The 7 Golden Rules of Customer Surveys

Simon Thorpe looks at the best techniques for getting worthwhile customer feedback.

1. Tag customer feedback to agents

General ‘how did we do’ surveys are fine from a marketing perspective, but they don’t provide a business with the opportunity to identify which parts of the customer journey were good or bad. In a contact centre environment, it’s vital to tag customer feedback to agents, teams and departments. By doing this, managers can quickly establish which agents need support and training, and which to pat on the back.

Collecting customer feedback at agent level will also help reduce the ‘needle in a haystack’ approach to quality monitoring. Most contact centres randomly assess 3–5 calls per agent per month (a labour-intensive and often biased process), which can result in little or no value.

Imagine the possibilities if you were collecting 20–30 customer surveys per agent per month. Q&A preparation time would be substantially reduced, balanced scorecards could be created based on customer feedback and agents would get unbiased performance results.

What’s more, providing agents with their own results helps breed a culture of self-correction where individuals will seek to take ownership of their development. We typically see a 20–30% increase in CSAT scores from adopting this approach.

Before starting your journey, ask yourself – if your voice of the customer programme doesn’t drive change, what is the point?

2. Keep surveys short and sweet

This might sound like we are teaching grandma to suck eggs, but you’d be surprised at the number of companies who make the mistake of overcomplicating their surveys. The net result is typically an overly long questionnaire with an incoherent question flow, designed to provide insight to the various departments that have weighed in. These companies then complain that their take-up rate is poor and the insight provides little meaningful data.

We find the best approach is to keep the survey short and sweet. Work out what you are looking to understand and ask the customer to answer no more than 5 or 6 questions.

Encourage customers to provide comment and use this approach across the survey themes you choose. At the end of the day, you are asking customers to give up their valuable time so it is unreasonable to expect them to sit down and complete a 30-question marathon.

3. Decide how to survey customers

In most contact centre operations, customers will be contacting you via phone, email, chat and possibly through social channels. In our experience, surveying customers in the same format as their channel preference tends to improve response levels.

Naturally, costs need to be taken into account; email and SMS surveys are typically a cheaper option, but in many cases they don’t lend themselves to high take-up rates. Post-call IVR can be a little more expensive but customers are more likely to provide verbatim comments along with CSAT scores. Response levels are also usually higher.

4. Make the surveys as real time as possible

What is the point of collecting customer feedback days or weeks after an interaction has taken place?

Imagine this scenario: Mrs Smith has left feedback to say she waited an unreasonable amount of time to get through to you, and when she did finally speak to an agent, they didn’t have the answers she needed.

What’s more, the service experience was poor as she was regularly put on hold and transferred round the business.

Sound familiar? Now imagine getting that feedback 2 weeks after the call has taken place. It’s very difficult to call the customer back to apologise and resolve the issue as the moment has been lost. There is every likelihood Mrs Smith will have taken her business elsewhere.

Capturing customer feedback in real time enables a company to act quickly, resolve broken processes and hopefully keep the service performance moving in the right direction.

Another key consideration to factor in is customer memory blur. Consumers are regularly interacting with service operations and one interaction can very quickly blur into another. If you are able to survey a customer straight after the interaction has taken place, the feedback provided will be much richer and nothing will have been forgotten.

We typically recommend sending a survey immediately to avoid interrupting the customer as they start something else.

5. Farm customer verbatim for golden nuggets of insight

‘There’s gold in them there hills’ is exactly what we think when advising clients of the value of collecting and farming customer verbatim comments. Providing customers with the opportunity to leave feedback in their own words is a great way of understanding customer sentiment and the real reason for their call. The problem is that many tools don’t offer the ability to mine this information for the golden nuggets of insight that will really add some value.

By using natural language processing, machine learning and thematic categorisation, a company can quickly get to grips with feedback trends and the causes of their main customer gripes.

This information can be used to create alerts (to flag up dissatisfaction or process failure) which enables the contact centre to reduce customer complaints and help the business identify the root cause of the problem.

6. Make sure you can prove the ROI

When you have the go-ahead from the CEO/CFO for a pilot, always do a baseline survey. Without informing staff, carry out around 1,000 surveys to get a “before” score. Then measure the improvements for 3–6 months.

Most organisations see an improvement on net promoter score (NPS) and CSAT of around 20%. If you have done your homework on what Promoters mean to your business (e.g. a telecoms client of Bright see that their Promoters spend 33% more with them), you can link the two and easily get the budget for a full roll-out.

7. Take action quickly

And finally, above all else, if you are going to put the effort into collecting customer feedback you should certainly make it top priority to do something with the insight. You wouldn’t believe the number of organisations who regularly survey customers with no endgame in mind. The data clogs up servers and there is little or no process to follow up or use the intelligence to put things right. This is not only a big waste of time and effort but also represents a huge lost opportunity.

Imagine the power of receiving negative feedback from a customer, picking up the phone to apologise and trying to work through a resolution. There is no better way of turning detractors into promoters. If your customers actually think you will listen to their feedback and take action, their engagement and loyalty to your brand will forever increase.

With thanks to Simon Thorpe at Bright UK

Published On: 16th Mar 2016 - Last modified: 6th Feb 2019
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