If there is one thing my days in hospitality have taught me, it’s that “closing the loop” or following up with your customer after they’ve submitted feedback isn’t just a part of an organizational strategy, it’s a required building block for strong customer relationships. This type of immediate response is part of what XM Institute calls four insights-driven action loops that every organization needs to build.
While all hospitality companies (and many other types of organizations as well) should be closing the loop with customers, it can be harmful if done poorly. It turns out that following up with customers can result in both a very positive and a very negative experience. Here are seven common mistakes to avoid when building your closed-loop process:
- Mistake #1: Centralizing closed-loop responses. I have seen large global hospitality organizations take opposite approaches to who responds: centralizing their closed-loop activities where one group is responsible for reaching out to guests and decentralizing the process across the organization where the closed-loop response comes from the department in which challenges occurred. While a centralized approach can be more efficient and consistent, a decentralized approach brings greater results to both CX metrics and business outcomes. By decentralizing, the teams responding have stronger context and accountability and are in a much better position to continuously apply the learnings to their operations.
- Mistake #2: Lacking clarity about who’s responsible. Inside large organizations, it can be very easy to lose sight of who is responsible for closing the loop with a customer, especially if the customer’s experience spans multiple operational areas and departments. In hospitality environments, a customer may interact with the hotel team, food and beverage, entertainment, and more, thus making it more difficult to pin down who is ultimately responsible for any follow-up with a customer. To avoid this mistake, define rules of engagement and deploy tools such as targeted alerts within your CX program that would assign the task for follow-up to the operating area in which the customer had a defect or challenge. For example, if a guest encountered an issue with the cleanliness of their room, an alert would be sent to the head of housekeeping once that survey was received with an action item to close the loop with the guest about their room cleanliness experience.
- Mistake #3: Appearing transactional or inauthentic. It can be very appealing to deploy templates and/or automation to the closed-loop process, especially if you are trying to scale this process. Having led the CX effort across a large global organization, I have seen this mistake firsthand, when placeholders aren’t removed from templates, or automations send the wrong response to the wrong customer. When this happens, an already unhappy customer quickly escalates to newfound levels of frustration thanks to the perception that the organization lacks authenticity and doesn’t care. If you are going to leverage templates for responses, build them as guidelines for a good response and not actual templates, this will help ensure that respondents actually think about the client’s situation and don’t prematurely hit send without changing placeholders.
- Mistake #4: Cherry-picking customers. When dealing with a large volume of customer responses, closing the loop can feel overwhelming. So it’s critical that you design a strategy that defines the specific parameters that trigger a closed-loop response. Without a defined process, department leaders simply cherry-pick which customers they want to respond to, which are often those who appear to require the least amount of effort. The ultimate risk is if some of your most loyal and valuable customers who may have more complex needs become overlooked and then ultimately decide to take their business elsewhere.
- Mistake #5: Responding too slowly. When companies ask for feedback, especially when triggered by a transaction, that solicitation typically occurs immediately or shortly after the interaction. This immediacy establishes an expectation of responsiveness with the customer. As time passes and the customer thinks about the experience, a potentially minor annoyance can grow into a major problem. To avoid this issue, I typically recommend that a hospitality company set a standard of responding to customers within three days.
- Mistake #6: Limiting team members’ ability to fix problems. There’s nothing more demoralizing for a team member and upsetting to a frustrated customer than a situation where an employee is not empowered to solve a problem. But this happens a lot, as companies often don’t provide employees who are responding to the feedback with the tools and resources they need to provide immediate service recovery in the event there was a challenge or defect. Saying “sorry” or “I will pass along your feedback” is not the experience you should be aiming for. If a housekeeping manager is interacting with customers who have had a poor experience, why not define some parameters under which the manager can surprise and delight the customer by offering a free night or a room upgrade on their next visit.
- Mistake #7: Missing the opportunity to learn. For some organizations, closing the loop is just another check-the-box activity to satisfy a dashboard or KPI around a customer response percentage. If this is how an organization views this effort, then it would be better off eliminating the process instead of wasting the company’s and customers’ time on a value-less activity. Remember, the two ultimate questions for any feedback mechanism are: What have you learned? and What improvements are you making? I have witnessed a housekeeping department that completely revamped its housekeeper training program due to insights they gathered from talking with customers in the closed-loop response. The process unlocked insights into customer perception about rooms being dirty or perceived as worn, as well as identifying areas of the room that were being overlooked in the cleaning process.
The bottom line: Close the loop, but make sure to avoid these common mistakes.
Greg Chase, XMP, CCXP, is an XM Catalyst with the Qualtrics XM Institute