For Feedback, Timeliness Counts: A Competence Perspective

For Feedback, Timeliness Counts-Earlier this week, I attended ForeSee’s Customer Experience Forum in Boston. ForeSee provides tools that allow their customers to gauge user satisfaction and engagement with their websites and call centers; if you’ve ever been invited to complete a survey after completing your transaction on a website, chances are that survey was part of a ForeSee implementation. The Forum focused on best practices for using ForeSee’s solutions,  but for someone like me with an ear for motivational tactics, it was also a primer in how to make the best use of feedback to change behavior.

The typical request to participate in a ForeSee survey.
The typical request to participate in a ForeSee survey.

The two speakers, Nancy Sargeant from Talbots and Nick Wilkoff from L.L. Bean, have used ForeSee’s solutions differently, but had one major shared best practice. Both advised reviewing the  user feedback frequently (as often as daily), and delivering feedback to relevant parties as soon as possible so that they can adjust their behavior.

This makes a lot of sense for many reasons. It’s consistent with the idea of supporting a sense of competence in order to engage people in behavior change. Feedback in general is a common tool to support competence, but delivering it immediately helps maximize its usefulness. Feedback delivered in a timely manner:

  • Allows the recipient to clearly remember the behavior that elicited the feedback. After weeks or months pass, the memory of the original situation may be hazy, which makes it hard to figure out what to do with the feedback.
  • Helps people change their behavior as quickly as possible, so mistakes don’t get repeated. One of the worst parts of delayed feedback as a recipient is knowing you’ve been doing the same thing incorrectly over and over, instead of having the chance to fix it after the first or second time.

Both Talbots and L.L. Bean have found that delivering timely feedback to their customer service professionals results in better customer satisfaction and better employee engagement. Although delivering corrective feedback can be difficult for managers, these case studies demonstrate the value of doing so quickly.