Over the past 5 years we have seen an explosion of customer surveys including ones administered to us in IVR or email post-call, forms passed out onboard aircraft, online during web sessions, emailed to our Inboxes, outbound automated IVR, outbound pollsters, mall intercepts, “usage and attitude” forms, and much, much more!
Unfortunately response rates haven’t risen despite pleading or coupon offers – sometimes under 5%, introducing disturbing levels of sample bias, and the stark reality of uneven survey results plaguing interpretation – customers still tend to provide “polar” responses, low or high, only. This means that we are extrapolating from low levels of skewed replies, hardly the prescription for gaining wisdom.
While it is also important to figure out customer sentiment and collect suggestions and ideas from your customers (Insights), discover if they are loyal to your brand (e.g. NPS), and find ways to make it easy for them to do business with you (e.g. the new metric CES = Customer Effort Score), low response rates and biases mean that companies can’t get an accurate picture or forecast or list of remedies.
We all know, too, that it is important to get a “statistical sampling” of each customer segment, but to paraphrase Don Peppers and Martha Rogers’ seminal books on “One to One Marketing” we really have “segments of one”, somewhat artificially collected as personas or demographic categories.
As my co-author and I discovered researching our latest book Your Customer Rules! Delivering the Me2B Experiences That Today’s Customers Demand (Wiley, 2015), the fact that we do subject our customers with so many surveys and ask them to spend their valuable time responding to them violates one of the 7 customer needs that lead to a winning “Me2B” culture, that of “You make it easy for me”1. This is especially true with multi-page surveys that often ask customers to repeat what companies already know.
And that’s the key point here: Don’t Ask, Know!
Instead of spinning up more surveys and spending a lot of effort to interpret what customers are telling you and decipher what customers are saying and doing, doesn’t it also make sense to figure out what customers are not saying and what they are not doing?
Here are four other approaches that will bear bigger and better fruit:
- Listen to what your customers are already telling you online (via social listening), in your contact centers (recorded call speech or data analytics), or in home (installer or repair crew post-visit voice capture). We’ve seen big advances in the accuracy of unstructured speech and text analytics that do not need a taxonomy to reveal fascinating insights, and in structured analytics that use key words or expressions to search for meaning. In our Me2B book we cite Suddenlink’s Customer Insights team’s exciting advances here replacing “the quality monitoring function to used to sample contacts in favor of the ability to analyze 100% of customer calls”.
- Ask your front line what customers are saying as you wander around their cubicles or hold roundtables or sit with them to listen to customer calls (you do this already, right?!) or via an online form. Nothing better than MBWA as Hewlett-Packard used to call it, and as Tom Peters popularized it – Management By Wandering Around. At Amazon we created a closed-loop process called WOCAS = What Our (or yOur) Customers Are Saying, now a SaaS-based service by the same name http://www.wocas.com. Fiserv built one they called Shout! and Dell used the “pitchers and catcher” analogy to collect and apply VOC via their front-line staff.
- “Staple yourself to an order”, from the now-famous article in Harvard Business Review, is a great way to figure out what customers are encountering. If you could simply “staple yourself to an order” that your customer placed and discovered how complicated the process is and how much customers had to wait, or if you listened to your company’s IVR tree and then got connected to an agent who asks the same questions, or if you got copies of all of the customer correspondence that you team sends to explain how to easy it is to use your products or services – all of this would reveal more than a survey that garners a 5% response rate.
- Predict customer wants and needs, loyalty and ease-of-use using “Big Data” (and even “small data”) analytics that collect from disparate sources operational and performance results plus social listening, 100% call recording analytics (like Suddenlink is doing), WOCAS or Shout!, and other inputs. We are now beginning to produce primary and secondary drivers to predict NPS and dispense with its 0 to 10 survey tool, predict Customer Effort based on what customers need to do, and collect much wider and deeper customer insights using these new data analytics.
So the next time you get a survey from another company, ask yourself “isn’t there a way for them not to have asked me this?” and then start challenging your team to “Don’t Ask, Know!”
1. Here are the 7 Customer Needs that Lead to a Winning “Me2B”Culture:
- “You know me, you remember me”
- “You give me choices”
- “You make it easy for me”
- “You value me”
- “You trust me”
- “You surprise me with stuff that I can’t imagine”
- “You help me better, you help me do more”