Most customers want to tell their service providers about their experiences and relatively few customers take the trouble to contact a company proactively, leaving surveys as one of the primary ways of expressing feedback. However, with good intentions companies have taken advantage of the survey process and forced customers to endure long, boring questionnaires designed to serve the company’s needs. Customers once went along but that attitude is changing and customers have taken control of the conversation and now demand more than a thank you for their time. With the proliferation of social and consumer-generated media, it’s time for companies to acknowledge customers as more than data points and begin re-engaging them in the survey process, adapting the survey process to customers’ preferences and listening to them whenever and wherever they talk.
Customers Call It Like They See It
Customers’ frustrations with customer experience research are in three main areas:
1. The interaction
2. The questionnaire
3. The “So What”?
Customers describe the typical survey interaction as impersonal and isolating. Companies need to find better ways to take individual differences into account. They need to give customers the opportunity to feel like they are part of something while also making it convenient for them and accounting for individual preferences.
Customers describe experience surveys as rigid and inflexible. They find some of the questions irrelevant or inappropriate and other questions strangely missing. They also say customer experience surveys have a sameness about them, no matter who the sponsor or what the specific occasion. At MaritzCX we have gathered insight about questionnaires and found that:
- Many customer experience surveys are overly structured and inflexible—both for the respondents who take them and the interviewers who administer them.
- Survey length and content are perceived as inconsistent with the experience and missing elements customers deem important.
- Surveys do not seem well thought through.
- Customers say customer experience surveys lack personality.
Where’s the ‘So What’?
The most serious failing from the customer’s point of view is that the reward for their effort is missing. It is rarely clear to customers what companies do with the information they collect. Customers feel unappreciated and feel they are wasting their time when they cannot see changes as a result of their participation. How do companies re-engage customers in customer
experience research? It starts with looking at the situation through the customer’s eyes.
Re-Engagement Starts Here
The place to start is with an objective examination of all parts of your customer experience measurement effort. With a firm commitment to survey design best practices, this examination will lay the foundation for a program that meets both the company’s and customers’ needs. In the examination consider:
- The length of your survey and its content. You may find that over time it has increased in length or that there is redundancy in the system, especially if different parts of your organization contact customers. Take a close read and determine what is really needed.
- The objectives of your program. Customer experience measurement systems have different functions including performance appraisal, system diagnosis, rapid problem resolution and customer relationship/retention. While it may be possible to address more than one topic in a single survey, some functions do not mix well and doing so will blur strategic focus. Step back and clearly define your objectives and keep focused on reaching them.
Once the basics are in order, it’s time to consider other design and survey packaging advancements.
Listen to the Stories
More than anything else, customers want to tell their stories. Shifting the survey from a completely close-ended interaction to one that includes open-end questions will pay dividends in customer happiness and attention. Emerging technologies such as automated text analysis offer survey designers the opportunity to provide customers with the conversational elements they desire in a survey, and help turn unstructured feedback into actionable information.
Refresh Survey Design
Simple changes in the physical appearance of an online or paper survey can increases respondent attention and thereby improves data quality. But make sure your changes have a purpose and are consistent with the brand experience and the brand image. Keep in mind as well, that there’s many different kinds of technology that customers will be using to take the survey, so make sure it works on all devices!
Solve Customer Problems on the Spot
Consider setting up a “Hot Alert” system. Transactional surveys should offer customers who had a problem the option of having someone follow up with them as quickly as possible. This is a clear signal that you are interested in each customer’s experience. Companies that employ “Hot Alerts” also need a robust case management system in place to keep track of who is assigned responsibility for follow-up
Give Something in Return
Everyone likes to be rewarded for effort and that includes taking the time to fill out a customer experience survey. Even sending a simple thank-you note is too often overlooked. Sometimes a company may choose to use an incentive, but a more effective is to let customers see the feedback others have provided. Customers are more likely to feel their effort was justified when they see their responses in a broader context.
Communicate How Feedback Is Being Used
Nothing discourages people from participating in customer experience research more than the suspicion that no one is listening. Companies would do well to demonstrate to customers that they value their feedback. There are a multitude of options available from website postings, in-store signage to print communications and YouTube style videos. Whatever communication channel you select, make sure it is compatible with your brand’s image of the effort may backfire.
Provide Immediate Feedback
Before they leave the survey, switch respondents automatically to a web page where they can see and explore what other customers have said and see how your organization is using the feedback. Make the experience both substantive and engaging by. You may even want to make the experience interactive and social by allowing customers to comment on what the company is doing. This is a great way to reinforce the brand
Customers demand your attention and they have become bored with traditional surveys and many have turned instead to readily available new venues to tell their stories. Today, companies must work actively to re-engage customers in the survey process by restoring the balance between what customers want and what companies need. Smart companies will remember that it’s “all about the brand.” Everything associated with the survey process is a reflection on your brand and has the power to positively or negatively affect customer relationships. Engaged customers are happier customers, and engaged customers provide better information.