The Power of Fast Feedback Loops to Drive Customer Satisfaction With Chris Wong
In February 2022, hundreds of leaders from service businesses across the world gathered together online to take part in the Global Frontline Experience Summit, an event we are delighted to sponsor and host again after its hugely successful first run in 2020. It was a phenomenal event with a contagious heaping of inspiration, excitement and possibility for anyone working in the customer experience and frontline service space.
If you missed the summit, brought to you by our Frontline Magic Community don't worry! All of the sessions are available right here, and are just as powerful the second time around.
Established in 1996, New Zealand Home Loans (NZHL) is a home loan and insurance provider that aims to help Kiwis find financial freedom. Chris Wong is NZHL’s Head of Customer and Product, who has seen firsthand the game-changing benefits of creating fast feedback loops and investing in the frontline. In an interview with Nick Butler, Chris walks us through how closing the feedback loop has positively impacted NZHL’s employees, customers and subsequently the business as a whole.
Feedback Can be More Than a “Temperature Check”
Customer feedback can be elusive at times. Not only in getting responses to surveys but making use of them while they’re hot. In 2016, NZHL surveyed customers annually, which Chris said provided “pretty good” feedback and “a good level of insight”. These insights included typical NPS and CSAT scores, and general feedback to give to the frontline. However, getting feedback to the frontline was a manual process, and the delay between receiving feedback from customers and giving it to the frontline could take up to 3 months. By the time the frontline received feedback, they “had already lost the chance to follow up or solve the issue”.
For positive feedback, clients would recommend potential clients to the business and leave a name and phone number. However, because of the delay in feedback, by the time the frontline received that feedback, it’d be too late. “You know how home loans are,” Chris said, “if you get a name, a number for someone who wanted to buy a home in November, you’re way too well past it”. That potential client would have found another home loan advisor and had moved on. Chris said the feedback from the frontline was that “the report itself is a really great temperature check… but it was very much a lag indicator; not lead”. So, while client feedback indicated whether the business is going in the right direction, it did little to create actual improvements. Luckily, a solution was right around the corner…
The Power of Fast, Real-Time Feedback Loops
Chris and his team knew that when they *eventually* did get feedback to the frontline, it had the potential to make a big impact. So the question became: “How do we improve responsiveness?”
The solution was real-time customer feedback. NZHL used AskNicely which Chris said: “has been great in helping us set that [real-time feedback] up”. While having real-time surveys is highly effective, Chris mentioned that they “needed to be triggered automatically and shared directly with our frontline in real-time”, which is exactly what the solution does. The decision was made to send out a survey to every customer, whether new or existing when they finished a home loan submission. Chris said, “this sounds like a small thing, but it’s a huge step forward in our consistency”.
Gaining clarity on how customers felt at a big moment in their journey helped NZHL’s frontline team understand what mattered most to their customers, and create a more consistent level of service. Consistency in service results in greater customer satisfaction because customers know what to expect and while surprises can be good, stability is even better. Chris pointed out that immediate feedback in real-time can put a business a step ahead of competitors, “with other competitors, banks and whatnot, you don’t necessarily get that; where every single customer will receive [the survey] at that very big moment of truth”, it was a change Chris noted was “massive for [NZHL]”. Not only was the impact massive for the bottom line, boardroom and customers, but also the employees responsible for delivering the experiences. With a whole new real-time oversight on their work, teams were celebrated for getting things right, and had clear insights on the areas they could improve on every day.
How the Frontline Can Lead Businesses to Success
2020 was full of changes for everyone, including businesses like NZHL. In July 2020 when NZHL began using AskNicely, it was a new experience for all of their frontline associates. Chris said that “the real-time feedback was quite confronting for our frontline, especially if they weren’t used to receiving constructive criticism”. So, the frontline staff were given support in responding to customers, which also built their confidence. For example, NZHL would provide templates for their frontline that helped them respond to and deal with customer feedback. Through this process, customer centricity began to bake itself into NZHL’s company culture, and frontline teams understood their customers and their needs better than they ever had before.
A good feedback tool is engaging, catches on at all levels, connects the boardroom to the frontline and creates cultural unity. Chris mentioned that “a number of [NZHL] franchise owners got really engaged… they would run team meetings around the feedback we were sending through”. Work like this led to more innovative techniques that improved frontline morale. For example, one of NZHL’s franchises found that sharing some positive feedback every Friday morning can cap off an amazing week on a high note. So, staff can go into the weekend in a good headspace.
Using Fast Feedback to Uncover Brand Advocates
Another idea NZHL had was for frontline workers to receive client recommendations from an existing customer. Using AskNicely, NZHL was able to tell which customers had referred multiple people. Thus, which customers were the top advocates for NZHL. Chris mentioned a consultant that had one customer who recommended seven new customers in a twelve-month period. Unlike their previous systems where NZHL missed out on referrals and were unable to recognize the frontline when they achieved great results, the team were able to celebrate the consultant for the awesome work, and give extra care to and appreciation to the brand advocate for referring NZHL, building loyalty and strength in the customer relationship.
Feedback Loops — What’s the Big Deal?
Chris wrapped the talk up nicely by looking at how fast feedback has improved the experience for customers, the frontline and NZHL.
What does it mean for customers?
Overall, improving the customer experience through feedback increases customer satisfaction. Higher levels of customer satisfaction increases customer engagement, retention, repeat business and referrals. Customers also feel valued and listened to when their feedback is taken seriously, and as Chris mentions “even if [customers] don’t respond, at least they’re aware this is how we do business”.
What does it mean for our frontline?
Frontline workers can solve problems in real-time and get more business from recommendations. They gain a new found sense of accountability, empowerment and motivation, as they get to see the fruits of their labor through feedback and recognition.
What does it mean for NZHL?
From Chris’s perspective, it has created a cultural shift. That means frontline workers and NZHL managers can work more “transparently”. It creates a more unified experience for both the customer, frontline, and top tier managers as they work towards a common goal and have clear oversight on how they’re tracking.
So, How Does This Help You?
The take-home messages that Chris emphasized:
- Fast feedback loops > Clunky annual surveys.
- Prepare to give support to the frontline to build confidence.
- Encourage those superstars who do well and help others learn from them.
- If you’ve earned the right, don’t be shy to ask clients for recommendations.
- Work with your frontline to optimize surveys.
- Feedback is AWESOME! Be open and curious about it.
Feedback is a friend, not an enemy, it can be the cutting edge that puts you in front of competitors. When you utilize fast feedback loops, and connect with your customers and frontline teams, a business can soar to new heights.
Want to see more presentations from the Global Frontline Experience Summit? We’ll be releasing blogs every week diving into all the juicy insights from our incredible lineup of speakers. In the meantime, you can join the Frontline Magic Community to receive updates, frontline news and more!