It is not complicated- successful small businesses breed a culture in which employees feel valued and comfortable speaking up. If they feel valued and comfortable voicing opinions, they are more likely to offer honest, useful and intelligent feedback.
That being said, all feedback will not necessarily be positive feedback, though as with any customer complaint, all feedback can be useful whether it be positive or negative.
So how can you get the most out of your employee feedback?
- Ditch the stereotypes. Suggestion boxes, surveys and comment cards may provide a level of comfortable anonymity though they work counterproductively when it comes to providing an open and honest environment. Your company culture should encourage employees to speak openly, without fear of resentment, or worse, punishment. If they cannot say it out loud, they do not feel comfortable, and this in itself is a problem.
- Identify coaches or representatives to be open to commentary. Select a respected and likeable employee to be open to feedback at all times, like a counselor or coach might be. As the boss, you may be intimidating to employees, they may feel more comfortable talking to a peer. You may collect more honest and useful feedback this way.
- Set the standard for valuable input, as opposed to input. Of course, being objective and fair means hearing out each and every opinion, but consequently some will be more weighted in importance then others. Establish boundaries by creating a specific scope to focus on certain areas. All feedback welcome, though all feedback may not be pertinent to your specific focus at that time. For example, feedback on the vending machine prices would not be suited to a conversation regarding teamwork and group project assessments.
- Ask the right questions. Much like above, the more specific you can be, the better. If you want the information to be useful you must have an idea of what it is you are looking for. Make your question goal-driven and actionable, this way you produce feedback that is also goal-driven and actionable.
- Don’t forget the follow up. Some call it “closing the loop”, no matter what it is called, it is an important step when it comes to effective feedback. Once you have gathered the information, made it applicable, made adaptations, changes or amended procedures based on said feedback, be sure to share the information with your employees, and thank them for their time and energy in providing you with effective feedback.
BLURB: Price is not the only way to compete!
When assessing competition, small business often gets dwarfed by the capabilities of the “big guys”. It is not always possible to offer competitive or matched prices, but that is not the only way to attract a customer. Be creative and come up with offers and packages that are equally attractive, regardless of price matching. Keep your customer satisfied- price won’t be the only factor!