In This Issue
Most companies don't survey their customers just for the sake of doing a survey, but turning the feedback into improvements in the customer service experience is challenging.
While most employees genuinely want to provide good service, they also don't want to change the way they do things--and the especially don't want to hear that they aren't living up to customers' expectations. That's just human nature.
Designing a customer feedback program that actually works requires overcoming people's inherent defensiveness in the face of negative feedback, and their inherent resistance to change. Here are some steps which make a big difference:
- Be Timely. Customer feedback collected or delivered too long after the original customer service event is considerably less impactful. People's memories fade quickly (unless the experience was extremely bad or extremely good), so ideally a customer survey should happen within an hour or two. Similarly, the employee will gain much more positive or negative reinforcement if the feedback is delivered while the employee still remembers the customer.
- Listen To Your Audience. Many customer feedback programs are designed to serve the needs of executives, not the front-line employees who actually deliver customer service. Employees need much more detailed feedback, and will be much more sensitive to things like the customer answering the survey about the wrong experience. Make sure your survey meets the needs of everyone in the organization, and put in place processes to identify and correct survey errors in a fair and consistent manner.
- Provide the Literal Voice of the Customer. People respond more strongly to hearing customers tell their own stories than seeing statistics or written responses. If possible, make recordings of customer interviews available, and use them as coaching and learning opportunities.
Since the beginning of the IVR industry (that would be something like 30 years ago) one of the key metrics has been "Call Containment." This is typically defined as the percentage of calls which end in the IVR and don't go to a person.
It's time to put a stake in the ground and take the word "Containment" out of the customer service dictionary. Instead, the phrase to use when talking about IVR performance is "Self Service."
"Containment" confirms all the negative stereotypes of automated customer service. It leaves the impression that the design goal of an IVR is to put customers in a place they cannot escape from.
When you think in those terms, you also design and measure in those terms. A "Containment" metric only looks at whether a call stayed inside the IVR. It says nothing about whether the customer was served, or had a positive impression of the experience.
"Self Service," on the other hand, contains the notion of service. If the customer was not served, then the IVR failed at self-service even if it succeeded at containment. Self-service is much closer to what both customers and companies actually want an IVR to do.
When you design and measure an IVR based on Self Service, you think in terms of empowering the customers to help themselves. Self Service is what we do at an ATM or when buying stuff online, and in many cases customers prefer it.
If you're in the customer service world, next time you're tempted to use the word "Containment" stop yourself and substitute "Self Service." And when you hear colleagues talking about Containment, take a stand and say:
"I prefer the term Self Service. Don't you think it's a better description of what we're trying to accomplish?"