Get Worthwhile Feedback From Your Customers


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If you want to find out more from your customers than just whether or not they would recommend your company or product to others, it’s important to gather feedback. Feedback will, typically, uncover a number of areas where customers want improvements. In any organization, the demands on time and money always outstrip their availability. Resource allocation is a critical activity. Good feedback, combined with other data, can make a significant contribution.

In selecting where to invest in improving the customer experience, all managers want to know where they will get the best return. There are four pieces of information needed to inform this choice:

  1. What attributes of the customer experience matter most to customers?
  2. How are we doing compared to the competition on these attributes?
  3. What is the likely impact on revenue by improving the different attributes?
  4. What is the cost of implementing the improvement?

A good feedback program provides the answers to the first two questions and a significant input to the third. It is not a perfect science, requiring assumptions to be made, but then that is true of almost all ROI cases.

Experience feedback, collected across a range of event driven and relationship surveys, tests what matters and elicits competitive performance across the customer journey, focusing on the attributes that matter to the customer. These are unique to each organization but typically address being easy and nice to do business with; the quality of the core product/service; and the quality and availability of support and help.

Once you have identified the importance and competitive performance of the experience attributes, it is possible to calculate the customer base at risk or the improvement opportunity value for each of the attributes. Do this by multiplying the percentage of customers who rate that attribute low or high (low for at risk calculations, high for opportunity calculations) by the average customer spend. To improve the calculations, use segmented feedback results and values.

The chart shows an example using profit at risk, but the same method applies if using revenue at risk or profit or revenue opportunity.

Gathering the feedback for such exercises does not require long, complex surveys. The data can be collected across a range of surveys, each focused on one part of the customer journey. This has the added advantage of focusing questions on the activities of the customer at a given point. In a business-to-business context, this is especially important, as people often do not experience the whole journey.

Beyond one question
If you want to build a feedback program that provides the data you need to drive improvements, here are a few pointers, based on our experience at ClickTools of working with many companies in measuring and improving the customer experience.

  • Think "program," not survey. Feedback is one part of a vital operational tool. Start with what information you need to drive improvements and look at it as a program of activity. Consider multiple surveys to gather the feedback you need, but ensure that they work together in acoherent feedback architecture. The starting point for your program is the customer journey and what matters to your customers at the key points along the way.
  • Focus on the action, not the questions. Surveys cost money; acting on the results generates the return. A good survey is one that drives actions. That means having owners for the questions in a survey. If a question doesn’t have an owner who is responsible for improving performance, don’t ask it. If the issue is not important to the customer, don’t ask it—don’t confuse what you are interested in with what matters to customers.
  • Provide role-relevant information. Well-designed feedback generates two types of information:

    1. Information to drive improvement
    2. Information for measurement
  • Provide people with information on which they can act and no more. Make sure that people have the skills and incentives to act on the information in a timely manner. A small number of quantitative questions will help people quickly identify areas of strength and weakness and point them to where they should focus their improvements.

    Remember that retention operates one customer at a time. Good feedback provides opportunities to identify and address individual service failures rapidly as well as providing aggregated data for process improvement.

  • Keep surveys short, timely and relevant to the recipient. Many surveys are far too long and ask questions of people that have no experience of the interaction. Focusing on what matters to the recipient at that stage of the process helps to keep the survey short and relevant, driving up response rates. Don’t ask questions of people that are not involved in that stage.
  • Beware survey overload. Asking every customer about every interaction will annoy customers and be unnecessarily expensive. Use sampling and business rules to narrow down the audience.
  • Communicate with customers and staff. As in any project, good communication is essential. Sell the benefits to customers and staff: Focus on what’s in it for them. Put together a program of communication for the time before the surveys go out, the time immediately after the surveys and notification of results and actions.
David Jackson
David Jackson is the managing director of Clicktools, a company he co-founded in 2000. Clicktools was the first enterprise-scale, on-demand customer experience feedback management system. Jackson is the author of three books, including The Management of Advanced Manufacturing and is on the Global Future Forum's European Advisory Board.


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