What Do I Do With Feedback Data? Analysis and Action.
This article is the fifth (and final) in our feedback series. In our first, we talked about how feedback can help improve your program in, “Why Your Program Can Benefit from Feedback (and How to Get It).” See also, “Where Does Feedback Come From?” , “What, How, and Whom Do I Ask“, and “Let’s Talk Tools.”
Now that you’ve gotten feedback, what to do with it?
First, let’s talk about something that makes a lot of people nervous when dealing with this step. “What if I find out something awful?” That’s a possibility, but what you don’t know may hurt your class enrollment, so do not let it be something that stands in the way of your improvement! The information you get, positive or negative, will be helpful. If reviewing the data begins to feel stressful, you may want to call in some backup. (Or you can take a break and read this great article from Inc. reminding you why, no, really, this is important and helpful and good for your program!)
Data analysis can be an intense and deep subject, but it’s not necessary to overdo it to understand your results. You need only enough to organize, analyze, share, and act.
You’re in the home stretch!
How to Organize Feedback
Organizing survey feedback is relatively straightforward. You’ll either enter it into a spreadsheet (or form), or your participants will enter it if you choose an online method. Closed-ended questions, given their clear format, will be relatively easy to wrangle.
You will need to review the data a few times before setting in to organize it. Taking the time to review also gives you a bit of information about how you will analyze it. If your responses are diverse, it will take more time and care; if patterns emerge right from the start, it may be easier to assess.
You can make sense of data from comments, interviews, and focus groups this way:
- Review comments (this may take a few passes);
- Tag or categorize them as groups begin to show themselves;
- Indicate if the feedback was positive or negative;
- Look for patterns in the data;
- Note the similarities and quantify them when possible;
- Create a written summary of your findings, including the most relevant quotes or comments.
You’ll likely see themes —some may be expected and other unexpected— as you look through the data you’ve gathered. Pull out useful or constructive comments to support your data. Keep an open mind as you work with the data; if you begin to feel frustrated by it, it’s ok to have someone help you! (Having someone to discuss the data with can also help in other ways, like seeing connections that you may be “too close” to notice.)
Visualize the Data
The goal of data is to help tell a story.
Like some stories, it’s helpful to have illustrations to reinforce the story the data tells. Therefore, some data is best understood when presented in a visual format. Line graphs, pie charts, bar charts, and other traditional display forms are typical for a reason —they are easy to understand in under five seconds.
Visual data should always include labels and titles to make it clear to the viewer. It shouldn’t give too much information at once. Use color meaningfully. Double-check your numbers —if you’re using a pie chart, make sure it adds up to 100%!
(You can use online tools like SurveyMonkey, which have templates to help with data visualization. And, if you’re putting visuals online, make the data available in a way that’s accessible to someone who may not be able to see the chart.)
“Analyzing feedback” sounds complicated. And if you want it to be, it can be. But at the root level, you’re looking for simple trends in the data —percentages, scales, stars— and the stories they tell which you’ll compare and contrast. You’re trying to find ways to see the stories in the data, tell them, and learn from them.
When looking into data, the goal is to uncover insights that can improve your program. What’s challenging some of your customers? What can be improved? What is driving your most loyal students? How can you leverage knowledge to make them evangelists? The data you’ve collected can help answer questions like these, and support your end goal of boosting program registration.
It is often helpful to qualify the feedback of which you were already aware as “non-insightful” data. Contrast that with the more surprising “insightful” data, which may open your eyes, call attention to something new, contradict an established belief, or confirm a hunch you may have had.
You may learn that you and your students don’t see the same problems. For example, if you were concerned about community education classes that start during the traditional dinner hour, and nobody mentioned it, you can probably stop worrying about it. No action is required other than to set the concern aside!
You may also get information that causes you to rethink a strategy or assess a change that made before the survey was sent to see if it’s working.
And you will get actionable insights that you can tie to an action to improve your respondent’s experiences. The resulting feedback-driven changes should improve your program in ways that are meaningful to your audience, from the student enrollment process to your adult education schedule.
“Put yourself in the customer’s shoes for a moment; imagine what you would want to happen as a result of giving feedback.”
– Roisin Murray & Wallace Murray
You can now use your summaries, data, and visualizations to make informed decisions and act on them.
If you’ve decided to make changes as a result of the feedback, talk about it. Share with the audience that you asked, they shared, you listened, and you acted. If you’re not going to do something immediately, but will in the future, that’s worth discussing as well. At the very least, you can say, “We listened, and we heard. We’re creating a plan to work on it.”
And if it’s all been glowing praise, the only action you need is to say, “Wow. Thank you. We asked, and you told us. We had no idea you felt this way about us!”
Who wouldn’t want to support a program that actively listens to what its most dedicated supporters have to say —and is confident enough to ask!
That’s the kind of transparency that creates loyalty, the greatest gift an enrollment-based program can have.
Now we’ll ask you: what did you think about our feedback series? What would you like us to cover next? You can write to firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know!