 3 Jun 2019 at 2:10 pm

    The danger, I suppose, is that customers don’t always know what they want and what will truly delight them. And they don’t know all the available options are a company has it’s disposal for the future. But framed in the right, the feed-forward questionnaires sound like they could be useful, and certainly more useful that the “good” example Barta mentioned.

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