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What is Closed Loop Feedback 

Closed loop feedback enables systems to adjust themselves depending on feedback. This allows systems to self-optimize over time or change based on environmental conditions. So, what is closed-loop feedback? A closed loop system can be any of a wide range of many different types of systems. In a closed-loop system, feedback is used to control the input of a system. So, closed-loop systems can adjust based on various factors, making them helpful in creating systems that offer reliable output. While this all may be pretty straightforward, it’s also fairly abstract. What sorts of systems might we be discussing? 

The truth is a closed-loop system and closed-loop feedback is applicable in everything from air conditioning to customer service. In an air conditioning system, closed-loop feedback might be the temperature of the air in a building. Once it hits a certain point, the thermostat gives feedback to the cooling unit and fan that they no longer need to run cool air. Once again, if the air reaches a certain temperature, the thermostat will send feedback to the cooling unit and fan, telling them to start circulating cool air. The feedback from the output—the air temperature—informs how the system is controlled. This might be referred to as a closed-loop control system. 

This is a useful concept in engineering, but it also applies in business to many processes, including, often, customer service. We can think of many different operations in a business as cyclical. And – by setting control systems that take closed-loop feedback and optimize the cycles, we may find that we’re able to increase efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and even customer experiences. 

In customer service, rather than the air temperature, the feedback is customer feedback, customer impressions, or maybe other metrics of customer experience. This feedback can be fed back into the system, and changes can be made in order to optimize customer experience, and the cycle can repeat. Over time, this closed-loop feedback can enable the customer experience and customer experience feedback system to self-optimize. 

Closed loop systems can also be a means of achieving some sort of sustainability. Closed-loop sustainability can be achieved in systems where feedback makes a system more efficient and ecologically friendly. Closed-loop sustainability might look like a system wherein products are recycled, and the recycled materials are used to create the same products again; for example, in a restaurant, closed-loop sustainability may be optimizing dish sizes based on food waste being produced in order to reduce food waste over time. 

Closed Loop System Examples

The framework of a closed loop can be applied to many processes, including many in business. Closed-loop system examples in daily life are numerous; cars, homes, streetlights, computer programs, and many other systems that we rely on each day themselves rely on closed-loop systems. Our thermostats help keep our homes and vehicles at stable temperatures. Electronic fuel injectors in cars ensure that gasoline engines keep humming along; even street lights often rely on feedback such as from ambient light sensors to cycle on and off and keep our streets illuminated. 

In industries and in practices where clear communication is necessary–such as in aviation, for example, an important closed-loop system that people rely on every day is closed-loop communication. Examples of this might include radio communication between pilots or between a pilot and Air Traffic Control. 

Closed loop communication is a system of communication in which all relevant parties offer confirmation that they’ve received and understood messages. It can be quite helpful in avoiding unnecessary misunderstandings. This is a closed-loop control system, as the feedback (whether or not the information is received, understood, and confirmed) may dictate what happens next — either moving forward or reiterating information that was not received and understood. 

Examples of closed-loop control systems, such as fuel systems in cars, thermostats in homes and vehicles, and even lighting systems, are very common in everyday life. Closed-loop control systems enable engineers to create systems that operate accurately, consistently, and reliably. For many organizations, closed-loop systems can also be applied to operational processes such as customer experience and operations

That’s why, even for non-engineers, this concept can be highly important to understand and appreciate. What’s more, the nature of a feedback loop can go both ways; while in a system in which customer feedback is taken seriously, and amendments to the process are made as needed, customer experiences can improve, faulty systems can create a negative feedback loop. 

Examples of this might look something like a customer having a bad experience, the organization failing to make changes that improve the experience, the customer failing to return or spreading negative sentiment about the organization, the organization losing profits and becoming less able to create desired customer experiences, and the cycle repeating itself as negative customer experiences become less avoidable due to revenue deficiencies. 

Open Loop Control System 

Control systems generally aim to ensure that a sequence of events occurs. While open-loop control systems and closed-loop control systems both aim to do this, they take different general approaches. While in a closed-loop control system, feedback is used to control the system, in an open-loop control system, feedback does not control the input of the system. 

To better understand the difference between the two, it can be helpful to look at some open-loop system examples. Remember, examples of closed-loop control systems include: streetlights that measure how dark it is outside to turn on and off, thermostats that measure the air temperature in order to circulate more or less cool air or customer service approaches that use feedback from customers to optimize future approaches to customer service. 

By contrast, open loop control system examples might include the timer on a toaster oven, which goes off after a predetermined amount of time regardless of whether the food is sufficiently heated, traffic lights which cycle between colors based on preset timers regardless of whether vehicles are present, or customer service approaches which are not optimized based on customer feedback. 

Similarly, open-loop communication might be when information is sent to one party who does not confirm receipt of it. Open loop communication can also refer to a communication technique in which one does not divulge all the relevant information possible. This can be used to urge the other party to engage further. 

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Benefits Of Closed Loop Communication

As important as closed-loop communication is in certain fields and situations, such as in healthcare and in aviation, it isn’t only important and helpful in situations of life and death. It’s a useful and helpful practice in a wide range of contexts. Closed-loop feedback control systems that can help organizations optimize operations, efficiency, and customer relations can rely on closed-loop communication. The potential benefits of closed-loop communication can be numerous. 

For example, closed-loop communication can help facilitate better customer experiences. When customers offer feedback, organizations can act on it and confirm that they’ve received it either by changing their practices or making an acknowledgment that feedback has been received. By opening this important line of communication with customers, organizations can better position themselves to create more desirable customer experiences. 

Importantly, organizations should consider closed-loop feedback best practices—such as ensuring that feedback is accurate, continually testing to ensure that the system is moving towards desired outcomes over time, and consistency in approach. Other closed feedback loop examples might include optimizing product offerings based on market trends or adjusting customer experiences based on industry trends identified in a third-party study. 

Closed Loop Feedback Process

The closed-loop feedback process is quite simple. A system is set up that can change based on input, and feedback informs what that input might be. For example, a toaster is designed to use a laser thermometer to measure the surface temperature of food. When the food’s surface temperature reaches a certain level, the toaster ejects it. This is in contrast to a toaster which relies on a timer and will eject the food regardless of the surface temperature reached. 

But what about customer service? How does one avoid implementing an open-loop control system in customer experiences? Closed feedback loop communication is important. Consider whether you’re offered customers any evidence that you’ve heard their feedback. What’s more, the initial feedback from customers is essential as well; what if you don’t have any feedback? In that case, you have nothing to inform the input of your system or how you go about engaging the customer. Here are some steps that can be essential to the process:

  • Soliciting feedback from customers in an inviting way that fosters good faith feedback.
  • Analyzing the feedback and coming to an understanding — which may involve soliciting further feedback.
  • Using that feedback and your understanding of it to inform further customer engagement practices.
  • Offering evidence to customers that you have received feedback, either in the form of acknowledgment of said feedback or in the form of adjusted practices that clearly reflect efforts to create better customer experiences based on customer feedback.
  • Repeating the process continues, as well as testing it for effectiveness regularly.

The bottom line is that closed-loop feedback can be highly helpful to organizations looking to enhance the way they operate, engage with customers, and more.

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