We all know that feedback is crucial to the success of a working partnership. As part of my work as a research specialist, after the completion of every service request, I send a survey to the customer asking about the overall service experience.
This way of gathering feedback is a one-way dialogue, feedback delivered by the customer only. The service provider finds him or herself with no opportunity to respond and express comments and concerns to the customer. This is a habit based on years of giving feedback and it is a habit we have to break.
Two-way feedback describes a feedback process that allows both parties, the feedback giver and recipient, in my context, the project manager and the research specialist, to experience both roles in a reciprocal manner. In other words, both parties fully experience the feedback process by being on the giving and receiving end of constructive criticism.
Many organisations encourage employees to engage in two-way conversations and feedback with customers. The content of such a dialogue is determined by the questions that are asked and answered. For example: What are we each doing that is working and needs to continue? What needs to be changed or adapted? Some studies indicate that the benefits of this kind of feedback, more often than not, far outweigh the risks.
How and when to give feedback
It is vital to note that when giving feedback, it should be constructive. Feedback should not be purely associated with criticism but about developing for the future. However, one should not hesitate to convey disagreements and clearly state if one fails to understand the message.
The focus must be on asking better questions, providing honest and thorough answers, having a bolder mindset, identifying ways to be more effective and taking ownership to improve the situation. These conversations need to be powered by partnership. Both parties should avoid fault-finding attitude and evasion to make the feedback effective.
Some studies suggest that two-way feedback is most effective when performed orally in a face-to-face setting. In addition, the process should be undertaken in a safe place without interruptions and nobody overhearing. A feedback session should preferably be conducted immediately after each service delivery as it is not beneficial to hear constructive criticism months later.
Based on my personal experience, genuine two-way feedback leads to a more authentic and revealing experience that nurtures trust, flows with the rhythm of work and sets the conditions for positive and lasting change.
Benefits of two-way feedback
First, two-way feedback is important because it helps to improve communication. During the preparation of a project application, there are bound to be times when the customer does not follow the appropriate processes or leaves out important details in the project application that causes the service provider (research specialist) to spend extra hours, causing added stress and anxiety. Thus, to ensure the best possible relationship between the two, the service provider should be able to offer constructive criticism during the feedback session. This also helps to discuss ways on how to work together more effectively in the future.
Second, two-way feedback allows both parties to learn from each other. Sharing experiences, positive reinforcement and constructive criticism challenges both to try new and different ways of doing things. Through this type of feedback, both can open themselves up to becoming learners genuinely willing to adjust behavior and working styles.
Third, two-way feedback helps to build rapport. When undertaken regularly after the completion of each service delivery, two-way feedback will become an organisational practice that is familiar and expected. As a consistent occurrence between the service provider and the customer, two-way feedback will help to build respect and trust.
Feedback is a two-way street and being straightforward is one of the best ways to do this. Without knowing what is working and what is not, no improvement can be made and a standstill occurs. All healthy relationships require two-way feedback. The relationship between the service provider and the customer is no different. In the long term, clear and effective reciprocal feedback will help both parties to be more successful in their respective roles.