Not Another Annoying Customer Survey!
With every purchase, product inquiry and service request, I've found myself bombarded with survey requests by email, phone, text, point-of-sale and even the back of sales receipts. I don't mind sharing my feedback and, certainly, given my profession, understand its value -- but to respond to every survey would be a timely endeavor.
Collecting customer feedback effectively is no simple task and, when done improperly, can even have a negative impact on customer satisfaction. The following represent some of the more common practices organizations use to collect customer feedback -- many of which can be quite annoying from the customer's perspective -- along with some tips and best practices to help ensure the process is engaging to customers, as well as insightful and actionable to your business.
1. Using "one size fits all" survey questions. Running your surveys with a focus on generic topics and questions, and through a single channel, can translate into dismal customer participation. Often, you'll see this play out when the survey questions you're asked have nothing to do with the phone call you just completed with the company. Not only is this frustrating to customers, it's a waste of their time (and yours). Instead, businesses need a solution that uses short, context-sensitive, dynamic survey questions that enable it to capture the most relevant information from customers across different channels of contact.
2. Collecting feedback too late after the original interaction. Consumers have dozens of interactions with companies about multiple products/services, making it difficult for them to remember all the specifics associated with each. Sending a customer an email or calling him/her three days after-the-fact can result in both lower response rates and less relevant input. By engaging customers immediately after their interactions with your agents over the IVR, web and/or email, your organization can benefit from timely insights and response rates far greater than those obtained days or weeks later.
3. Asking only about the agent. Survey questions that ask only what the internal business thinks is important can lead to further disappointing and skewed results -- not to mention running the risk of customers realizing just how unaware or disinterested you are in their wants, needs and purposes for contacting your company to start with. The same is true if all you ask about is customers' views of the agents that served them.
Research has shown that the majority of customer issues are not necessary related to customer sales/service agents, yet still, many organizations continue to embrace this approach. Not providing (or not mining) the open-ended feedback you receive from customers can keep your organization from getting to the heart of important matters, which may actually be a back-office operations issue.
4. Underestimating the value of open-ended questions. While it's certainly interesting to know if the customer would recommend your company, it's equally important to give them a chance to share their feedback in their own words. Open-ended questions open the door to these more detailed, personal experience insights and bring the "voice of the customer" dynamic into the survey mix in a powerful way.
To get the most out of the open-ended customer comments you receive, your organization can leverage automated software that mines and analyzes customer interaction content comprised of both structured and unstructured data from text and voice interactions, and by mining such channels as email, online chat or even social media outlets. Doing so can provide your organization with rich insights from a broader sample size and with less bias.
5. Requesting customers "commit" to a survey before you serve them. I know this is a common practice to try to increase response rates and perhaps generate a more random sample. That said, it can be quite frustrating as a customer, especially if one is calling with an unresolved issue. Once served, customers may be happy to provide additional feedback after their interactions, but first things first. At the end of an interaction, having an actual person ask for that feedback can lead to higher levels of participation. After all, if the customer is going spend a few extra minutes to provide feedback, the least the company can do is spend a few seconds asking for it personally.
Enter the use of "warm transfers." Studies have shown that this type of approach can significantly increase response rates. If protocol requires agents to do this on every call, they're more likely to at least try to serve the customer to the best of their ability. It also can help agents feel more empowered as part of the customer feedback process. If you're concerned about agents trying to "cherry pick" the most positive calls to survey the customer, a simple statistical analysis can easily surface that trend.
6. Offering prizes and incentives for providing feedback. While this may increase response rates, it runs the risk of skewing the type of people that respond. Those with less money and more time on their hands are more likely to participate in these "lottery" surveys, perhaps distorting the results to focus on customers that are of less interest to your organization.
7. Capturing feedback and not taking action on the findings. This is probably the most annoying of all the common-place practices explored here. There is a somewhat unspoken expectation that a company will read/listen to the customer that provides feedback, and as a result, make changes. However, too often we see organizations collecting customer feedback, but failing to act on it. This may be an organizational challenge or lack of bandwidth -- and in some cases the feedback itself may not be actionable enough, which makes it critical to ensure you're asking the right questions from the start.
If your organization receives a 1 out of 10 but you don't know why, it's not actionable. And while it's great to collect structured data because it's easier to quantify, it's important to also have an option for customers to provide more detailed feedback via additional open-ended voice or textual comments. These may prove to be among the richest sources of actionable insights.
To complement traditional customer feedback solutions, technology tools that mine the actual voice of the customer help surface these root causes and trends. Taken further, you can then share the adjustments and changes you're making with your customers. If they see that you have taken their feedback seriously, they're more likely to provide feedback in the future and to remain more engaged and loyal.
For all organizations out there that don't use customer feedback and surveys to their fullest potential, abuse them or use them improperly, there are many others that have made great strides in improving their customer experiences by incorporating these types of tools and processes into their day-to-day business operations.