It seems that when talking customer feedback programs, all the discussion is around what questions to ask and what technique to use.
Where the rubber meets the road, however, is often in the reporting. There are a lot of ways to get good data (OK, maybe not great data, but at least usable data). But without some basic reporting capabilities it's almost impossible to use that feedback to actually drive improvement.
I see a surprising number of customer feedback programs where the reporting is barely more sophisticated than an Excel spreadsheet. For that matter, I see a surprising number of programs where the reporting is an Excel spreadsheet. Let's be clear: Excel is not a reporting platform.
Here are some of what I consider must-have reporting capabilities in any customer service survey. Without these, your program is going to be stuck at maturity level zero or one, and you will be realizing very little value from the effort.
- Real Time Alerts and Notifications: The reporting system needs to be able to send an immediate notification when a survey comes in, to the person (or people) who need to see that particular survey. In particular: if a customer was dissatisfied or asked for a follow-up, that survey should be sent to a service recovery team right away; and front-line managers should be notified when a survey is completed on one of their employees. This is a critical first step in closing the loop on the survey, and the faster it gets done the more effective it will be.
- Easy Drill Down to Individual Surveys: Statistics are great, but (most) people don't think in terms of percentages and margins of error. We think in terms of individual people and their stories. In order to make sense of the feedback we're getting, it's often necessary to read a customer's comments and responses in the context of that one customer's experience. If it takes more than a couple clicks to go from statistics to individual surveys, most people won't bother, and they'll have a hard time understanding what the data means.
- Survey Records Include Other Data About the Customer's Experience: Each survey record needs to include the data necessary to put the survey in the context of the customer's experience with the company. For example: who did the customer interact with, what was the transaction, where did it happen, how valuable is the customer to the company, and so forth. Every company has different customer data, so the reporting platform should be flexible enough to accommodate whatever data is available and potentially useful. Without this information it is almost impossible to figure out what (or who) needs to change to improve the customer experience.
An Exact Record of Each Customer's Feedback, in the Original Format: Whatever format the original survey was conducted in, the reporting system must make available an exact record of the survey. That means:
- For online surveys: Each question on the survey, exactly as presented to the customer with the exact wording and showing the options available, and in the original order.
- For phone surveys: An audio recording of the original phone survey from the time the customer was asked to take the survey to the time the call ended.
- For pencil-and-paper surveys: An image of the survey form showing all marks the customer may have made on the paper.
This is important because information is lost any time we present summary data or move a survey from one medium to another. Often what's lost turns out to be critical to understanding a customer's story and taking action: we lose the emotional impact of a customer's voice in an interview, or the complete context of a webform where the customer is trying to explain what happened. Without that original record in the original format, it may be difficult or impossible to fully understand what the customer was trying to communicate.
- Individual Reporting at Multiple Organizational Levels: Reports have to be available for individual employees, managers, functional areas, executives, regions, etc. Without this level of detail, there's simply no way to get anyone to take ownership of the customer feedback. It's human nature to believe that we're doing a good job, and if there's a problem it must be someone else's fault. So if the survey data winds up in a single statistical blob, nobody will ever believe it's up to them to improve things.
Remember, these items are not optional. This is not my list of nice-to-have reporting features. These are things, without which, any customer feedback program will have only limited impact and effectiveness.