Feedback loops are a method of better understanding –– it could be about a person’s performance, a product’s usefulness, or even a leader’s strategy. However, the best leaders know that this process goes beyond their own personal opinion; instead, feedback loops also include what others think.
As a means of successful problem-solving and productivity-boosting, they must also do what their name implies –– recur on a loop. But there is more to effectiveness than recurrence. The success of these loops is about our own ability to know what information to gather, how to truly listen (even if we don’t like what we hear), when to close the loop, and how to act accordingly.
1.) Collect information from your clients and customers, or if you’re building an internal feedback loop, your own team members. Ask yourself, “Who is the right person to weigh in here?” Challenge yourself to be accountable in asking those people, even if you know their input will be difficult to hear. Unsolicited advice registers as a threat in the brain, so by asking, you’ll set yourself up to fully hear the feedback in a constructive way.
A few common traps people fall into when asking for feedback include: 1) Only asking supporters; 2) Asking everyone and anyone, creating too much noise; 3) Not thinking broadly enough to get a diverse picture of what is happening.
There are so many ways to gather good information, and really, you’re only limited by your own imagination. Good methods include: monthly meetings, live chats, anonymous surveys, social listening, call-in questionnaires, and targeted email marketing. I’m sure you can think of even more! At the end of the day, authentic, specific, and relevant input is the key to a successful feedback loop, so don’t be afraid to try out multiple avenues.
2.) Next, assemble and analyze the information. You’re looking for patterns –– are there any recurring issues? How frequently are these issues popping up? What do all these issues have in common? Are different issues arising for different users? For example, if you’re running an eCommerce website and you discover that people are putting items in their cart but dropping off before purchasing, try to determine where the confusion originates. Do they drop off from a common page? Is there a glitch on your site? How can you streamline their journey from browsing to checking out?
If you’re unclear on the feedback and have the opportunity to ask for clarification, do so, and keep asking until you are clear. Specific examples are always helpful, as well as advice and recommendations. It’s also wise to consider the perspective of whomever is giving the feedback. What is their role? What are their values? What kind of expertise do they have?
3.) When it comes time to make changes, contemplate the feedback that resonates with you, and start with the most pressing issues first. Determine what is right for you and others, and consider where you are aligned. From there, systematically and simultaneously make changes –– both big and small –– and remember, tell your customers/team members about it. If you updated a policy based on a review, let the reviewer know! Their feedback allowed you to improve your business –– they should know their opinion is valued. Finally, once changes are made and the appropriate people are informed… start the loop all over again!
Regardless of industry, you simply don’t exist in a bubble and for that reason, you need feedback. Building and using a feedback loop gives you a consistent way to heed the opinion of others, whether they be employees or customers, and use that information to improve your business, product, or service. Keep in mind that asking for anything, feedback included, creates a “tax” on others. Be prepared to give something in return and be thoughtful about the needs of the individuals who share with you –– they should get something out of the arrangement, too.