Sunday, August 29, 2010

Do you follow through or do you ask for feedback?

Thanks to my status as a life-long Cleveland Indians fan, I've seen my share of announcers trying to explain why pitchers are so incredibly bad. I've seen pitchers literally dribble the ball towards homeplate. I've seen pitchers walk 6-7 people in a row. Inevitably, when the game gets too painful, the announcers start talking about the pitcher's delivery. Most often, they talk about the fact that his follow-through seems poor. His arm is in the wrong position. His foot is 5 inches off the mound instead of 3.

For a pitcher, "feedback" is what happens to his pitch once it's thrown. If it's a good pitch, the pitcher attains his goal. In the case of most Cleveland Indians pitchers, the feedback is bad.

In business, we have often been framing things like a pitcher would. We make a pitch, we look for feedback. Hopefully in your case you are hoping for a homerun rather than a strike-out, but otherwise, it's the same general concept. If your feedback is bad, or begins to decrease in quality, you look everywhere, trying to find the core of the problem. Well, much like a pitcher, your problem may be your follow-through.

A symptom of the old days

One sign that companies, for the most part, still haven't adjusted to the Age of the Customer is that we are still asking for feedback. What do you think of this website? What do you think of our product? Did you like our pitch? Did you like me? Did you like my speech?

"What's wrong with that?" You may ask.

Well, in asking for feedback, we are putting the burden on our customers, or on our audience. We're saying, "We appreciate you buying our product, now tell us if you like it." Moreover, asking for feedback is still making the whole issue about us. It's kind of like the insecure person who always asks you how they look, even after you compliment them 2-3 times. After awhile, you start to wonder if you're missing something.

The art of follow-through

Instead of making it about you the company, the interest should really be in your customer. You should follow up with your customers. I'm not talking about automated surveys, either, although those are at least going in the right direction. We should emphasize to our customers and potential customers that we are sincerely interested in how they perceived their experience with us. Did your product or service meet their needs? Did it solve their problem? Are they satisfied? Do they need anything else? Imagine a real live person contacting you the way you said you wanted to be contacted, with the communique just saying, "Hey, saw that you bought xyz product or xyz service. Wanted to make sure everything is okay and that you don't need anything else."

What a wonder.

The thing is, it's not just customers that we should follow through with. In these days where integrated marketing is growing in importance, you should also follow through with other departments in your company, or if you work on your own, follow through yourself to make sure different initiatives are supporting each other. Instead of just asking for feedback on a marketing initiative, marketing should follow through with sales to make sure the ad or email campaign is indeed effective. Instead of asking for feedback on a PR campaign, PR people should talk to customer support to make sure that customers feel better about the company and the product.

Poor follow-through can yield poor feedback

Just like a pitcher who has a kink in his follow-through, your company will start to notice that your feedback will decline in positivity if you have poor follow-through. If you don't follow through with your customers, you might not get any feedback at all. If you don't follow through with other departments to make sure that everything is working as it should, things might not work, and no one would be the wiser.

On the other side of the coin, of course, is that really good follow-through can set the stage for extremely positive feedback which you won't have to ask for. Making sure that a customer is "good to go" can make a huge impression. They will rave about you and spread the word. Just like a surprise present for no apparent reason, positive feedback that is received without being requested is all the sweeter.

Are you following through or are you still asking for feedback? There are extremely positive and fun ways to follow through with customers, regardless of what you have offered them (product, service, webinar, trade show experience). Maybe Clayman Advertising could step in as pitching coach and help you with that follow-through mechanism.

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