How to obtain customer feedback that WILL improve customer experience

In order to be successful today’s organisations must seek regular feedback from customers to drive improvements in their operations. Here Andy Moore looks at how organisations can adopt a strategy to really listen to their customers, how to use that data and the value it can provide.

It is a fact that in 2017 customer experience is now the new competitive battlefield. Recently the CEO of Mercedes Benz stated that customer experience is the new marketing. CX is going to be a more important differentiator than product, positioning, and price. Companies will soon spend more on CX than they currently do on marketing.

Whilst the proof of good customer experience should certainly show up in the sales figures, one would hope, today’s organisations need a lot more feedback than that to know they are on the right track.

CX covers a number of things – messaging, brand, choice of channel, price point, level of interactivity, proactive service – each of which needs to be optimised on an ongoing basis if maximum profitability is to be achieved. This means that more granular feedback is required to know which KPIs are performing and which are not; and what can be done to improve performance.

While generic metrics like NPS and CSAT give an overall picture of performance, organisations also need a way to collect more detailed feedback, including open-ended comments from customers.

It’s good to listen

Business in general, and marketing specifically, have always been about identifying what customers (or a particular group of them) want, and creating or tailoring a product or service to meet those needs at a price the customer is willing to pay.

That’s true even if you’re Apple creating entirely new product categories that people didn’t know they wanted before you launched them.

If this is true of marketing, it’s even more true of customer experience. Good customer experience means delivering what customers want at every touchpoint and the majority of these customer interactions take place in the contact centre.

As the essential hub of multi-channel customer experience, the contact centre is becoming as important as the marketing department in terms of market research (both quantitatively and qualitatively) with the objectives of understanding the impact this has on success and the bottom line, and to continuously improve that performance.

While quantitative data, in the form of sales figures, up-sales and cross-sales figures, customer lifetime value, customer acquisition costs, conversion rates, and so forth are all important indicators, if we are to acknowledge that there is any real difference between the old discipline of marketing and the new one of customer experience, something more is required.

That something is the voice of the customer.

Tuning in to the voice of the customer

All organisations have antennae, which constantly pick up feedback from customers. These include frontline staff, the company website or app, the online shopping cart, internet forums and review sites, and of course social media.

The problem is that as a lot of this feedback is ad-hoc and open-ended it is either not gathered in one place, or if it is, it is unstructured data that is hard to analyse and extract useful information from. Plenty of information simply never gets recorded so never makes it way to anyone in a position to analyse it and draw conclusions.

With competition so fierce these days, and points of differentiation hard to create, a successful company needs to collect and understand all the information it can get its hands on.

Ways to conduct automated customer surveys

The most recent study of CX Trends reveals when consumers were asked to note all contributing factors in their decision to leave feedback, four out of five selected “I enjoy offering my feedback and making a difference,” with more 40 percent of consumers listing this as their primary reason.

We have a number of similar stories of working with organisations that show when an agent transfers a customer to an automated telephone survey at the end of a call there is a 75% completion rate because it’s effectively a single call by the customer and they won’t hang up until completed. In comparison the completion rate for stealth mode surveys – where an automated system asks the customer to take part in a survey either before or at the end of the call – falls to around 20%.

For outbound automated surveys made soon after an interaction the completion rate drops to something like 20%. For email / web surveys we find an 8% completion rate, and just 5% for SMS.

How to design customer surveys

Whichever channels you decide to use for surveys – ideally all of them at appropriate times – bear the following in mind:

Clearly define what you would like to learn from the outset. This depends largely on what KPIs you measure and wish to improve. If you currently don’t measure something how will you know whether it’s failing or needs to be improved? Keep it short and simple for customers. Never ask them for data you should already know, for example to identify themselves or the agent who dealt with them – instead you must associate this data with survey responses.
Word your questions as statements. We recommend that you adopt the Likert scale in your questionnaires. These questions ask respondents to say to what extent they agree with a number of statements, usually ranked from 1 to 5.
Let your respondents speak for themselves by including chances for your customers to leave verbatim comments. This means that you do not define the customer experience based exclusively on your company's metrics and standards.

Ideally your surveys will collect a good mix of quantitative and qualitative data. Remember with qualitative data such as customer comments these need to be put into a structured format in order to be analysed. Consider using automated transcription software and text analytics tools to make sense of this unstructured data.

Make a closed loop

The power of any feedback system arises from its ability to influence future events. This can only happen if the loop is properly closed, which means feedback improves performance, which gives new feedback that further improves performance, and so on.

Which means the data you collect from customer surveys – and other customer feedback – has to be analysed, disseminated, and ultimately formulated into plans of action. That could mean creating new training programmes for agents, redesigning workflows, or even rethinking a whole supply chain to make it more efficient for end-users.

Finally it’s important that by listening to your customers you show them that you have taken their comments on board. When you change something as a result of customer feedback, particularly if you have solicited it, thank them for their time and let them know how they have influenced you.

When customers feel they have a stake in an organisation’s business it does wonders for loyalty.