Most customer surveys today are drowning in data, but starved for stories. They're swamped with statistics, but eschew empathy. They're loaded with Likert scales, but....you get the idea.
The typical feedback program asks the customer to rate their experience in several different ways using a fixed scale. This lets you gather metrics, track changes, compare how well different parts of the organization are performing, and generally quantify the customer experience.
That's valuable, but it isn't the whole story. Statistics are very useful for understanding how you're doing in aggregate, but have nothing to offer when it comes to understanding the individual customer's experience.
And it's that individual customer's journey which is most important to the customer experience. Think about it: customers do not interact with a company en masse, they do it individually. Each customer has his or her own journey and own story.
This is where I see a lot of feedback programs falling down. Most programs are designed around the statistics. They do a good job collecting and reporting lots of aggregate data about how customers feel in aggregate. But they do a relatively poor job of communicating the individual customer's experience.
But if you want to improve the customer experience, you have to improve a lot of individual customer experiences. That means paying attention to those individual stories: How did this customer encounter the various touchpoints of the company? What could have been done to improve this customer's journey? What did this customer experience? How did this employee interact with this customer?
Those stories are often available, since customers are usually given the opportunity to provide some open-ended feedback. But the survey doesn't usually go out of its way to ask customers for a lot of details and specifics, and in a distressingly large number of cases those stories don't make it to the people who really need to hear them.
In some cases today, the customer comments never even get read by a person. Instead, they get categorized by an algorithm and dumped into a data warehouse, never to be seen unless some analyst happens to get curious about that particular customer.
The solution is to make an effort to collect stories and not just data, and deliver those stories to the people who can use them to do a better job:
- Limit the number of metrics on the survey, and instead ask more open-ended questions. You don't need to measure 53 different things, but a survey that long will dissuade customers from taking the time to tell their stories. Just a handful of metrics is all you need.
- If the customer interacted with a person, send the supervisor the customer's comments as soon as the survey is complete. Immediate feedback in the genuine voice of the customer is highly motivating and a powerful coaching tool.
- If the customer didn't interact with a person, treat every survey as a potential escalation event. Someone should review each survey as soon as possible, determine if further action is needed, and reach out to the customer if appropriate.