Reverse Planning for Feedback Management Software Implementation

It is often presumed that implementing feedback management software can take 8 to 10 months, or even longer. However, speaking from experience, I can assure you: the process can be quicker than you think. If you are methodical and receive proper support from the creators of the software, your project can be operational in fewer than three months. Yes, it's true! In fewer than 90 days (and without working nights and weekends), you can begin harvesting and processing feedback data from your customers. Thorough follow-ups during the first several weeks will make it possible for you to fine-tune your feedback management system and meet your specific objectives.

Below are the major phases of the implementation process and the key players and points that will need your attention throughout each phase.

Phase 1: Scoping (4 to 6 weeks)

Scoping usually happens in 2 steps.

Gathering requirements– In this first customer-centric step that is cross-functional by nature, it is crucial to gather requirements from every affected management team— Marketing and Communications, Customer Voice, Research, Sales, Digital, Quality, etc.—so that the system you implement will address the challenges of all the different stakeholders. To capture requirements quickly and before anyone loses steam, the effort must be led, coordinated and synthesized by an internal project owner who is viewed by the other team managers as someone who has authority. Never hesitate to ask for help from the software creators: their specialists are several steps removed from the requirement gathering and formalising process, and they can help you save an extraordinary amount of time.

By the end of this step, you will particularly need to have defined the aspects of customer experience you wish to cover within the framework of your approach. For your approach to be complete and cohesive, I recommend that you also considerthe physical points of saleas well as the digital contact points(website, mobile app, etc.) and interactions with customer service. Once you have clarified all of this, you will have the necessary components at hand to effectively consult with software solution developers and providers and choose the partner that best understands and meets your needs.

Functional scoping– This second step is meant to translate needs into functional terms. It is carried out collectively between the project owneron your company's side, and a dedicated project manageron the solution provider’s side. This person should be a source of proposals to help you define:

1. Relevant data collection channels;
2. Types of surveys to execute;
3. Who should have access to the feedback management platform for data processing;
4. The KPIs that will help guide your approach over the long term.

The project manager’s role is both to ensure that the decisions you make match the challenges faced by your different functional teams and to validate the project checkpoints you need to monitor to guarantee successful progress.

For your project to be successful, it is critical that you involve operational teams from the beginning of the scoping phase—especially the store network, if your project's goal is to measure customer satisfaction at points of sale. These teams will truly give life to your approach by responding each day to direct feedback and bringing you closer to customers. By involving a network representative, from Digital and Customer Service departments, your project team will be able to benefit from their experience in the field. Their knowledge–of points of sale, different real-life aspects of the customer journey, principal reasons for customer contact, etc.–is extremely valuable for choosing the right feedback channels and creating surveys that will draw out locally actionable information.

Finally, to be sure that the system you are designing is realistic, you must also consciously involve IT teams and providers. You will rely upon them to implement different data collection channels and address CRM integration problems, website updates and, of course, personal data security management. Their involvement is key to keeping track of technical constraints and making a feasible implementation plan.

Phase 2: Implementation (4 to 6 weeks)

Next, it is time to solidify all that has been decided on paper and to determine the order in which each task will be fulfilled. The planning step is inescapable for effective coordination amongst stakeholders. Ensuring the availability of IT stakeholdersand their ability to follow the plan is a vital measure in avoiding any delay of the scheduled launch date. If you identify the risks of missing checkpoints, nothing is stopping you from structuring your project in several stages: instead of simultaneously launching all the data collection channels, you can do it in two or three batches. If you choose this option, I would advise you to begin with the channels that will yield the highest volume: without volume, your customer-centric approach will be difficult to get off the ground and may risk, as it runs lower on fuel, becoming a disappointment in terms of overall impact and stakeholder engagement.

The implementation phase goes beyond the technical aspects of the project. It is also the period where you must actively communicate with your operational and network teamsto truly rally them. If your project revolves around measuring in-store experience, already having connected with a network representative will enable you to have an ambassador amongst store managers. It will be this person's responsibility and the responsibility of the project owner to explain the stakes of your approach with respect to the brand, the concrete impact of implementation and what will be expected of each stakeholder–including responding to client messages, tracking the results and analysing statistics, and putting into place local action plans, etc.

Once the project is ready to be launched from a technical point of view, and ideally one week before launch, stakeholders must be trained on how to use the new system. This includes team managers, network mobilizers and store managers. No need to worry, however, since this does not necessarily take much time! At Critizr, for example, the platform is so intuitive because this very practical training takes the form of an e-Learning course and only lasts 30 minutes at most. The e-Learning module also makes it possible to know who has completed the training and who is procrastinating.

Phase 3: Go Live

This is the official time of launch. From a technical point of view, it consists purely and simply of clicking on a button to open the data collection channels. But for a successful launch, the "launch day" must be preceded by an end-client communication campaign: the more you let them know that you are attentive to them and that you care about their feedback, the better your chances of getting them engaged. An important note: none of this can be improvisedand it even requires its own budget to disseminate information through fliers at points of sale, banners and buttons on your website, posts on social media, etc. In other terms, this communication campaign must be prepared well before the big day.

Phase 4: Incubation (6 to 8 weeks)

If the previous phases are completed per the instructions, your operational system is on track and you are beginning to gather customer experience feedback via the different channels you have opened. The incubation phase is intended to bolster the system by closely following what has been implemented and especially the way in which affected customers and teams are adopting your approach.

The first point of focus relates to the volume of data collected. As previously pointed out, if the feedback volume is insufficient, the mechanism will not fully trigger: not only does this mean fewer conversations with your customers than you had before, but more importantly, no material for introducing action plans truly founded on your customers’ expectations.

During this incubation phase, you also need to reinforce support for operational staff and managers at your points of sale. This will happen as you listen to them and spend a lot of time in the field, since it means understanding the difficulties they face and providing them with concrete solutions to help them engage with the approach without reservation and over the long run. We are convinced that participation from teams in the field is key, which is why we recommend you seek help from a team dedicated to local support. Their expertise and their deliverables–custom replies, help with implementation and follow-ups on initial steps, reporting on participation, etc.–are real boosters of engagement, and thus, of success. But hang on! Not every feedback management software provider has teams like these.

The incubation phase is designed to align feedback volumes with your teams’ real capacity for responding to customer feedback. Do you need to introduce more channels because feedback volume is too low? Or do you need to lower the sails because your operational teams feel overwhelmed? Are the data you collect enabling your points of sale to engage in concrete action?If your KPIs have been well selected and defined, they should help you answer these questions. Weekly follow-ups with your project manager should enable you to progressively optimise usage. At the end of the first month of activity, you should be able to create an initial report and communicate the highlights: volumes measured, preliminary local action plans implemented, possible adjustments to the surveys and to the support offered to network mobilizers that will maintain their commitment.

From improvement to improvement, you will perfect your system until all your project indicators are in the green. This marks the end of the incubation period and the beginning of the "production" period and long-term follow-up–where all the tools are in place, all the players are involved and participating in the process. Of course, this does not mean you will lock down the whole system till kingdom come: projects focused on introducing a customer-centric approach for measuring satisfaction are never over.

Implementing a customer feedback management platform is the cornerstone of your customer-centric approach, but whatever you implement is bound to evolve–on one hand, because you will have met your objectives, and on the other hand, because the open dialogue with your customers will enable you to identify new opportunities for improvement. This is yet another reason to choose a technology partner capable of supporting you throughout your project and helping you capitalise on what you learn!

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