Vocalabs Newsletter: Quality Times


In This Issue

Getting Started on Customer Feedback

You've just been given the task of starting a new customer feedback program.

Where do you start?

Before you ask a single survey question, before you even decide how you're going to ask the questions, here are three questions you should ask your organization:

  1. What is the business goal of this survey? I see a lot of companies where they do a survey just for the sake of doing a survey. Nobody ever asked what the purpose was other than to collect customer feedback.

    To be effective, you should have a clear goal in mind. Are you looking to improve customer service levels? Are you looking to save money through process improvements? Do you just want to track things to make sure they get better not worse? Is there a project or initiative which requires customer input?

    There can be more than one goal for a survey, but it's important that there be a goal. Surveys done without a clear purpose tend not to be effective.

  2. How will you use the feedback to effect change? The goal of most customer surveys is, ultimately, to change something--through better training, more informed decisions, etc. Once you're clear on the purpose of the program, you need to ask how the feedback will be used to achieve the goals.

    A survey can be used in a variety of ways: to inform executive decision-making, as a training and coaching tool for front-line employees, or as part of an incentive program. Just as there can be more than one goal, the same survey can be used in many different ways.

  3. How will the feedback program be managed over time? An ongoing customer feedback program needs to be actively managed to remain effective. It's not good enough to assign someone to compile monthly reports and let it run.

    As a company's needs evolve, the customer feedback process has to evolve with it. That means taking a periodic look at the questions asked, the survey process, the reports generated, and whether employees are cheating on the survey. The feedback process is a living thing, not something which can be set up and then neglected.

Answering these three questions will give you a big leg up in developing an effective customer feedback process, and potentially save years of effort going down a path which could never meet your needs.

Reporting Right

Once you're getting useful feedback from your customers which is aligned with your program goals, congratulations. You are about one third of the way to building an effective program.

The next piece is reporting. I'm amazed at how many customer feedback programs are still compiling reports through Excel spreadsheets and pivot tables. Modern tools can make the feedback far more effective by delivering the right data at the right time.

To be effective, survey reports need to be:

  • Timely: The faster you deliver data to people who can use it, the more effective it will be. Ideally, front-line managers should have same-day feedback on customer interactions. Technical limitations sometimes make same-day surveys impossible, but there's no excuse for only giving monthly or quarterly reports.
  • Directed: Different report recipients need to have different views of the data. An executive may need a high-level summary aggregated across the organization, while a supervisor needs to see lots of detail about the twenty people she manages. Each report should be tailored to the unique needs of its recipients.
  • Interactive: Most people will just need to see "the number", but everyone should have the option of taking a deeper dive. Some of the best insights come people on the front lines trying to understand why customers are responding the way they are.

For most customer feedback programs we set up two "tiers" of reporting. The first tier is preconfigured reports, pushed to recipients on a regular schedule. For example, individual customer service reps get an immediate report of each survey, and an executive gets a weekly high level summary. For a given client, there may be hundreds of different preconfigured reports, each designed for the particular audience.

The second tier is interactive reporting through a web-based reporting engine. Someone can start with the preconfigured report (or start from scratch), and filter the data, look at different metrics, compare sub-groups, or browse individual survey records. The key is to make this platform simple enough that most users can get what they want without having to spend a lot of time learning how to use the system.

Combining these two types of reporting in a single package maximizes the impact of the customer feedback, giving people the knowledge and insight they need to figure out how to best meet the customer's needs.

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