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The power of feedback

At least once a year, most of us can expect to sit through an annual performance review in order to learn how to become a better employee.  Our prior year accomplishments are discussed, and we receive feedback on ways we can do our jobs more effectively.  As daunting as this experience can be, it ultimately helps us grow as individuals and employees.  This necessary tool provides a roadmap for personal improvement and possible advancement within the company.

Assessments aren’t just for the workplace. It seems we are also constantly assessing the performance of people, services and events around us on a daily basis.  Measuring success or failure helps us make informed decisions about what restaurants we frequent, what cars we drive and even what political candidates to support on Election Day.

So why is it that even though we take the time to evaluate the performance of the world around us, we seem to neglect this process when analyzing the impact of our own companies’ products and services on clients?

How can we improve our services if we don’t receive feedback from the people who are using them?  Furthermore, how can we promote the advantages of our products if we don’t have any data to back it up?

As a small business owner in the healthcare market, our company has the opportunity to work in an industry that is highly regulated by the government and other external agencies.  We are required to measure the impact of our services and products to ensure compliance with specified guidelines.  This environment not only forces us to be innovative when it comes to collecting relevant data and reporting it back to key stakeholders, but during the process, it provides valuable feedback about how we are doing as a company.

When we decided to branch out to provide our services to other industries (that aren’t as highly regulated as healthcare), we were surprised to discover how little other companies did to measure their progress through the collection of customer and/or client feedback.  And for those companies that did collect this type of data, it seemed to be rather generic in terms of quality. 

In one example, a client collected evaluation data from participants at an educational conference, but on their survey, they only included basic questions like:

• “Was the food satisfactory?”
• “Was the room the right temperature?” 

They missed a valuable opportunity to ask participants if they were committed to changing their processes based on the education presented and, if so, how they planned to change. This information would have been extremely helpful during development of new content for future conferences.

In another example, a client utilizing a different survey to evaluate their product, successfully included a question regarding customers’ commitment to incorporate the product into their daily professional routines, but stopped short of inquiring into the reason behind those who responded “no”. Without this question in their survey, the client was left with an incomplete picture of the overall value and effectiveness of the product being provided. 

Feedback data can be collected through the use of simple technology that utilizes survey instruments and analysis tools.  These tools create ‘feedback loops’ that provide valuable information to help improve your products and services.  Inexpensive technology like Survey Monkey, Microsoft Access and Excel can be used to collect and compile the information.

Examples of some of the data that can be collected include:

•      The frequency with which customers use your product and why   they use it (if they aren’t using it frequently, you can find out why)
•      Ways you can improve your product or service
•      How you can improve your pricing model
•      What other competition exists in the market

Remember, the benefits of employee performance reviews also apply to your company’s products and services. Collection feedback and data will only help to make your company stronger. Just like your employees, your products and services deserve an annual review.

And as you collect your information and data, keep in mind the sage advice of author Steven Covey who suggests, “Begin with the end in mind” and always consider how you intend to use the data you collect to improve your business.          

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Marc Crawford

Marc Crawford is president at Educational Measures, which helps companies properly utilize content and data.

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