What is customer feedback?
Customer feedback is the process of listening to the voice of customers in order to understand and improve services.
Good question. Unless you see the benefits of feedback you’re unlikely to reap them. You’ll be one of those companies that implements a customer experience programme because ‘it’s the thing to do’ only to bin it a few months later because of lack of buy-in and a failure to appreciate its potential value.
And a well designed CX programme will deliver value - it can offer up nuggets of pure gold in the form of understanding and insight. Nuggets that can add £0,000’s to your bottom line. Read more in Why Does Customer Feedback Matter – 6 reasons.
Consider one of our customers, a well-known chain of opticians. Feedback from non-buying customers, captured through touchscreen feedback kiosks, revealed that a sizeable proportion of men decided not to buy glasses because a certain style of frame wasn’t stocked. A new frame design was subsequently introduced and it quickly became a best seller. The result: increased revenues and the prevention of customer churn.
If customers aren’t happy with what you’re offering they’ll probably go elsewhere. They have more choice than ever before. They’re better informed than ever before. They’re increasingly discerning. They’ll read reviews and ratings sites, they’ll compare features and pricing. They will shop around.
This makes customer churn a growing problem. More and more companies across the globe are responding to this problem by adopting customer experience solutions. Their aim is to gain insights that will enable them to remove causes of dissatisfaction. Reduce dissatisfaction and you’re on the way to reducing churn rates.
Customer dissatisfaction/satisfaction is the sum of the customer’s individual, component experiences. Understand what the customer expects from each of these experiences: if there’s a gap between expectation and experience the result will be dissatisfaction. Close this gap and you’ll have a happy customer. But to close the gap you’ve got to know that it exists. This requires insight. And insight requires feedback.
Unless you ask the customer what they think and why – and listen to what they have to say – you’ll be guessing. Sometimes you’ll get it right and sometimes you’ll get it wrong. But in today’s fiercely competitive environment, "sometimes" isn’t enough. Another story - this time about an outdoor and adventure specialist that didn’t know it had a problem until it started to ask for feedback. Open-ended comments from customers, again captured through touchscreen feedback kiosks, revealed that a surprising number were looking for sleeping bags but couldn’t find them in the store. Even more surprising was that these would-be customers were leaving without asking staff for help. Consequently, staff had no idea there was an issue. The store had an unusual layout and the sleeping bags were tucked away in a corner, without signage. Sorting this out was simple and resulted in an immediate increase in sleeping bag sales.
“Okay,“ you say, “so, I need to capture feedback. That can’t be difficult. I’ll use an online tool to create a questionnaire and I’ll print it out or I’ll email it to our customer list. That’s simple enough, right?”
Wrong. You can do this, of course, but results will be disappointing. We know because we’ve seen plenty of companies go down this route and then come to us when it doesn’t work. And by doesn’t work, we mean a) response rates were poor and/or b) the feedback gained didn’t provide the insights expected.
There can be a number of reasons for this, the most common ones being:
1. Lack of clarity about what you want to achieve. We’ve seen too many surveys that lack a clear objective. If you don’t know what you want to achieve you won’t know what questions to ask or how best to ask them. Nailing down the objective is a pre-requisite. Ensure you have clarity on what you want to achieve and ensure you gain internal buy-in. You won’t see success unless you know what it looks like.
2. Choosing the wrong channel. Different audiences require different channels. For example, paper surveys may be the best option if you’re trying to reach an elderly demographic. Different channels yield different results. For example, point-of-experience solutions, such as the feedback kiosk in a shop, will provide more accurate and insightful feedback than a reflective survey (think online and paper) that is completed after the event.
3. Poor survey design. How many times have you been asked to complete a wordy questionnaire that seems to run on for ever? Have you started to wonder how long it will take? Have you rushed through questions because you want to get to the end? Most of us know what this feels like. Surveys like this simply don’t work in most situations. The drop out rate tends to be high and ‘survey fatigue’ means questions are answered carelessly increasing the risk of inaccurate and misleading results – results that you’ll be basing business decisions on.
There are many different ways to capture feedback. These include reflective, after-the-event methods like paper postal surveys and real-time feedback that’s captured at the point of experience. You need to consider the pros and cons of each approach in light of your specific requirements before deciding which approach is best.
Real-time feedback methods certainly offer a lot of advantages:
1. Gartner research has shown that feedback gathered in real-time is up to 40% more accurate when compared with feedback captured as little as 24 hours after the event to which it relates. Accuracy and reliability of feedback is, of course, a critical consideration if you’re going to use the data to make service and business affecting decisions.
2. You can expect to capture up to 12% more responses using real-time solutions as opposed to reflective ones.
3. Where a tablet or kiosk is used to capture real-time feedback, long questions can be simplified through the use of icons and images and intelligent routing can be used to ensure that the next question asked takes account of the answer just given.
4. Meta-data such as location and time can automatically be recorded when using smart devices to capture real-time feedback
5. Real-time solutions typically come with real-time reporting dashboards and live alerts which means you can monitor trends and respond to issues with next to no lag.
6. Kiosks can be left on 24/7 capturing responses at unsociable hours and when no staff are present.
However, some situations call for a different approach. Surveying the elderly would be a good example. A lack of familiarity with (or even fear of) technology can be a barrier for some. In this situation, a paper survey may prove more effective.
There are other situations where it may be difficult to determine what the most effective feedback strategy will be. If you find yourself in this position, it’s worth considering a multi-channel approach. This will enable you to test different methods of feedback capture, measure response rates and tailor your approach accordingly.
If you’ve gone to the effort of capturing feedback, you’ll want to use it effectively. We mentioned earlier that customer churn is an increasing challenge for businesses around the globe. In the majority of cases, power lays with the customer. If you don’t consistently meet your customers’ expectations there’s every likelihood that they will take their business to a supplier who does. This means that you need to mine your feedback for insights and understanding that may ultimately add £0,000s to your bottom line. Unearthing these insights requires intelligent analytics that enable you to make sense of the data. And not weeks or months after the event – your analytics solution should enable you to make sense of the data in near real-time.
These days, there’s no excuse for difficult-to-understand or inflexible dashboards and reporting. Your analytics capability should be intuitive, powerful and accessible 24/7. You should be able to mould it to fit the needs of your organisation, rather than having to bend your organisation to fit the strictures of the tool. Based on our 16 years of feedback and analysis, we suggest the following list of requirements that you should consider when determining what you need from your analysis and reporting solution:
Headline trend data. You should be able to readily identify key trends at top level – and you should be able to configure your reporting so that the key trends you’re interested in are displayed. For example, you may want to rank your salesmen, or to understand whether there are specific times of the day or days of the week when satisfaction with service drops; you may want to know what your worst performing hour was or your best performing shift; you may want to monitor satisfaction with quality of food in each of your restaurants – the list is potentially endless. The key point is that your analytics solution should have the flexibility to meet your specific needs.
Detailed analysis. Identifying patterns and trends is a departure point, not a destination. Once you’ve identified a trend the next question to ask is “why?”. Why are 20% of broadband consumer customers dissatisfied with our Repair Service engineers? Is it because the engineers didn’t turn up when expected or because they didn’t resolve the fault quickly enough or because they didn’t take their boots off at the front door? Is dissatisfaction with the Repair Service engineers evenly spread or is there a variation in performance? If it’s the latter, what can we learn from the engineers with high customer satisfaction scores and how can we apply this to their colleagues who aren’t performing so well? You won’t answer these sorts of questions with top level performance trend data alone – you will need to have the ability to drill into the underlying data, decomposing it until you get to the root-cause of the issues you’re investigating.
Comparative Analysis. At some point, it’s likely that you’ll want to carry out comparative analysis. Going back to our Broadband repair example, you may find that there were high levels of dissatisfaction with your online appointment booking system. You may decide that you want to analyse feedback by demographic, starting with a comparison of satisfaction levels by age group. This could, for example, reveal that dissatisfaction was much higher with senior users in the 65+ age bracket. This may lead you to gather more detailed feedback from this group, in turn leading to an action plan targeted specifically at addressing their root causes of dissatisfaction.
Dashboard and report configuration. One size doesn’t fit all. You should ensure that the design of the dashboard and/or reporting you’re considering meets your needs. This includes, for example, the ability to choose from a range of chart styles and the ability to switch views.
Define profiles and privileges. Profiles and privileges should be role-based. An executive, a Customer Experience lead, a salesman and a helpdesk agent will all have different requirements from your feedback analytics and reporting.
Measure KPIs. How well are your processes working? What process performance KPIs do you have in place and is there a correlation between KPI performance and customer satisfaction? These are some of the questions that your analytics solution should help you answer.
Report export. You should have the option to export your data. You may, for example, wish to combine it with other data such as process performance audit data to produce triangulated analysis and reports. You should also have the option to produce and print visual, intuitive reports that can be shared with staff.
Net Promoter Score. NPS is a widely used customer loyalty measure that indicates the likelihood of a customer recommending a company’s products or services.
To keep customers happy, you need to give them what they want. This is obvious. However, giving them what they want can be trickier than you might think. Customer characteristics can vary enormously; this means you need to ensure that you’re listening to the right customers. Also, make sure you give them the chance to answer the questions they would like to ask in addition to the questions you’ve set out.
Take a holistic approach to understand their customer experience. Many businesses operate with departmental ‘silos’. The handoff between departments can often be a source of dissatisfaction for a customer owing to inconsistent messages, information not being shared between departments and so forth. This is why linking customer experience to process performance is important.
Identify what’s causing dissatisfaction and fix it. Back to our Broadband Repair engineer. Imagine that engineers turning up late is a significant source of dissatisfaction. The Telecoms provider investigates the reasons for late arrivals and tightens existing processes. But it’s still an issue. Management concludes that it’s impossible to eliminate the problem completely because of factors outside of their control, such as traffic delays. So, what do they do? They introduce a “ring-ahead” procedure ensuring that customers are informed of a delay and are given the option to reschedule their appointment. Satisfaction levels are continuously monitored so that the effect of process changes like this can be measured over time. This removes the guess work and provides a solid basis for making informed business decisions. Improvements are incremental and ongoing. Customer experience moves from being a project or a short-term initiative; it’s now a vital part of the business process, being used to fine tune operations to meet customer need. It has become a key weapon in the fight for competitive advantage.
Get in touch to discuss more about collecting feedback from your customers.