This is a guest post from Ashley Wilson. Ashley is a digital nomad and freelance writer from San Diego, California. When she is not busy baking cupcakes, Ashley loves writing about business, digital marketing, and finance. Connect with Ashley via Twitter @ashleygwilson.

Most businesses understand the value of getting customer feedback, but many are missing out on a much more valuable source of actionable intelligence: their own employees. While customer feedback is important, it often says more about your employees than about your business.

Your employees may treat your customers well in spite of how they themselves feel treated as employees. If you are not careful, however, you can quickly lose the very employees that may inspire great customer loyalty. Conversely, if your customers aren’t happy, it’s a fairly safe bet that your employees aren’t happy either.

In some cases, if you want better customer satisfaction you actually need to improve employee satisfaction.

Getting actionable feedback from employees, however, is not quite as simple as getting it from your customers. While your customers may not hesitate to give an honest review even if it is negative, your employees may not be so eager.

Your customers have little, if anything, to lose from their criticism of your business, but your employees are in a much more tenuous position. Here are 4 tips for getting actionable – and honest – feedback from your employees.

1. Offer Both Anonymous and Face-to-Face Opportunities

Both anonymous and face-to-face feedback have their drawbacks. Overall, feedback given anonymously may or may not be as trustworthy as feedback given face-to-face. Honest feedback is much harder to get, however, when employers know where it is coming from. Anonymous feedback also makes it much easier to vent in a fit of pique or even maliciously slander someone because there is little threat of repercussion.

One way to encourage honest face-to-face feedback is to make performance reviews a two-way street. By choosing to receive an employee evaluation at the same time as giving one, you are more likely to get honest feedback from an employee who is also looking for the same thing.

2. Make Sure Feedback is Solicited from All Employees

As telecommuting and remote work become more common, it is also common for businesses to forget about their remote employees in company matters.

Your remote employees will actually be affected by corporate culture just as much as your on-site employees, but they often have even less of a voice than your on-site employees. Not only is it important to solicit feedback from your remote employees, it is also important to take extra measures to try and help your remote employees feel like they are a real part of the team.

With remote employees, you have to be especially careful and aware of the preferred communication style. This means you should offer feedback in the time of day and using the tools (email, phone, video call etc.) the remote employee will be receptive to. As in any other case, paying attention to your tone and body language as well as making sure you listen, answer and clarify any questions and comments is of utmost importance.

3. Make Feedback Protocols Clear – and Adhere to Them

If employees believe they can be fired or even punished for giving negative feedback, they are unlikely to give it. While everyone loves hearing all the things they are doing right, the truth is what you are doing wrong will be most detrimental to your business. That is actually the feedback you need the most.

It is important for employees to understand exactly how any feedback will be handled and perhaps most importantly, what protections they can expect for giving it. It is also important to respond appropriately to negative feedback and let your employees know they have been heard and you are taking their feedback seriously.

Chances are good you will have to deliver negative feedback to your employees, so this is a good opportunity to set an example of how to receive and handle negative feedback maturely and professionally.

Basically, oftentimes higher levels of job satisfaction, better job performance, trust and motivation depend on the emotional intelligence of both parties. It all starts with you.

4. Handle Explosive Revelations With Care – But Do Handle Them

The Bill Cosby scandal may be one of the most important lessons for businesses. The more widely respected, loved and revered an individual is, the more difficult it may be to believe anything negative about them. Your most efficient manager may actually turn out to also be embezzling thousands of dollars in company funds.

Any time there is a major scandal of any kind, it invariably turns out someone knew what was going on and in many cases tried to tell someone. The problem was that no one listened or believed them.

Yes, employees may always err on the side of believing they are overworked, underpaid and not treated fairly. That does not automatically mean they are wrong, however. Just because an employee makes an accusation does not automatically mean it is true, but it also doesn’t mean it’s untrue just because it is unbelievable.

It is very important to investigate any and all allegations that may come to light by whatever means they are delivered.

It Flows Both Ways

Almost all businesses, employers, managers and employers will have to deliver negative feedback to their employees at some time, and the truth is, employees generally expect it. In order to have a truly healthy business dynamic, however, it is important for honest evaluation to flow both ways.

Receiving negative feedback is hard and it is easy for business owners, supervisors and managers to simply close themselves off to receiving it. Those that do, however, may do so at their own peril.

About the Author: Jocelyn Pick