Scott Simon, the host of NPR’s (News - Alert) Weekend Edition Saturday, recently railed against surveys, citing “so much feedback, so little impact.” He was voicing a widespread belief that customers are less and less willing to participate in surveys.
We find that customers are willing to participate if they feel their voice is heard. For their participation, customers want to know what you’re doing with their feedback. Let’s be clear, we’re not talking about an automated response “thank you for your feedback, your opinion is important to us.” If that is the only response you provide, it is likely to be counter-productive – particularly with those customers who supply free form comments.
How to Find the Gold Nuggets in Your Surveys
In putting together your survey, you most likely have a series of statements about your organization, asking customers to score you on a Likert-type scale (e.g., strongly agree to strongly disagree). This gives you numbers that are easy to track and are held so dear by the marketing department. But are you hearing the voice of the customer in the free-form text? This is where the VoC gold is found. Customers who take the time to provide you with comments are telling you what is uppermost in their minds, what they truly care about, what moves their satisfaction gauge up or down.
These free-form comments can be analyzed systematically with text analytics. And with advances in technology, you can do it in near real time. You’ll uncover people who cite bad experiences, and you’ll also uncover customers who’ve had superior experiences. Close the loop with both sets. Say thank you to customers who’ve had a great experience. If they mention a member of the staff who was exceptional, tell your customer what you are doing to acknowledge that superior service. For customers who had a bad experience, tell them what you are doing to fix the situation – then follow up after the fix. In both cases, your customers will be pleasantly surprised and will spread the news that yours is a company that cares enough to respond to feedback. Because you make them feel valued, these customers will likely remain loyal and will continue to provide feedback. Many companies have turned relationships around by asking customers who have had poor experiences to participate in customer panels.
Use the Data to Plan and Make Real Changes
Data from free-form comments provides many opportunities to address global issues – fix broken processes, and determine what enhancements your customers are looking for in your product or service. Bring a team together to sort through the opportunities and prioritize them. You can’t attack everything at once. Pick one or two items to pursue over the course of the next six to nine months. Let your front-line employees know what you are considering and get their feedback, too. As with your customers, treating their opinions as valuable input will build employee engagement and loyalty.
With targeted improvement initiatives in hand, go back to customers who provided feedback. Consider sharing some of the survey results, both positive and negative. Tell them that their feedback helped determine the key initiative(s) you are working on; and spell out what those initiatives are. Six months later, provide a progress report. Shortly before your next survey, give an update on progress and let customers know that you’re looking forward to their ongoing input.
People may hate surveys, but they love to be listened to. Closing the loop will increase response rates and customer satisfaction. By building a culture of gathering feedback and responding to input you can increase customer satisfaction and profitability.
Lisa Stockberger is a vice president and practice leader at Vanguard Communications Corp. (www.vanguard.net), a consulting firm specializing in customer experience, self service, contact center processes, change management, operations and technology.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi