Why Is Feedback Important?
We know you. You want to have a program that people love; one that changes lives. You have the potential to do great things in your community —but aren’t sure that you’re going in the right direction. Perhaps your program is already great, and you want to keep that way. How can you find out how you’re affecting your students? How can you set achievable new goals?
In short, you want to know, “How do I help improve my program?”
The answer is simple, “Ask for feedback.”
However, we also understand that while “ask for feedback” is a simple statement, it can feel overwhelming and the questions can pile up quickly: How do I get the feedback that I need? What do I ask? When do I ask? How do I ask? What do I do with what I’ve learned?
We’re here to help.
Why Is Feedback Important?
It’s easy to avoid the whole situation, of course, but as the saying goes, “If you do what you always did, you’ll get what you always got.”
The importance of feedback is two-fold: it gives us the information we can use to make important decisions, and it helps strengthen relationships by inviting others to share their experiences.
If you have goals or specific outcomes you’re working toward, feedback can help you measure success. It can reveal places that are falling short of your aims as well as places where you’re knocking them out of the park (maybe without even realizing it!)
Leading organizations and businesses rely on feedback to improve their products and their customers’ experiences. They’re not only comfortable asking but also accepting feedback and acting on it since, at the end of the day, feedback is only as important as what we choose to do with it.
Why Is Asking Important?
You might be surprised to learn that nine out of ten people won’t speak up even if they’re unhappy with the service they’re receiving. Does that fact cause you to stop and think more about what that means for your class attendees? They’re unlikely to tell you without prompting, but they are quite likely to share their unhappy experiences with family and friends. Nobody avoids negative feedback by not asking –it’s still there– and not asking limits the potential to improve the program and the customer’s experience.
Even if the feedback contains critique, healthy, positive outcomes happen as a result of asking! In a study by the Harvard Business Review, it was discovered that customers who were asked to contribute to a survey had a greater loyalty than those who weren’t asked! In fact,
“A year after the survey was conducted, the customers we surveyed were more than three times as likely to have opened new accounts, were less than half as likely to have defected, and were more profitable than the customers who hadn’t been surveyed.”
—How Surveys Influence Customers
If increasing your students’ desire to work with you is literally as easy as inviting them to help you understand what they value, need, and expect —and how you’re doing at meeting their values, needs, and expectations —what are you waiting for?
Benefits of Feedback
Recognize Issues and Opportunities
Feedback helps identify and recognize issues before they become problems and opportunities before they’ve passed by. Having the chance to timely address a concern or share in a student’s happiness can be equally satisfying. Sometimes it’s hard to tell by observation alone what kind of experience students are having.
Nobody wants to work hard on a class or program only to hear through the grapevine, weeks later, that it fell short of expectations. How frustrating! And how heartbreaking to be under the impression that a class was just “okay” when it may actually have been a truly exceptional experience for its participants!
We all recognize the situation —it’s incredibly common. And yet, you may never know unless you ask.
Improve Learning Experiences
Feedback can help you create better learning experiences by uncovering unmet needs and expectations that your students may have that you didn’t know about.
A simple change made after learning of a challenge could make a substantial difference to a student! Shifting class a half-hour later might allow students to get dinner before class, so the students are fully ready when the class begins. Data could help you learn if a class suffers low enrollment due to a lack of interest or a lack of weeknight childcare. You may find that the space in which the course is held is too hot, or too cold, affecting people’s focus.
You can also use what you’ve learned to create six-star-experiences for your students. Maybe you can charge a little more to include a light dinner or heavy snacks, or provide childcare, invest in an air conditioner, or let students know they should bring a hoodie.
It may not take a lot to make a positive change.
Build and Strengthen Relationships
There’s a difference between passively accepting feedback and actively seeking it. When you actively seek feedback, you’re showing that you want to engage with your students and remind them that they are your focus.
People who are asked to provide feedback are often more motivated because they feel valued and important. The process is now about them, not about you or your program.
Requesting feedback also demonstrates concern and active listening. It says, “I value your opinion and feelings about your experience” and “I want to know you better and understand how to serve you best.”
Asking for input also gives you the chance to engage at a deeper level with your students and helping them move along the path from customer to evangelist.
“Teaching without learning is just talking.”
—Thomas Angelo and Patricia Cross
Okay, so you know that you need it. And because feedback is a vast subject, we’re going to cover it over a series of articles.
We’ll be breaking down the subject to cover:
- How to get feedback for your program;
- Different types of feedback gathering and how to decide what’s most useful to you;
- What to ask to get the answers you need;
- Tools you can use to gather feedback, both “old school” and digital; and
- Ways to make use of your feedback by organizing, analyzing, sharing, and acting on it.
Asking people for their honest assessment and input may feel risky, but it’s worth remembering that “there is no failure, only feedback” and as long as you’re ready to consider actions based on the feedback you’re given, it’s worth asking!
If you want to read on, we’ll discuss the types of feedback you may get and where they come from in our “Where Does Feedback Come From?” article.
The Feedback Scoop is a multi-part series covering (we hope) everything you wanted to know about feedback including how to get it and what to do with it.
In the meantime, if you have a great feedback story, I’d love to hear it! You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.