Feedback from customers, whether it be compliments or criticism – and how you act upon it – is one of the most important elements of good customer service. But it can be hard to know what customers really think of their experience, which is why Leisure-net Solutions, the leading provider of Customer Insight, Business Intelligence and Consultation services to the active leisure sector, launched its feedback-Focus™ software, to help operators keep track of their customers’ views.
“Learning what we’re doing right and wrong with our service and how we can do it better is crucial to business success,” explains Mike Hill, Leisure-net Solutions Director. “But we’ve found that when an operator doesn’t have a high-profile, easy to use comments system, only the negative comments from determined customers get through. When you introduce an automated, online system you get more comments and a better range of the spectrum, which is more representative of what the customers really think.”
Powered by DataHub, the online comments and complaints system is currently used by almost 400 sites across the sector, generating over 28,000 comments annually. It enables operators to easily keep on top of all forms of customer feedback, whether they come in via the web, email, phone or face-to-face. By logging all comments in one place, managers can track the source and number of comments, what they are about, whether they are positive, negative or neutral, and, very importantly, how quickly managers respond to and resolve them.
“feedback-Focus allows operators to keep track of every customer comment they receive, all in one place,” says Hill. “The software allows users to analyse all customer comments, as well as track their responses and whether the complaint/comment is resolved and in what time period.”
An automated, online feedback system puts operators firmly in the 21st Century in customers’ eyes, something they expect in this age of social media and the ability to interact 24/7. It also makes it easier to respond faster and track actions against comments, but not all operators are taking advantage of this opportunity, which is particularly worrying, according to Hill, given the public’s expectations of speed of response are so much higher than they were 10 years ago.
“Whilst a letter could typically be responded to in 7-10 days, customers now expect a response to an email or social media comment within 24 hours, if not sooner,” he says. “Add to that the fact we know just how much a fast response impacts positively on the whole service recovery period.”
Research published in the Journal of Consumer Behaviour found that ‘a key influence on loyalty is the offer of unique, value‐delivering advantages not provided by competitors. Thus firms need to develop positive, value‐based exit barriers to achieve loyalty. When service failures occur, the recovery process is likely to have a greater impact on loyalty than the original service failure. The key to successful recoveries was found to be the customer’s perception of fairness’.
So, says Hill: “Recovery programmes must get it right first time. The speed and the way you respond – with understanding, appreciation and empathy – has been proven to be equally as important to someone complaining as whether you actually solve their complaint. If you take longer to respond than they expect, their frustration will just grow.”
Resolution isn’t necessarily about giving the customer everything they want and sometimes complaints are about long term (and sometimes insurmountable) problems, such as larger car parks or a new swimming pool. “In these cases resolution means reaching a mutual ‘understanding’ of the issue,” says Hill.
Getting it right
The good news is that data from the feedback-Focus shows that not only are the number of compliments rising and the number of complaints falling, but generally operators are getting significantly quicker at responding to and resolving customers’ issues.
In the last two years more than 57,000 feedback forms were received by operators using the service, and 98% of these were resolved. And in the last year alone, compliments have risen by 8% and complaints have fallen by 5%.
But even more encouraging is the way operators are handling these comments.
The average response time fell by four days in the last year, meaning customers now receive an initial response within six days. The initial resolution period has also fallen, from 9.9 days in 2016-17 to just 6.2 days in the last 12 months.
Sportspark at the University of East Anglia (UEA) has been using the feedback- Focus for the last five years; it was one of the test sites before the platform even went live; enabling customers to comment via a link on the website, cards in the centre or face-to-face with staff that are trained to verbal comments, as well as collating comments from social media.
Sportspark has well over 13,000 members. Roughly a quarter are students, with the rest made up of the staff and local community. The facility has received 3,462 comments to date and has developed a customer feedback policy committing to a response within five days of the original submission – an impressive 77% of all comments are responded to i under 7 days. But, as Phil Steele, Director of
Sport points out, the platform enables them to action an issue immediately. “We started using the Leisure-net system to better track feedback from customers and how these comments were being actioned within our teams,” says Steele. “With such a large team and shift work in place, being able to search a customer name to see what stage a complaint is at is a vital feature for us.
“When submitting, the customer must choose an area of the business their comment relates to and an email is automatically sent to the relevant Head of Department with a link to view the comment, effectively meaning we can be on the phone to the customer before they reach their car!”
The platform also enables Sportspark to track the resolution time of each comment, so if a comment requires further action from a Head of Department how quickly this is done is being tracked too. To make sure this happens, the feedback-Focus statistics are reported on at a monthly senior managers meetings. And to give customers confidence that they are being listened to, Sportspark even displays the statistics on their public noticeboard.
“The statistics shows our customers how quickly we have responded to and resolved their comments over the past month, but also how invested we are in listening to their feedback,” continues Steele. “Our comments have increased year on year since 2013, which is excellent. They’re a mixture of complaints, compliments and comments, but it means customers are becoming more aware of how to leave their feedback, feel like their issues will be listened to, and know when to expect a response.
“feedback-Focus is the easiest way to record all customer feedback, see what is being actioned by our team and breakdown common issues our customers are dealing with. The system’s interactive graphs and pdf reports help us to easily communicate the information to wider staff and the public. This year we were also awarded Excellent for our Sport England quality assurance and continuing development programme, Quest Plus, and our communications process was taken into account as part of this.”
Closing the loop
Alongside feedback-Focus, Leisure-net Solutions’ Customer Insight online platform, allows Net Promoter Score (NPS) customers to ‘close the loop’ and track their engagement with people after they’ve completed the survey. The NPS asks customers just one question on a 0 to 10 rating scale: “How likely is it that you would recommend our company to a friend or colleague?” Based on their responses, customers can be categorised as Promoters (9-10 rating), Passives (7-8 rating) and Detractors (0-6 rating). The percentage of Detractors is subtracted from the percentage of Promoters to obtain a Net Promoter Score.
“Closing the loop allows more dynamic recording and increases the functionality around our NPS surveys,” says Hill. “The system ensures companies can track how they’ve interacted with people after they’ve completed the NPS survey and so see if they’ve moved them up from detractors to passives or promoters.”