Vocalabs Newsletter: Quality Times


The 360 View

In This Issue

360 VIEW

Your customers do not perceive your customer experience the same way you do.

That's simply a fact. But most people are shocked and surprised the first time they discover just how true it is.

That's why it's important to get a 360-degree view of the customer experience. You want to understand how it looks from both the company's perspective and the customers'.

Unfortunately, while most companies get both sides of the story, they don't put the pieces together. There are customer surveys to get the customer's view, and tons of data and statistics to track what happened from the company's perspective. But it's rare that those two processes are merged into a coherent whole.

That's a huge lost opportunity, since getting that 360 view is one of the most powerful tools in improving the customer experience at all levels of the organization.

Here are some easy things to try:

  1. In a contact center, review customer feedback on a call before listening to the call recording. Most contact centers have their agents listen to calls as part of the coaching process. But before you do that, have the agent review customer feedback from the same call. Then, while listening to the call, ask "what on this call made the customer give that feedback?" This is most powerful when you have a recording of a live survey with the customer, since hearing the customer describe their experience has much more impact than reading numbers on a screen.
  2. Call a customer back and ask for some feedback. This works best right after a customer experience, and if you can select a customer who you think might have something interesting to tell you. For example: "My name is Mary, and I'm a supervisor here at ACME. I noticed when you called a little while ago, your call got transferred several times. I'm trying to figure out how to improve our service, and I was hoping you can share your experience with me." The goal is to listen and understand, not collect statistics. Most people won't answer the phone, but those who do will usually be happy to talk. Just remember to not be defensive, listen ten times more than you talk, and take good notes. You will learn more in five minutes of listening to the customer than five months of listening to recordings, and you will blow the customer's mind.
  3. Grab a bunch of your customer feedback data, and match it to data from your CRM, web site visitor logs, contact center, and any other data you have about how the customer interacted with the company. As a science project, this can probably be done in Excel in a day or two, and makes a good mini-project for an intern or The New Guy. Then start poking around for interesting trends and correlations. You're almost guaranteed to find something unexpected.

Most people and organizations think they understand their customer experience, since they spend so much time and effort delivering it. Mapping what the company tracked and measured about the experience to how the customer felt about it takes some effort, but it is worth it.


Getting good, actionable customer feedback is not easy. Wouldn't it be great if there was some technological solution which would just tell us how customers feel, and we could avoid all the mess and bother of actually going out there and talking to customers?

The world is not lacking for ideas of how to measure customer satisfaction without talking to customers. Back in the old days of call centers, a lot of people thought they could track a few metrics (average time to answer, abandon rate, etc.) and know that customers were satisfied.

These days I see more technological solutions like speech analytics and big data number crunching. But I have yet to see anything which comes even close to convincing me that it can replace direct customer feedback for understanding what opinions the customer has, and why.

The problem is that without getting your hands dirty and talking to customers, you are limited to information available on your own side of the customer experience. Customer experiences, like any other kind of story, have (at least) two sides: the customer's side and the company's side. Even with perfect records of the entire interaction, you only have the company's side of the story.

This becomes obvious when you put a customer interview next to the record of the customer experience. As human beings, customers carry a lot of invisible baggage into any interaction: they may be biased by outside factors, they want to avoid making waves, they don't want to embarrass themselves or the employee they are dealing with, and if the experience is going badly they don't want it to last any longer than it has to.

So what appears to be a calm, forgiving customer could be seething with rage on the inside. Or someone who seems to accept the company's resolution to a problem may be planning to take his business elsewhere at the next opportunity. And the customer is actively hiding his true feelings because of the social context of the customer interaction.

But when you approach the customer and ask for feedback in the right way (that is, in a way which communicates that you want honest feedback, care about the customer's opinion, and genuinely want to improve) you will get this side of the story. And what's more, you will also be able to get the customer to explain why he feels the way he feels, what could be done differently, and how any problems could be fixed.

None of this is available using just the data available with the company's side of the story. The best technology in the world can't find information which simply is not there.

(That said, if there is way I want to be the one to invent it. Never say never.)

So that's why I say that it's not customer feedback if it didn't come from the customer. Metrics, analytics, and big data are all powerful tools, but they can't tell you what the customer is thinking.

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