Feedback is essential to your company’s success. Without it, you’re working in the dark on a wing and a prayer. Are your employees happy in their jobs? Are your customers satisfied with your product or service? Losing an employee or customer is certainly an indicator that you’re doing something wrong, but acquiring feedback before the worst should happen means you still have time to turn things around for the better. Receiving constructive feedback from stakeholders, customers, product users, etc., enables you to make decisions that will provide them with the most value—which is a clear win-win for everyone involved.
Continue reading to learn more about the incredible value of feedback as well as how you can use a feedback grid and other tools to collect feedback smoothly, anonymously, and effectively.
The Value of Feedback
1. Get to the Root of a Problem
Collecting feedback is a form of research and data gathering. You can’t hope to solve a problem if you don’t know what the issue is and how many people it is affecting. Gathering feedback once in a while or only after a problem has begun to fester is not as effective as collecting feedback on a regular basis with a consistent cadence.
When feedback is consistent, your team, stakeholders, or customers know to expect it. They won’t be suspicious of why you’re suddenly asking these questions, and they’ll be able to more freely engage with how the company operates. You will learn about any possible problems so that you can get to the root of a problem faster. In some cases, consistent feedback can prevent a problem from occurring in the first place.
Feedback doesn’t put a Band-Aid on issues you may be facing as a business or within your company culture. It looks for the real causes as well as the symptoms of a problem because those problems will thrive in silence. The more constructive conversations you have, the fewer problems you will encounter.
In terms of your own team, one-on-one meetings are an excellent time to collect this kind of feedback, as it can be intimidating for employees to be put on the spot in front of their peers. Feedback will be less reliable the more public it is. Make sure that when you collect feedback, you’re doing so in a way that makes people feel safe and comfortable expressing themselves and their opinions.
In terms of your stakeholders and customers, carve out time to ensure feedback is collected regularly. The more consistent you are, the more likely they are to participate. Be clear about why you are collecting feedback and how valuable their feedback will be in improving your products or services.
2. Understand People’s Needs
In true human-centred design fashion, gathering feedback looks to the real people within a business or the real customers you serve. It takes the guesswork out of the customer-facing aspects of your business. Ask your employees and the real people who use your products and services what they want and need.
Understanding both your customers and your employees is a win-win for everyone. By deeply understanding exactly what people are looking for, you can better fulfill their needs. What does your product or service lack in your customers’ eyes? What can you do to make your company culture more appealing? How can you improve your employees’ work-life balance? What is something you aren’t currently providing your customers? What could, and therefore should, be adjusted? What can you do to impress your customers and employees, and what’s more, what can you do to delight them?
Go deeper than surface-level questions, and remember that empathy is the name of the game. Exhibiting empathy throughout each interaction with your employees, customers, clients, and stakeholders builds trust and goodwill, and it helps ensure your brand is something people want to champion.
3. Establish a Continuous Improvement Mindset
No matter how fantastic you believe your company or organization to be, there is always room to improve. Collecting feedback on a regular basis means you always know where you can improve next. Any potential issues are revealed and addressed before they can grow into something worse.
Consistent feedback leads to a continuous improvement mindset because you are always learning and adapting. You’re always gathering new information to get a clearer understanding of how you can improve as a business and as an individual.
Your employees will see how much care you put into making sure you’re the best you can be, which will inspire them to strive for continuous improvement as well. Plus, your stakeholders and customers will appreciate you going the extra mile to adapt to their ever-evolving needs.
A continuous improvement mindset will also increase company innovation and help you to adapt faster in the face of challenges, as continuous improvement is the antidote to stagnation. You won’t become stuck in your ways if you’re continually striving to improve every step of the way. How could the last project have gone more smoothly? How could the last meeting have been more efficient? What about the last customer interaction can you improve next time? What small changes could you make to your product or service to excite and delight your customers?
No matter how successful your company is, it can always be better. Better is absolutely possible!
4. Prevent Conflicts and Misunderstandings
Feedback helps you remove your assumptions and get to the bottom of the real issues at hand. It can mitigate conflicts that already exist and prevent conflicts and misunderstandings before they even occur.
Many misunderstandings occur due to the assumptions we hold about people. These assumptions are often unconscious biases based on stereotypes or inaccurate, incomplete information. When we hold on to our assumptions, we don’t allow the other person to grow in our eyes. Just because an employee was late to work or a meeting a couple of times in the past does not mean they’re always late. Just because a customer expected one thing last year doesn’t mean that’s what they still expect now.
We often make a decision about someone and let it define them despite the new evidence to the contrary.
We simply don’t know everything that’s going on in our employees’ and customers’ lives. It is imperative that we give people the benefit of the doubt and always lead with empathy. Our assumptions can persist when we don’t have the necessary information required to adjust them. Collecting consistent feedback helps us drop the kind of assumptions that can lead to misunderstandings.
Conflicts and misunderstandings mushroom in the dark. In order to stop an issue from escalating into something you can’t control, you need to know about it fast. Don’t let a casual misunderstanding between employees, employees and management, or between your company and its customers and clients interfere with your productivity or reputation.
Collect feedback on a regular basis to ensure everyone who works at and subscribes to your business or organization feels safe, comfortable, and recognized for their contribution.
How to Use a Feedback Grid
There are many different tools and techniques you can utilize for collecting quality feedback. First, we’ll discuss the value of using a feedback grid and how to use one, followed by a couple of additional tools you can implement for acquiring feedback.
Feedback grids provide a clear and simple structure for gathering feedback. They are made up of four clear boxes that ask specific questions, which get people thinking beyond simple yes or no answers.
People tend to say the first thing that comes to mind when you ask for feedback, but asking a variety of targeted questions can break through this barrier. It’s often only after they’ve had time to process their thoughts that clear and constructive ideas take form. Having a structured conversation around key questions allows you to build authentic and honest relationships with whoever you are gathering feedback from. You’ll get the feedback you depend on without putting your team, stakeholders, or customers on the spot.
The four sections of the feedback grid ask:
- What did you like?
- What would you improve?
- What questions do you have?
- What ideas do you have?
When presenting the feedback grid, be sure to explain its purpose and the specific feedback you’re trying to collect. Remind everyone of how valuable their feedback is to your continuous improvement. Encourage everyone to be open and honest when using the feedback grid, and also let everyone know their answers will remain anonymous.
- What did you like?
The first question is a typical feedback question aimed at the positives. Depending on the situation, it might be asking customers what they liked about the session that just occurred, what they like about your product or service, or what an employee feels is going well in their current role.
- What would you improve?
The second question delves a little deeper and asks participants not to highlight your weaknesses but to think critically and provide constructive feedback. It’s not just asking what they didn’t like or what went wrong; it’s asking what they would change if they could. If the feedback grid is being filled out by an employee, they might mention that the meeting ran a little long or wasn’t as engaging as they would have liked. If being filled out by a customer, they can point out the areas of your product or service they find lacking. How would they do it differently? What tweaks would they make to your offering to make it a perfect fit for their needs?
- What questions do you have?
The third question is a bit broader. Essentially, participants have carte blanche to ask you whatever they want. What concerns do you have? Why don’t you offer a certain product? How did you develop this service? Why did you choose the color green for your brand design? Why aren’t you more active in the community? How did you come up with your brand values? What are you hoping to accomplish with your company beyond making money?
This question lets you know what’s on the participants’ minds. What do they want to ask you after taking the time to consider what they liked and what they would improve?
- What ideas do you have?
The last question asks the participant to use their imagination to offer any new ideas that come to mind. It’s not asking them to tweak something you already offer; it’s asking for something completely new.
What’s something that would put your company or your offering over the top? What would keep your customers coming back for more? What new product or service would make your customers suggest your brand to anyone who will listen? Ensure they understand that this section does not have any limits—anything goes! Encourage participants to think far outside the box and remind everyone that in idea generation there are no wrong answers.
Collecting feedback grid answers will provide a clearer picture of exactly what people are looking for so you can make more informed decisions and provide comprehensive solutions.
💡 Get started today by downloading our free Feedback Grid Worksheet.
Gathering Feedback With Other Tools
Customizable surveys are a flexible way to gather feedback digitally, and these platforms are often free to use. They allow you to reach a large number of your community members, customers, or stakeholders at one time and with minimal effort. Of course, this is a less nuanced form of collecting feedback, and depending on your needs, you may want to complement your surveys with additional interviews or other in-depth research methods. Check out SurveyMonkey or Typeform to get started.
Empathy maps are another tool we love. We implement them all the time internally when working with clients and throughout our design thinking school. They are one of our go-to tools because they use empathy to discover deep insights and “aha!” moments. Empathy maps can help you better understand people’s real experiences, wants, and needs from their own viewpoint.
You don’t know what your employees or customers are thinking until you ask. The sooner you begin gathering feedback, the sooner you can begin making informed decisions—decisions your employees, customers, stakeholders, and entire community will be happy to support.
Make Informed Decisions With Design Thinking Training
Design thinking training provides the tools, resources, and skill-based learning necessary to enhance creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, and decision making. If you want to continue to hone your decision making skills, join Overlap’s Creative Problem Solving School. We have an entire course dedicated to making better decisions.
The Making Better Decisions course teaches the importance of feedback and shares simple yet powerful decision making tools for setting priorities and reaching consensus as a group. You’ll leave the course with a suite of tools to help you make decisions when you feel stuck—better decisions the entire team can get behind.