Sharing direct customer feedback with your team can feel uncomfortable, but it doesn’t have to. Use these quick tips to get over the awkward-factor and use the conversation to make a lasting impact.

So, you have a steady stream of reviews coming in and a dedicated team or individual tasked with nurturing those relationships and ensuring customer satisfaction at every touch point, whether it be in person, on the phone or online. Congratulations, you’re ahead of the curve! This means you’re ready for the next step, which is to take the information you’re learning through these feedback channels and act on it, make decisions and empower employees with the knowledge they need to help your business improve so it can continue to grow.

It can be hard to hear negative feedback, and even harder to deliver it in a way that allows an employee to truly learn and bounce back stronger. Here are some tips to make the process a little more empowering and a little less awkward for everyone involved.

Share the information ASAP

Don’t save the feedback for the annual review. Waiting for an arbitrary pre-set time to discuss timely issues only serves to increase the likelihood the issue will occur again before it’s discussed. The faster the feedback is given, the fresher the details of the situation will be in the employee’s mind and the more insight you’ll have to make decisions from.

Be specific

While a high level view of data can be useful to analyze the overall sentiment of your customers and helpful in decision making or sharing bite-sized information to a large group of people, it will do little to impact real change in individual employees. Sitting down with an employee to discuss a specific instance and analyze what went wrong and what went right in that moment will do far more to give them actionable items to improve than simply telling them something overly broad like “25% of the customers you interacted with reported this issue.”

Don’t forget to celebrate the wins

Make sure you’re giving kudos as often as you’re having teaching moments. Sharing positive comments can boost morale and increase employee satisfaction. An employee who knows the company they work for recognizes their contributions is going to be more motivated to continue to be a high performer and more likely to take criticism well, knowing it’s not the only thing you see. This is a crucial balance, as just sharing the bad times can leave your employees feeling beaten down.

Sharing these employee “wins” can also help to set goals for the rest of your staff. If they see the kind of work that’s getting praised, they’ll have a clear cut picture of exactly what it is you want from them and they may work a little harder so they can experience the same positive reinforcement they’ve seen others receive.

Consider adopting a “blameless” policy

A system used by the online marketplace Etsy is a great example of how removing fear from the equation can enable an honest discussion and motivate real, positive change in your company. Etsy’s method for solving internal issues, called the “Blameless Post-Mortem,” and explained at greater length by Chief Technology Officer John Allspaw, is a process where any staff member whose actions contributed to an issue give a detailed account of the following items:

  • What actions they took at what time
  • What effects they observed
  • Expectations they had
  • Assumptions they made
  • Their understanding of the timeline of events as they occurred

The key to this is that the employees are empowered to give this detailed and honest account “without fear of punishment or retribution.”

If an employee is afraid of impending punishment, they’re going to be more likely to hold back in their detailed account of the situation. By removing that fear, you’re able to get a clear picture of what happened and why, which makes it less likely the same issue will occur again.

This policy also recognizes an important truth to consider: most problematic employee actions are not taken to intentionally cause an issue, or as Allspaw explains, there’s always a “second story.” The example given paints a clear picture:

First story: Human error is seen as the cause of failure.
Second story: Human error is seen as the effect of systemic vulnerabilities deeper inside the organization.

The power of sharing customer feedback through a direct and honest dialogue empowers your employees to take greater ownership of both their successes and failures and perform at a higher level — and, in the end, your customers will be better served for it.