How feedback surveys trump machine learning


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“At Facebook, we’ve found that simply asking our people how long they intend to stay is more than twice as accurate at foretelling their future turnover than machine-learning forecasts by an industry leader in predictive analytics” 

Let’s get straight to the point. Feedback surveys are still your most valuable, primary source of actionable customer (and colleague) insight. Surveys give people a chance to get their voice heard. They’re about proactive engagement and relationship building. Machine learning is passive monitoring. The insights from surveys are arguably more valuable. Here’s an example why.

In its pre-Meta days, Facebook ran some research to assess the value of its employee surveys. This was just one of its findings: “At Facebook, we’ve found that simply asking our people how long they intend to stay is more than twice as accurate at foretelling their future turnover than machine-learning forecasts by an industry leader in predictive analytics”. 

The company also gleaned insights from participation rates in various surveys. The people analytics team found proof that employees were engaged in the survey process and wanted to be heard. Around two-thirds of its people (61%) submitted their own feedback and suggestions, and on average, each person mentioned five distinct topics.

Not participating in surveys was an insight in itself. The platform found that people who didn’t complete either of its two annual surveys were 2x as likely to leave within six months. If your customers or employees don’t want to complete your surveys, is it down to fatigue or resentment at having to fill in another survey, or does the problem run deeper? Can machine learning give you the answers? Or should you just ask?

These lessons from Facebook are as relevant now as they were then. 

Customer and employee surveys are still the lifeblood of high-performing businesses

CX leaders use feedback via surveys to improve all aspects of their business, in the moment, and for future planning. The reward is well-evidenced. Loyalty for customers and employees is about feeling understood and valued. We’re living in volatile times, actively seeking feedback tells customers and staff that they are your priority. Accenture found that two-thirds of consumers (67%) expect companies to understand and address their changing needs during times of disruption.

But, just think about this for a moment.

Almost 9 out of 10 executives (88%) believe that customers and employees are changing faster than they can change their businesses. This is leading to a crisis of relevance. Applying customer feedback helps to keep you relevant, and ahead. Customer experience strategies are nuanced and success depends on lots of variables. But the equation won’t work with the voices of your most valuable people – your customers and colleagues. Leaders capture those opinions via a well-executed survey.

Give people a chance to be heard – show you care and are ready to act. The message? We value your opinion and are dedicated to ongoing improvement. This helps to inspire loyalty: 83% of consumers say feel more loyal to brands that respond to and resolve their complaints, according to Khorros.

Deepen customer understanding – corroborate value and customer expectations, needs and wants.

Close the loop – close the loop in real-time with customers reporting poor experiences. Apple, for example, monitors its NPS surveys daily and follows up with anybody that gives a score of 6 or below. Your business customers are probably also Apple customers. Standards on experience are being set outside your industry. Are you listening and ready to act?

Company-wide insights – an additional layer of insight helps internal stakeholders prioritise improvements across all business lines.

Root cause analysis – spot and drill down into the root causes of issues and make interventions in the moment, and mitigate for the future.

Influence employee behaviour – when you ask someone for their input and insights, you don’t just learn from them. Asking questions can change behaviour. They prompt reflection.

Crowdsource ideas for product development – customers and colleagues understand that you won’t implement everything they suggest but just think about the game-changing products that have come from customer feedback. B2C products make the headlines. But feedback is also critical in B2B and sustaining engagement.

You can’t jump on every feature or enhancement request and add it to your offering, but you need to be open to feedback and respond. Feedback is critical to client satisfaction and loyalty. One undetected, unhappy user could put the whole account at risk, or influence the next purchasing decision.

Business planning – use the insights from surveys to plan what’s next and make confident investment decisions.

Be transparent – as AI advances, people have very real privacy concerns, inside and outside of work, about the way their data is captured, and used. Traditional surveys with robust data protection can help build trust.

A final thought. When traditional surveys fail – the fault line is often strategic

When companies experience low response rates, unreliable results, out-of-date insights etc. the fault line is often strategic. The issue isn’t with the survey. The problem lies in the execution, and what happens next. Companies could end up abandoning surveys for all the wrong reasons.

Collecting data isn’t enough. You need to work out how to do something meaningful internally with the insights. Your customers and colleagues expect you to listen, act and follow up.

But readiness to do this is probably is more of a problem than you think. Two-thirds of all companies gather feedback, according to Nemertes. And yet … just under half (45.7%) only make changes periodically and feel they could do more. Another 3.1% of those gathering customer feedback don’t do anything with the relevant data. Where does your business sit? Do you have more work to do?

Surveys are still a critical part of feedback programmes to help businesses sustain engagement, act quickly, close the loop, share insights to continuously improve and build long-term relationships. A well-executed survey protects you from losing sight of the people that build your business and stay loyal to your brand. Listening and responding to feedback says we’re still human in a machine-driven world.

That’s a lot to think about for now. I hope you’ve found these tips helpful.


Republished with author’s permission from original post


Charlie Williams
Charlie is a customer and employee experience expert and Net Promoter Certified Associate. He has been working with organisations since 2006 helping them understand their customer experience and develop programmes that create a customer centric culture, drive advocacy and employee engagement. A specialist in the Financial Services sector, he helps clients to capture evidence of Consumer Duty outcomes.



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