More than 9 in 10 companies plan to invest in customer feedback management by 2023, according to Bain – up from 74% today. What’s driving the increase? A need for more insights into customer perceptions, expectations and experiences.
Successful businesses know that voice of the customer (VOC) feedback is a rich source of intelligence into company performance. Capturing customer perceptions across the lifecycle, from purchase to sign up to service, provides data on where things are broken plus how to fix them. Gathering feedback across every touchpoint also provides invaluable insights because you can isolate problem areas for immediate resolution.
When integrated into a centralized data and reporting ecosystem, metrics like customer satisfaction (CSAT) and customer effort score (CES) can serve as a ‘north star’ to guide company investment and optimization decisions. And like anything else, there’s a right way – and a wrong way – to capture customer feedback. Below are our top tips for getting it right the first time.
#1: Launch a VOC Program
As simple as it sounds, creating and launching a VOC program is no small task. You need an overall strategy, someone to manage the project, and resources to analyze and report on the findings. Someone will have to identify which customers to invite to the survey and how often each can participate. For example, surveying the same customer more than once in six months may be a bad idea and can lead to customer aggravation.
Customer records must be accessible to the VOC team in a usable format, and a system needs to be set up to extend invitations to the right customer at the right time. A data repository should be created so when feedback starts coming in, it has somewhere to go.
#2: Measure the Right Things
Survey design is part art and part science. Your executives will identify which types of information they want to capture, but then it’s the VOC team’s job to construct the actual survey instrument. Survey length is a key factor to keep in mind. Customer attention spans are shorter than ever so asking a consumer to complete a 10-minute survey is risky. Instead, narrow survey scope to include must-have questions only, and save nice-to-have measures for a later date.
It’s best to include a mix of quantitative (scaled) and qualitative (open-end) questions. That way the analytics team can leverage quantitative data in predictive models, then use verbatim feedback to figure out why customers feel a certain way.
#3: Include Open-Ended Questions
Simply asking someone, “Why do you say that?” can provide incredible insights into customer perceptions. Relying solely on metrics, such as overall satisfaction or customer loyalty, can only tell you so much. They provide an effective barometer of performance in general but lack detail into underlying root causes of survey scores. It’s in the richness of customers describing, in their own words, why they gave a particular rating that you’ll find the most actionable information.
Knowing someone’s CSAT score is a 7 out of 10 shows that you have work to do. But where should you focus? What’s broken, and where? Looking into why a score was given provides exactly that insight, and often much more.
#4: Use Triggers for Proactive Intervention
No matter which type of business you’re in or how great your products and services are, you’re bound to run across dissatisfied customers. The question is how to react quickly to their needs to ensure damage is contained. An effective strategy is to design triggers inside your survey that auto-notify a select group of staffers empowered to take immediate action. Triggers can be based on a single question (e.g., low CSAT score) or a combination of questions (e.g., low CSAT score plus an unresolved issue). When those responses occur, system programming generates an automatic notification that’s emailed or sent via text message to all responsible parties.
It’s best if notifications occur in real time so there’s no danger of time lapsing and causing further customer irritation. Accountability structures should be established so personnel responsible for resolving issues are identified and also empowered to take all necessary steps.
#5: Apply Text Mining to Verbatim Comments
Customers are great at sharing their opinions, but when they respond in text format it can quickly become overwhelming to read and categorize every comment. Using text analytics is an easy solution. This type of software is specifically designed to ingest text-based data and automatically identify underlying categorizations, comment volumes and even word clouds.
By having the original customer comments plus quantitative insights on which issues are most prevalent, teams can quickly remove obstacles to customer success and establish best practices that prevent future challenges.
#6: Cascade Insights Across Departments
Customers often will share insights about their experiences that span multiple internal departments. When something goes wrong during sign-up, it might be a disconnect between a promise delivered by a sales representative, or a mistake in a marketing brochure, or even a typo in a pricing sheet. Customer support can’t be held accountable for factors outside of its control, yet issues need to be addressed. But how?
The best way is to ensure multi-functional teams all have access to customer feedback data, and all participate in monthly and quarterly business reviews. Sales may not realize team members need re-training. Marketing may not know an outdated brochure is still being issued. Support may be unaware of a pricing increase. By cascading these insights upstream from the customer support team, challenges outside the span of control of a typical agent can be remedied before future inbound contacts occur.
#7: Create a Culture of Action
One of the worst mistakes a company can make with a VOC program is to solicit customer feedback, then do nothing with it. By asking a customer to take time to respond to a survey, you’re creating an implicit assumption in that customer that something will change as a result of their insights. When you survey thousands of customers, the general impact is that you value customer opinions and want to improve their experiences. If a customer takes the time to respond to a survey with information about a breakdown or unresolved issue, and then experiences the same issue in the future, you’re setting yourself up for a customer departure. Multiply that by the number of customers that respond in a given year, and you get an idea of how many customers you might lose.
But simply saying, “take action,” isn’t enough. Creating a culture of action starts with the C-suite. Senior buy-in is important because action many times requires investment. When the leadership team creates a culture of action, cascades expectations and accountability structures across the company and approves additional investments when they’re needed, it validates for all employees the value placed on customer insights.
Voice of the customer programs are critically important in providing actionable insights to enable process improvement. Without data on where breakdowns occur and how to fix them, businesses must rely on anecdotes and instincts. By setting up a VOC program that captures both quantitative and qualitative insights, internal teams gain a rich source of intelligence that will empower them to take action.