Vocalabs Newsletter: Quality Times


In This Issue

How to Ensure Customer Feedback is Dependable, Actionable, and Credible

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We recently published a guest column in Speech Strategy News about using customer feedback to improve the performance of IVR applications and customers' willingness to use them. To achieve this, the feedback process needs to be dependable actionable, and credible.

The usefulness of customer feedback is a combination of its reliability, actionability, and credibility. Data which falls short on any of these qualities won’t live up to its full potential and, in the worst case, could even prove harmful.

Reliable Feedback
Reliable customer feedback can be trusted to accurately reflect reality. Reliability depends on factors like how the feedback was collected, how many different people provided their opinions, whether the process was biased in any way, and whether the data actually supports the conclusions being drawn. Reliable data can be counted on to guide decision-making, but unreliable data could be inconsistent or even flat-out misleading. Some things to consider when assessing the reliability of customer feedback are:

  • Is the feedback being gathered through a scientific sampling process, or is it more like a suggestion box where only a few customers participate? Surveys with a very low response rate are more like suggestion boxes, since only people with strong opinions participate.
  • Are any groups of customers systematically excluded from providing feedback? For example, the popular technique of surveying customers at the end of a call excludes anyone who hangs up early—and that can significantly change the results.
  • Are enough customers participating to provide a meaningful margin of error? A survey with 100 participants will have a sampling error of about 10 percentage points, while a survey with 400 participants is good down to +/- five points.
  • Are you collecting the feedback you think you’re collecting? Survey questions are often open to interpretation, and customers sometimes get confused about how to answer a question.

Actionable Feedback
Actionable data contains not just the “what happened” but also gives some information as to “why.” Making sure that customer feedback is actionable allows you to go beyond merely measuring performance to create a feedback loop of continuous improvement. Some examples of actionable feedback are:

  • The percentage of misdirected calls jumped after the new product introduction. Looking at the customer feedback for those misdirected calls, there were many comments like, “I kept saying ‘iPad’ but the system kept hearing ‘iPod.’”
  • Overall customer satisfaction dropped three points in the last month, at the same time as some changes were made to the “check balance” functions in the speech application. Deeper analysis shows that satisfaction went up slightly for customers calling to check their balances, but down significantly for customers calling with billing issues. Among the changes was one forcing customers to listen to their account balance before transferring to a representative.

In contrast, this feedback is probably not actionable:

  • “Your system stinks!”
  • Overall customer satisfaction last month was 74%.

One of the most common complaints about customer feedback is that it’s often not delivered in a way that’s useful to the people trying to decide how to make improvements. That’s a symptom of a process that is not generating actionable data.

Credible Data
Skepticism is often a natural reaction to customer feedback, especially negative feedback. A certain amount of skepticism is healthy, but when the data and feedback process are not seen as credible, it prevents companies from taking action to improve. Unfortunately, the things that made feedback credible aren’t always the same things that make it reliable. People are more likely to believe:

  • Data confirming what they already believe.
  • Emotionally impactful presentation.
  • Stories rather than statistics.

Scientists, engineers, and other technical professionals are trained to overcome these cognitive biases and pay attention to the underlying data, but that’s not true of everyone in the business world. Fortunately, there are also ways to make customer feedback more credible which also tend to make it more reliable:

  • Collect data through a transparent, fair process.
  • Subject the feedback to open challenge and debate—for example, a survey response should be discarded if the customer clearly didn’t understand the questions.
  • Incorporate suggestions from stakeholders into the feedback process.

Credibility is most important when there are conflicting sets of customer feedback, differences of opinion about what the feedback means, or competing interests within an organization. In these situations it may not matter whether the data is reliable or actionable, but only whether it is persuasive.

Stacey Schmitt Joins Vocalabs as VP, Service Delivery to Support Company Growth

We're delighted to announce a new addition to our executive team. Stacey Schmitt recently joined Vocalabs as Vice President of Service Delivery and Chief Financial Officer. Stacey brings to Vocalabs her experience in finance, accounting and management consulting. Most recently, she was Director of Finance at QLogic, a leading provider of data, server, and storage networking infrastructure solutions. Stacey has also spent time in the auditing and M&A practice at PricewaterhouseCoopers, and served as a consultant for Robert Half.

Stacey joins us as we continue to expand our customer experience measurement business. Her portfolio includes all aspects of the process of delivering surveys to our clients, including recruiting and training Survey Administrators, Quality Assurance, Reporting, and helping our clients get the most out of their data. Please feel free to contact her at sschmitt@vocalabs.com.

Vocalabs Receives 2010 Speech Technology Excellence Award

We're pleased to announce that we recently received the 2010 Speech Technology Excellence Award for our Usability SurveySM service. The award is presented by TMC’s Customer Interaction Solutions magazine, a leading publication covering CRM, call centers and teleservices. The award recognizes innovative products and services that improve the bottom line for customers. The Vocalabs' Usability Survey service gathers feedback from hundreds to thousands of customers on prototype or live interactive voice response (IVR) systems, helping clients measurably improve IVR performance and customer satisfaction. Learn more at www.vocalabs.com/usability-testing.

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