Has Your Service Provider Ever Asked for Your Feedback?

Many businesses, services and organizations have a corporate vision and values based on achieving something that their constituents want or need. Well-managed entities routinely review how well they are delivering for their constituents. A deeper enquiry is to also examine whether the stated values of the organization are actually being expressed through the services offered and experienced by constituents.

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Increasingly the service providers are obliged to review their performance for quality system or accreditation requirements. For some businesses, it’s very easy to gauge how well they deliver because their products sell – people queue overnight to buy their concert tickets for example. For others feedback is much less direct for various reasons, such as:

  • They are in a not-for-profit environment where there may not be competitors
  • There is little benchmarked data available to compare performance
  • There is no tradition of asking constituents for opinions
  • It is assumed the service provider is doing the right thing

Challenges

In some environments, obtaining service user feedback is challenging because the process is not straight forward, for example when:

  • Constituents are illiterate, don’t speak English, are non-verbal or intellectually impaired.
  • Constituents have limited experience of alternative services and therefore expect only what they’ve already encountered.
  • Constituents are hard to engage – they may be time poor, uninterested, feel threatened by being questioned or be ignorant of the goals of the organization.
  • Constituents who depend on a service from an organization may fear they will be “punished” for giving negative feedback.

Things to consider

Designing an effective way to get feedback may also have challenges such as:

  • Making sure the questions or interactions produce responses that will be illuminating.
  • Finding ways to engage constituents that will be effective. For example, some people won’t open up if confronted with a clipboard and tick and flick questionnaire.
  • Analyzing and communicating the results so that the findings can be substantiated and are useful to the organization’s planning or review processes.
  • Keeping logistics manageable and cost-effective.
  • Allowing for qualitative feedback so you understand why people have rated your service the way they do. This means some open-ended questions as well as those with yes/ no or numerical scale answers.

It’s worth doing

  • The history of service providers is littered with examples where assumptions about how the quality of services led to serious problems or injustices.
  • It’s a great opportunity to test whether new approaches or initiatives are making a difference.
  • Even negative feedback is useful – as long as you are prepared to do something to address it.
  • Think about whether you can repeat your research periodically to monitor improvement.

It’s worth doing well

  • If you want or need to do it, then don’t just go through the motions – make it a valuable exercise that is useful to your organization’s decision makers.
  • Have a clear plan – think about what information you need, how you will gather it through the year and how you will use it, to help you design the processes and questions.
  • Test your approach to see if it works before investing time or money in rolling it out.
  • Consider whether gathering feedback is best done by a third-party who can preserve anonymity for those giving their views.
  • Think through the logistics of analyzing and reporting your findings – it’s easy to send out a survey but harder to analyze it and render the information useful.
  • Some feedback can be gathered routinely at low-cost, which means not having to set aside a big chunk of time later on.
  • Think about how you can “feedback the feedback” – how could you let your customers know you have heard what they said and are doing something about it?

So tell me, has your service provider ever asked for your feedback?

Richard Gould – Design Administration

Gould Design, Inc.