Digital technology has enabled a feedback ecosystem of direct and indirect touchpoints through which companies can gauge customer preferences, sentiment and emotions. Yet when it comes to rating service delivery and collecting insights on performance improvement opportunities, customer surveys remain an essential feedback tool.
Done right, customer surveys offer myriad benefits for businesses. Surveys can open a line of communication with customers and, thus, have the potential to forge stronger relationships. But let’s face it, the traditional customer survey has long suffered from poor response rates and biased results. Why? Digital era consumers are bombarded with survey requests. Virtually every purchase, phone call, email, chat, in-person interaction and delivery comes with a request to rate the experience. Typically, only experiences that are genuinely superior or truly awful will motivate time-starved consumers to provide their feedback.
Unfortunately, it’s not just the sheer quantity of requests for feedback that contributes to customer survey fatigue. A poorly designed survey can monopolize the consumer’s time and require more effort than the transaction being rated. Surveys that are too long, too generic or not relevant to the experience also discourage customers from fully participating. And perhaps the most significant transgression: Companies that fail to close the feedback loop with customers by neither responding to their feedback nor taking action on the information only reinforce the message that surveys are simply a perfunctory service followup exercise.
But why devote so many resources to delivering a quality service experience only to fumble the final touchpoint? It’s time to upgrade your customers’ survey experience to ensure that your approach is enticing, engaging and representative of your brand as well as your overall customer experience goals. The following are seven practices to encourage customer participation while delivering useful insights for improving customer service.
Personalize the experience
As a consumer, I receive countless survey requests addressed to “Dear Valued Customer.” I no longer waste my time responding to generic invitations. My experience has been that, if the company doesn’t know who I am, then they don’t know about the transaction for which they’re asking me to provide feedback. In the past, my comments simply disappeared into the data abyss never to be reviewed, responded to, or acted upon.
Personalizing survey invitations can help to engage customers from the start. Using the customer’s name in the salutation, and including pertinent details about their recent experience (e.g., order numbers, case numbers, a transaction reference, CSR name, etc.), tells them that their feedback will apply to a specific interaction and may result in a callback or action.
Be transparent about the feedback process and what you’re asking
Tell customers why they’re receiving a survey (“you recently contacted tech support”), along with an accurate estimation of how long it will take, and how their feedback will be used (“to help us improve the webchat experience”).
Make sure that your questions clearly identify specific channels or touchpoint(s) within the customer service journey. When designing your survey questions, consider customers who begin their journey in one channel and must transfer to another for resolution. Or callers who have been escalated through several tiers before they reach someone who can resolve their issue. In each of these cases, the customer may be dissatisfied with several legs of the journey or even the overall experience, but may be reluctant to provide honest feedback or ratings in fear of dinging the performance of the final, senior-level CSR who managed to resolve the issue.
Solicit feedback as close to real-time as possible
Voice of the customer platforms can automatically trigger email notifications to customers with surveys as soon as the call is closed. Last year, Fannie Mae’s Selling Guide Support Team (SGST), one of its higher volume contact centers, deployed a VoC solution (Confirmit Horizons) to do just that. The email contains necessary information about the transaction—the case number, whom the caller spoke with, what the call was about—along with a link to provide feedback about the experience.
Sending the case information and survey to the caller immediately following the call has increased the center’s response rate significantly, notes Fannie Mae Transformation Manager Ronjon Ray. “As another component of that, we built out a process for hot alerts.” The center set a minimum-score threshold for survey ratings. Anything below the threshold instantly triggers an alert to center management who will then follow up with the caller for more details.
For SGST staff, getting direct feedback from customers has had a more significant impact on performance than receiving feedback from a third-party, says Ray, adding that: “Our ability to see and hear customers’ comments and immediately react to them has sparked a culture change. Our staff welcomes the feedback. Often, there is very positive and glowing praise, which gets people energized. It has been a great experience.”
Related: Inside View: Fannie Mae, Pipeline, August 2019
Make it simple and suitable for the channel of choice
If you’re going to send a followup survey to customers in the channel of their choice, make sure that the feedback tool reflects the channel’s limitations. For example after a recent text interaction with a business, I was sent a link to a customer satisfaction survey. The link took me to an online survey that had been designed for a PC or laptop website experience (using a computer keyboard) with multiple open-ended questions. I’m not the most skilled thumb-typer, so needless to say, I hit my frustration level early in the process and dropped out with a negative impression of the experience.
Reflect your brand personality
Ensure that customer surveys are viewed as an extension of your brand and the overall customer experience. A thoughtful, visually pleasing design that incorporates the colors, logo and other elements (e.g., language, tone) of your brand will capture your customers’ attention and may also produce better response rates and more useful feedback.
Use digital feedback tools to ensure a timely response across channels
“Digital feedback management tools make it possible for customer to log a comment from any page of a website or mobile app, or during an online chat session with a contact center agent,” according to Verint’s VP of Global Customer Experience Nancy Porte (see Three Simple Ways to Show Your Customers Some Love, Pipeline, February 2018). “The tools then use analytics to route the comment to the appropriate staff member or department for handling. ... Most important, though, is that the company has set up an avenue for customers to make their feelings known quickly and easily. It sends a loud and clear message that, ‘We want to hear from you.’ And this goes a long way to help digital interactions be as connected, welcoming and convenient as possible.”
Always Close the loop with customers
There is nothing more satisfying to a customer who has taken the time to share feedback than being acknowledged by the company. This often comes in the form of a followup communication from a manager to thank them for sharing their feedback, and if negative, offering a sincere apology and issue resolution.
Keep in mind that the process of closing the loop with customers is provides another opportunity to collect their feedback on the experience, continue the VoC dialogue, and turn your company’s critics into brand advocates.