15.06.2023 Feature Article

Understanding the Importance of Staff Meetings and Customer Feedback in Business Operations

Understanding the Importance of Staff Meetings and Customer Feedback in Business Operations
15.06.2023 LISTEN

Meetings are important for the sharing of ideas, impartation of knowledge and the giving of feedback on the success and challenges being faced in any given institution.

Based on this reasoning, the achievements and challenges faced by individuals, departments and even the whole organisation should be regularly communicated with clarity in order to make sure that informed decisions are made.

In any organization, meetings can be held at different levels and for different reasons.

The whole company can convene to discuss some important issues all at once, where managers and subordinates come together to deliberate on some specific pressing issues.

Meetings can be held at the departmental or interdepartmental level to discuss the issues that are affecting the smooth operations of a specific department or the interaction between departments.

There can also be management meetings where managers gather to set the grand strategy for the company and the outcome thereof can then be communicated to the rest of the employees and other stakeholders.

Feedback on the progress being made and the challenges being faced enables informed decisions to be carried out towards the attainment of objectives.

Subordinates or shop floor employees are the ones mostly involved in direct interaction with the customers and therefore they are useful in gathering customer feedback on the products and services that the company offers.

Unfortunately in some organisations, shop floor employees are rarely engaged in a way that enables them to contribute information regarding the way the business can be managed.

If at all they are involved in a meeting they are reduced to merely being the recipients of the information rather than valuable contributors of the same.

This is not good for business because the information that can be obtained from the general staff members is critical for improving on customer service delivery, profitability and business expansion.

Your subordinates are important for gathering information based on customer complaints and compliments and this information is vital for deciding on what to improve, what to maintain as well as what products and services to discontinue.

Such people are the ones who know the exact challenges they face in their attempt to deliver good quality customer service and thus must be given a platform to address those challenges.

Conducting a meeting with these individuals is worthwhile since based on the information they have, management can then decide on the next move and the relevant steps to be taken in order to correct or better the quality of service being offered.

Unfortunately some business owners or managers do not believe or commit themselves to this concept of meetings and as a result they unilaterally make decisions from assumptions since they do not give themselves time to listen to their employees and clients.

When you do not gather feedback on your business activities, you are likely to continue giving products or services that no longer appeal to the customers and as such they can discontinue their patronage.

It is against this background that some start-ups fail to survive.

Challenges that affect businesses are always changing and fortunately the advent of technology especially the internet has brought about various platforms and forums for discussing the challenges that affect the wellbeing of SMEs.

One of such platforms is ChubbyBrain which is a database of innovative start-ups that shares information and encourages members to provide insights and critiques of emerging business models, technologies and companies.

The following is an extract from their findings on what brought down some SMEs relative to the lack of feedback from clients.

Being inflexible and not actively seeking or using customer feedback.

Ignoring your users is a tried and true way to fail. Yes that sounds obvious but this was the #1 reason given for failure amongst the 32 startup failure post-mortems we analyzed. Tunnel vision and not gathering user feedback are fatal flaws for most startups.

For instance, ecrowds, a web content management system company, said that “We spent way too much time building it for ourselves and not getting feedback from prospects — it’s easy to get tunnel vision.

I’d recommend not going more than two or three months from the initial start to getting in the hands of prospects that are truly objective.” 20 Top Reasons Gleaned from 32 Startup Failure Post-Mortems by ChubbyBrain

In the case above, convening a meeting helps policy formulators and implementers to discuss stakeholder reaction to the new developments in your products or services.

Those who formulate a product or service can sometimes do so based on assumptions and past experiences which are no longer applicable to the new environment.

The people who are on the ground are the ones who interact with the customers and thus they get the practical first hand feedback in the form of general comments, complaints or even compliments.

This information is very important and therefore it must be incorporated in decision making if goodwill has to be created, promoted and maintained.

Failure to do this will result in the creation of a product that does not appeal to the clients and yet the product or service might continually be offered to the market with the assumption that the situation will improve.

When this happens it means your product uptake by the market will be less than expected and this is likely to undermine the returns on investment.

Less returns on investments affects profitability and growth potential as well.

Management meetings on the other hand are important in that the managers are the policy makers in the company just like members of parliament are to the state system.

Therefore they should regularly come together and share ideas (brainstorm) on the strategies that are necessary to achieve the desired goals.

Different departments tend to conflict on resource acquisition and allocation and therefore these issues should be addressed in a formal set up to avoid a situation whereby the aggrieved or affected managers debate the issue on their own using informal channels.

Qualifications, experience and exposure can make other people more informed about the challenges being faced in the business and thus tabling a meeting can present a platform for taping such information for the good of the business.

Meetings are a cheap way of research available compared to engaging consultants on the same issue. They are also an added advantage since the people involved have a direct exposure to the issues they would be discussing.

The impact and sensitivity of the issue to be discussed determines how meetings should be held.

Inter-departmental meetings help to iron out challenges or even to give feedback on the progress between and amongst the various departments in an organization.

Let us give a practical example of interdepartmental interaction and then highlight the challenges that can be encountered along the way, thus justifying the need for a meeting.

In a shop (supermarket) set-up, there might be issues to be addressed between the receiving department and the sales floor department regarding the time taken to receive and dispatch the products for subsequent resale.

The same can apply to the tills department which might be having challenges on the products on the shelf that does not have prices displayed.

When customers brings products to the till to ask for prices or when they want to confirm the price before buying, it would result in the till operators having to do a price lookup first before charging and thus taking long to serve the clients.

In this case, customers will see the tills department as being inefficient because of long queues that results from the extended time taken to serve one customer.

Till operators will receive the blame even though the problem is a result of the failure by the sales-floor department to display the prices on the shelves and thus resulting in till operators doing an extra work that affects their efficiency.

Such issues needs to be discussed openly with various inputs coming from different people in order to promote objectivity and a thorough review of any development that emerges.

I mostly prefer to give an example of the supermarket because in one way of the other almost every person have a supermarket experience especially as a customer and it is easy to relate with regardless of people’s tastes and background.

However, in all this, you must take note of the fact that meetings are not only a platform to address problems but can also be used for the appreciation and celebration of the efforts made by employees in making the company to grow from one stage to another.

Whenever there is progress, management should make it a point that they convene meetings and give the necessary feedback, compliments and rewards unto those to whom it is due.

This can dramatically boost morale, confidence, and loyalty as well as to spur people towards achievement.

When meetings are not done, chances are high that people would use unorthodox means to solve the problems they face at work and this fuels organizational politics.

As a result, discontent and high staff turnover is likely to set in and the company will have great chances of going down when it loses valuable experienced staff who believe they are not getting the treatment and credit they deserve.

Formal meetings should therefore be given the priority they deserve in order for your business to:

  1. Motivate and retain the valuable staff and customers that are critical for survival
  2. Establish and expand.

Based on the understanding that you have acquired about the critical role of convening meetings in your organisation, it is therefore necessary to start engaging in this practice in order to make sure that you make informed decisions in the running of your enterprise.

This helps you to:

  1. Make products and services that will continually appeal to your clients.
  2. Preserve your relevance and market visibility.
  3. Maintain and promote your goodwill.
  4. Maintain and promote profitability.

Adapted from The SME HANDBOOK written by Brian Kazungu

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