It's time to let your customers show you where you can improve
Business leaders and owners know that your best form of marketing is when happy customers sing your praises to other people they know. Word of mouth beats anything when it comes to marketing.
The interesting thing is that Bill Gates, Founder of Microsoft provided another view saying that your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.
What is common is that customer feedback is information given by your customers about the experiences they have had with your company, your product or your service and it reveals how satisfied they are, and where you can improve.
In 25 years of running global customer feedback consulting for retail, call centres, B2B account manager teams, trade, franchise, health and many more… We have discovered that the following saying is gold: It’s what you DO with what you KNOW that makes the difference in making customers Happy!
The importance of Customer Feedback
In the Jan-Feb 2020 Harvard Business Review magazine they showed that top performers for customer loyalty achieve 2.5 times higher sales growth than their peers.
Other leaders report that:
- A totally satisfied customer contributes 2.6 times as much revenue as a somewhat satisfied customer and 14 times as much revenue as a somewhat dissatisfied customer!
- Leaders in Customer Experience deliver, on average,17% revenue growth within 5 years compared to 3% for poor performers.
- Acquiring a new customer costs 7 times more than retaining an existing one.
- 74% of people say ‘word of mouth’ is a key influencer in their purchasing decisions.
- 70% of buying experiences are based on how the customers feels they are being treated.
The impact for companies who proactively commit to improving customer experience and getting the right kind of customer feedback is huge, and the risks of underperforming in this area are also huge.
What are some of the challenges in collecting customer feedback?
The traditional approach to customer feedback is often driven by researchers wanting to get insights – now there is nothing wrong with insights but here are 10 of the most common pitfalls in the traditional ways of collecting customer feedback. If you can relate to one or more of these issues, don’t worry we are going to explain how the best are approaching customer feedback in 2021 and why it works so well.
Here are 10 pitfalls to avoid:
1. Data rich but ‘action’ poor, collecting data but there is no end to end improvement system.
2. Net Promoter Score (NPS) score blinded, chasing a score but not driving change.
3. Doesn’t build skills and share best practices, not aligned to eLearning
4. ‘Fatigueback’ low inspiration and ownership, surveys sent that are too long, multiple choice radio button style via email, no voice and certainly no video options.
5. Superficial, can’t inspire behavioral change. Results don’t get down to individual level.
6. Low or no tangible ROI. Not fully integrated and doesn’t drive culture change. Not a fully customised solution uniquely to your company and syle or way of doing things.
7. Score focus, no real knowledge of ‘why’ and ‘how’ to fix it.
8. Low program leadership, just a software survey or App.
9. Doesn’t build marketing effectiveness, no knowledge of why non-buyers go elsewhere, no clarity over pathway to purchase.
10. No integration with social media Programs to boost positive reviews.
Moments of truth are the DNA of any business. We know that turning them into action creates real momentum. By focusing on improving your sales and service productivity, we help you visibly generate ROI and improve NPS.
How do you gather customer feedback?
At Feedback ASAP we deal in the tens of thousands of real customer feedbacks every year for our clients. We know that it’s not the score that counts but how quickly you turn that feedback into action and measure your success in terms of rate of improvement – that it the true “R.O.I”.
In 2021 the most successful brands understand that we are living in the experience economy and the old days of driving the business with product and price have been replaced by how well you listen to the needs of customers, show empathy and then personalise the sales experience to sell the full solution. This of course deals with brands wanting to maximise share of wallet, those who obsess over Omnichannel and preach about cross-selling and up-selling. The big difference is the customer is spoilt for choice nowadays so you MUST serve them on their terms and from their perspective.
Step one is gathering customer feedback is recognising that this isn’t as easy as you think. We would recommend you choose a partner who has not only setup many successful programs and can lead you along the path, but one who is totally committed to customising the feedback program to your business.
Setting up your customer feedback program should involve engaging your teams and developing the program so that it is 100% aligned with your culture. The most successful customer experience programs inspire and engage your teams and they are not just nice to have information… in fact, the program drives the day to day decisions and responses because real customers are telling you what delights them, what disappoints them, and how they personally can improve and adjust behaviours to be more successful.
The old days of mystery shopping where you check their behaviour in a covert and sneaky way hoping to frame it as a means to give independent feedback and coaching are gone.
So you need to involve your team and start developing the questions you want to ask customers based around your strategy, your unique desired experience which is aligned to your training programs and culture.
Imagine you could stop someone leaving your store or after an interaction with your company and shout them a cup of coffee. If you had a few minutes to ask anything you like, what would you want to know and why? You’ve seen how important improving customer experience can be for a business so in this example of sitting with them over coffee I’m sure you would want to be well prepared as to what you want to ask.
Given my earlier comments that empathy and personalisation are the most important elements in 2021, you need to avoid overwhelming customers with too many questions and start from the point where you recognise that their time is hugely valuable.
What we find is that in the design of a customer feedback survey you need to include questions related to marketing, behaviours, expectations, and social media and you cannot ask the same questions to everyone. Firstly, it’s boring. Secondly, it shows that you are not thinking like a customer, you are providing a survey that probably benefits you as the company more than them as the customer. For example, if they didn’t buy from you and went to a competitor you would ask different questions and probably do that in a different style and manner to someone who may be a loyal buyer and raving fan is. Or someone who interacted with your call centre team to manage an online order might be different to someone who visited a showroom and went through a 1hr custom design and ordered a full solution.
Your program design is key. Engaging your team from the start is very important because it is your team who should be receiving and responding to the customer feedbacks. For us, we run a number of design workshops and start with a blank sheet of paper from which we start building the customer feedback questions – clearly we can then apply our 25yrs experience to support the direction and arrive at a very successful solution.
Step two is sending the customer feedbacks. This sounds simple but again we find it is a critical part of customisation. Before you send it there are key questions that you should consider. For example (and there are more):
- Who are you inviting to provide feedback?
- Which one of your customised surveys are you sending?
- What are you hoping to learn from them?
- How often will you asking this person for feedback?
- What filters or rules are you applying?
- When is the best time to send it out and why? Who is sending it?
Every program is different but this touches on the importance of data in providing a personalised experience for your customer feedback program. It’s also a very specialised field so we believe you need a partner to lead this for you.
As the old saying says ‘beware of the 5 minute job’ or ‘how hard can this be’
Many of the programs we run at Feedback ASAP involve sending hundreds of invitations to customers everyday. We have processes behind the scenes to manage any customers who may not wish to receive feedbacks, maybe haven’t met certain criteria around spend or they are very frequent buyers so we need to manage how often they receive an invitation. We need to be sure the person receiving the invitation is the correct person and that we are prepared for when they DO respond to associate their results to the team and salesperson so the patterns of behaviour are identified and the results can be used specifically for that person to change behaviours and boost sales.
The secret to success is in the planning. For your customer they receive an invite and it should be a nice gesture allowing them to share what worked, what didn’t and why? It should feel 100% relevant to what they purchased and not generalised, boring, long-winded. If you get this wrong, you risk frustrating them and they will not complete it or rush it so key learnings are useless.
Step three is sending the customer feedback survey. We use a blend of video, audio and type so the experience for the customer is intriguing, engaging, and warm and personalised. As a result, we experience high levels of response and we get to the truth about what worked and what didn’t – it’s not just the lovers or haters who respond.
So, when you design your customer feedback it must be personalised (not just ‘Dear Sir’) relevant to the specific touchpoint with your company, and easy to complete.
Customer Feedback is too important for you to cut corners or give to an intern in-house to do it on the cheap. If you get it right, this one measure can lead your whole company and be the #1 leading measure as your customers tell you what they want more of and what delights them. So our advice is even where you have excellent insights managers and awesome analytics people on staff, please consider using an expert in this customer feedback design and leadership field – they will always work with your teams anyway.
You cannot afford to muck this up. The good news is it’s not expensive anyway and we find once you see the ROI and the way it can boost $ results for you, it’s a no brainer to get someone to help you.
Customer Feedback Loop
Software companies and research companies often speak about asking for feedback, putting results in different buckets, sharing insights, and closing the loop meaning fixing issues and recording what happened.
While there is nothing wrong with this approach, it doesn’t go far enough and misses the most valuable reason you have a customer feedback program.
You have a customer feedback program to create more loyal customers, boost positive word of mouth, create new customers and frankly, boost sales and service results asap.
Having explained that every program is full customised, here are a few examples of a customer feedback loop in the programs we run.
We send customer invitations for feedback every day and spread the activity across the month – we have controls that can manage volumes and costs but it’s an ongoing program not something you do once a year or even just a check-in once a quarter. That’s a waste of time.
Let customers have their say when they choose so you they can think about their answers and provide actionable details in their response. The smarts here is how YOU ask the question.
When the customer feedback comes back to your company you need to quickly identify what the experience has been. We use a series of real time alerts so your team can be responsive and caring in how they respond. This isn’t about putting results in buckets or categories. This is your REAL customer telling you about their experience as a person, and another person at your end receiving that, reviewing it and understanding what happened, and then (depending on the nature of it) they respond. Only call a customer back if they give you permission and want to receive the call. The best customer feedback programs will however be very clear on the behaviours and the specific people in your team who were involved – so it’s not data, it’s behavioural coaching in the moment.
Focus on the positives.
There are some managers (and we do NOT subscribe to this view) who believe you ignore the positives because they’re OK, and just focus on the negative feedbacks because that’s where you should improve.
It is true that as you identify the issues and address them quickly, these can prevent future problems and in some cases you can even win back the trust and confidence of the customer. The question is where to focus for maximum impact?
We’ve been fortunate to run a number of global customer feedback or customer experience programs and the service leaders start from a place of catching people doing things right. They amplify what they want more of, and eliminate the negatives. They absolutely address the issues, but the programs are extremely positive and typically recognise and reward the most consistent and most improved performers.
World class customer feedback programs link the results from the customer feedbacks to individuals so you can identify the patterns of behaviour. Using a retail example, this means your program must allow you to identify the patterns of behaviour for each team member in every store, then the rollup results for the store, area, region, national, and company. The results should then give you ‘one view’ across all channels (e.g. retail, website, call centre). This means you need enough feedback volume to ensure this is meaningful.
Then the focus is on coaching each individual to improve the number one priority based on what their customers have identified in the feedbacks and helping that person improve their capability or skills – why? The final piece is you must link the improvement rates back to your sales or other KPIs so the program is driving your ‘strategy’ and all about results.
Back to basics
If you owned your own small business and customers told you pretty much daily what you were getting right, where you could improve, and the specific details in terms of behaviours, you would respond and be successful. You would address issues. You would celebrate success with your team – cheer everyone who does a great job and most importantly, have fun!
You would share the knowledge of what works with any new team member or someone who needs a little help. And where you had a bad situation you would identify ‘why’, fix it and record the key learnings so you improve for next time.
What changes in larger businesses that we work with is managing this improvement process across hundreds of locations and thousands of team members can be very difficult.
A little story to finish with about going from WOE to WOW…
In the late 1980’s I was given a book that jolted my way of thinking about how customers actually think and feel. The cover featured the smiling face of Jan Carlzon in a blue suit and the sobering title of ‘Moments of Truth.’
To oversimplify what hit me, let me put it this way…The first moment involved customers looking at the product.The second was when they purchased and used it.The third was when they gave feedback about the product.Of course, Google went one further in 2011 and invented the ‘zero’ moment of truth. This added when the customer researches your product, reads online reviews and is influenced by what others say about you.
What struck me, was how can any company, any team leader in retail, call centres, any team member working in a store on a Saturday morning, actually control these ‘Moments of Truth?’
Fast forward to a post Covid-19 2020, and now we know the answer to this question because we’ve asked them. We have literally thousands and thousands of real customer feedbacks… added to having done more than 6 million mystery shops back in a previous company… we know the pathway to go from WOE to WOW. In this little article I want to share just one idea around this topic.
Now more than ever it’s not the Moment of Truth that drives your results, it’s how well you action your Moments of Truth and do it right now. Quickly. Your customer moments of truth are happening all the time. Whether you are any good at managing them or even really understand them, I have no idea.Some companies have a satisfaction rating or an NPS score, they pat themselves on the back for a high %, but it doesn’t mean they are actually managing let alone improving the subtle behaviours and experiences their customers are having.
We’ve run hundreds of programs and truly the defining quality of great companies is NOT that they have some inflated NPS score, it comes back to the man in the blue suit – how you take action in the moment drives your results.
Success comes when the “moments” improve, and they only improve when you take action on the most important areas. Being able to take action IN the MOMENT allows you to drive the results faster and with greater accuracy. Put simply, if you know where you are headed then you must pick the right moments to take action. What is the one priority that we can improve – that I can improve – that will have the most impact and cause more customers to be thrilled with our service, recommend us to others, and come back again and again? If I know what my single most important issue is (led by what the customers think) and I take action on that TODAY, we win. If I serve 10 customers and miss a critical step 8 times, don’t wait until the end of the month or quarter to tell me, I need to know right now and make a change – and as my manager, this is a really positive way to coach me and build my skills.
We can literally bring the real voice of real customers in near real time and break out what they said in such a way that each person on your team can get to the truth about exactly what they need to do to improve. WOW!