It’s about time! Asking for transactional feedback at the right moment to elicit meaningful customer insight


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88% of Voice of Customer feedback comes from surveys (1). We have all experienced the growing requests for survey completion associated with many of our day-to-day activities and interactions with brands. The world’s gone a bit survey mad.

Yesterday I called into question the timing, quality and therefore validity of one of these surveys. Companies are investing time, money and resource – are they really getting the true picture of the current customer experience? Or has it become more about getting internal boxes ticked and producing a score that can be shared and reported?

A few weeks ago, I needed to make a claim with Direct Line pet insurance. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a Direct Line fan. In fact, the family and I have a suite of insurance products with them. The claims experience was initially easy, swift and to begin with the onus shifted to them and not me as a customer. Direct Line owned the issue, took my hassle away and meant minimal dealings with the vets for me. The whole claims process to this stage probably took around two minutes – no exaggeration.

No news is good news, but after a week I succumbed and used the email address they had provided me with to find out what was happening with my claim. Direct Line replied quickly. I was told the claim was resolved and I would get a cheque in the post within 7 days. I did think at the time that this was an antiquated and possibly unreliable approach. The turnaround time for my claim appeared efficient and hassle free; so, I thought.

The problem for Direct Line is that the interaction had been so good, that my expectations had been raised. But then silence and no delivery.

The very same day that they sent me the ‘cheque in the post’ email, I got another email from Direct Line to say that they were interested in my feedback because they want to provide “the best customer experience possible”. I didn’t respond immediately but if I had followed convention and done so, doubtless the scores would have been high across all indicators. A research study on how long it takes to collect responses (2):
• 41% of responses are collected within 1 day
• 66% of responses were collected within 3 days
• 80% of responses were collected within 7 days

I completed the survey this morning. My scores were:
– Satisfaction with claim – 2/10
– Ease – 10/10
– Time – 8/10

My ultimate satisfaction score and Direct Line’s consequent performance measured lower. From the questions asked, one can deduce that Direct Line are measuring overall satisfaction and customer effort (ease and time). I did give unstructured feedback to explain my satisfaction score above, but most customers don’t bother. Consequently, reading my scores Direct Line will have ticked two key metrics but it won’t reveal my real story as a customer, unless they go to a lot of effort to follow up my case.

Why was the survey and feedback triggered based on the initial claim interaction and not the complete claim journey? I guess it comes down to the purpose of the feedback. If Direct Line wants to have scores to share around the business and hit claims/satisfaction targets then their timing is perfect for their own purposes and they should carry on doing what they are doing. If they really want to understand their customer’s experiences then they should distribute surveys at a time when they will get meaningful feedback from a customer. This way they could 1) ensure that the customer is happy with their complete interaction and not just one individual transaction and 2) discover the root cause of problems and 3) do something with the feedback to stop it happening again. Doubtless there is likely to be a simple explanation about why they let me down – Easter holidays, Royal Mail… which are not in Direct Line’s control but their promise was not fulfilled.

Sorry, Direct Line to use you as an example – I am a fan. What I am trying to highlight is that I fear many organisations have implemented transactional customer feedback or nps programmes that aren’t delivering the insight or value that is needed. Getting the timing of the survey right is a quick fix. If all the customer’s pain points along the end to end journey are known and focused on, then expectations can be managed and promises will be kept.

If things remain as they are when feedback interactions are linked to one individual transaction rather than the whole journey – I’m not sure organisations will be able to get the value out of VoC as they should and customer’s time spent giving feedback will be wasted. I would suggest that companies take a step back and review the purpose of transactional feedback programmes as well as how they are executed.

(1) Warwick Analytics
(2) Survey Monkey

Amanda Davis

Amanda writes and shares Thought Leadership, drawing on her 15 years of coaching, guiding, mentoring and consulting for clients in various sectors and sizes around the world. She helps establish organisations understand how to connect to customers; find ways to align their expectations with the culture & capability of the organisation. She has a particular focus on customer experience transformation in the digital age, ensuring that technology development starts and finishes with the customer. Amanda has been a regular featured columnist and advisor for Customer Think since 2018.


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