The Customer Service Survey

The One Most Effective Way to Move the Needle

by Peter Leppik on Fri, 2017-11-17 16:15

There's a lot of things you can do with your customer feedback program to help improve Customer Experience. There's also a lot of things you can do that don't generally improve CX at all.

But there's one piece of the feedback program that stands far above everything else in effectiveness.

If you want to use your customer feedback to improve CX, the first thing you should do is deliver qualitative feedback to customer-facing employees as fast as possible.

It's the customer's comments and suggestions that actually help your frontline employees understand what customers expect and how to deliver it. Other deliverables from a feedback program don't provide this:

  • Scores, metrics, and report cards don't tell the employee how to improve, only whether they're doing well or poorly.
  • Feedback that's delayed, even by a few days, quickly becomes "old news" and less relevant.
  • Department or enterprise-level data is hard for individual employees to connect to their own day-to-day actions.
  • Strategic initiatives, while important, have less impact on the Customer Experience than how individual employees behave.

The unfortunate and ironic truth is that there are a lot of customer survey programs where delivering customer comments and suggestions directly to low-level employees is an afterthought, or not even part of the program. This typically happens in large organizations with highly structured and formalized customer surveys, usually designed solely around leaderships' desire to measure performance.

Of course, getting customer feedback into the hands of employees is not the only thing you can or should do to build an effective survey. You should also have a robust closed-loop process, coach employees on how to use the customer feedback, regularly update the survey program to meet evolving business goals, and so forth.

But if you want to gauge how effective a feedback program is at actually moving the needle, the first question to ask is, "If a customer leaves a survey comment, how long does it take before the employees who worked with that customer get that feedback?" In many cases, the answer to that question will tell you all you need to know.

Top Twenty-Five Voice of the Customer Mistakes Peter Leppik Fri, 2017-10-27 15:39

I started out writing a list of the top-ten mistakes companies make when designing and executing their customer feedback programs, but found I had a hard time stopping at just ten. To paraphrase an old saying, most successful VoC programs are pretty much the same, but each failed program fails in its own special way. And there's a lot of VoC programs out there that fail to deliver value, fail to meet the program goals, and fail to do much of anything other than suck up a lot of time and resources.

So having failed to write a top-ten list, I present to you instead my top 25 mistakes in VoC programs. I could have probably done a top-100 list, but nobody would have kept reading that far.

  1. Not knowing the purpose or goal of the Voice of the Customer program.
  2. Deciding that the most important purpose of the feedback program is to generate a metric.
  3. Trying to make the same survey serve too many different purposes.
  4. Not asking enough open-ended feedback.
  5. Asking too many questions.
  6. Asking questions that aren't meaningful or relevant to the customer.
  7. Not following up with customers when they have negative feedback.
  8. Not thanking customers for their feedback and treating it as a favor.
  9. Putting relationship questions on a transactional survey.
  10. Putting transactional questions on a relationship survey.
  11. Not being open to the feedback customers want to give, and only listening to the feedback you want to hear.
  12. Using a customer survey to compensate individual front-line employees.
  13. Focusing on small changes in statistics, rather than customer stories.
  14. Not collecting customer stories at all.
  15. Not giving front-line employees immediate access to customer feedback.
  16. Doing the same thing for too long without questioning why.
  17. Assigning blame rather than fixing problems.
  18. Not taking the time to understand root causes.
  19. Not believing the customer.
  20. Not trusting employees to understand and act on customer feedback.
  21. Giving employees incentives to improve their metrics.
  22. Making improved metrics the goal of the VoC program.
  23. Assuming that an improved metric, by itself, means that your customer experience is better.
  24. Not updating the feedback program over time to reflect changing needs.
  25. Not being truly open to honest feedback from all quarters: customers, employees, vendors, and yes, even survey experts.

 

The Most Important Metric in CX Peter Leppik Fri, 2017-10-06 15:36

The Minneapolis Chapter Meeting of the CXPA featured a panel discussion this week for Customer Experience Day. Four Customer Experience luminaries from the Twin Cities area fielded questions from a packed audience for the better part of an hour, but the very last question stood out.

"What is the most important Customer Experience metric?"

This prompted chin scratching and discussion of the relative merits of common survey metrics like NPS and Customer Effort, and general consensus that no one metric is ever going to give the whole picture, as well as the important fact that if you're focusing on finding the right metric then you're probably doing CX wrong.

I was not part of the panel (I'm not nearly luminous enough), but if I had been, my answer would have been different. Because I believe there is one metric that stands out above all others in measuring the progress of a company's Customer Experience efforts and predicting future success in harnessing all the financial and market benefits of being a customer-centric organization.

My metric, the One Metric to Rule Them All, is simple: The amount of attention a company's C-Suite leadership pays to Customer Experience.

I admit that I haven't actually tested this metric in the real world. Nor do I know anyone else who has--though I will cheerfully buy a beer for anyone cheeky enough to suggest performing a time-tracking study on their company's C-Suite executives.

But everyone I talked to agreed that a measurement of senior leadership attention is likely to outperform NPS, CSAT, Customer Effort, and just about any other customer-facing metric you might care to devise. Leadership focus on Customer Experience is the most critical element of a successful CX program: if you've got the C-Suite pulling for CX, everything else tends to fall in place. But if the leadership is indifferent, then the whole program is going to be an uphill struggle.

The other piece of this is the leadership needs to be directly paying attention, and not just spending money and delegating CX to a team. In most large organizations attention is more scarce than money, and it quickly becomes apparent what the company actually cares about and what they merely think they should be doing.

So if you want to gauge the success of your CX program, there are many survey metrics you can use. But the truest measure will be to look inside and see how much time and attention you're getting from the most senior leadership.

Is It Really This Hard to Proofread? Peter Leppik Fri, 2017-09-22 14:13

From today's Daily WTF, we have a triptych of reader-submitted surveys that maybe should have been checked just a little more carefully before asking actual customers to fill out the forms.

First up, an online course evaluation which has a rather, um, interesting version of the tried-and-true Likert scale:

I Strongly Agree with the Number 1
I Strongly Agree with the number 1

Next up, Best Buy has a novel approach to the classic Net Promoter question. For true survey nerds, you can keep playing "Count the Mistakes" even after you stop laughing at the howler:

I guess I'm Not At All Likely.
I'm going to go with "Not at all likely."

And finally, WebEx has figured out the secret to not getting poor scores on a survey:

What better way to say Your Feedback Is Very Important to Us
What better way to say, "Your Feedback is Very Important to Us"?

 

Why We Still Like Phone Interviews Peter Leppik Fri, 2017-09-08 16:26

While we at Vocalabs provide a variety of customer feedback channels to our clients, we still think phone interviews are often the most important tool when it comes to using customer feedback to actually drive change in an organization.

That may sound strange in the year 2017. Isn't everything supposed to be online and automated now? Aren't phone calls going the way of the carrier pigeon? And what about those millennials?

Here's why we think phone interviews are not only still relevant, but often the best survey tool for improving customer experience:

  • People still respond to phone interviews. Response rates for email and online surveys have been dropping for years, but remain significantly higher for phone interviews. Customers are more likely to respond to a request from a living, breathing human being than an automated email dropbox. And, yes, millennials do still use their smartphones as phones from time to time.
  • Phone interviews capture depth and nuance. In a two-way conversation we can ask follow-up questions, and the audio recording captures not just what the customer said but how they said it, giving emotional depth and a deeper understanding of what happened.
  • Employees respond to audio feedback from real customers. Hearing a customer tell their story packs an emotional punch you just can't get with written feedback and numerical survey scores. People respond and are more inspired to change when they hear how the customer experience affects individual customers.
  • Phone interviews can be in the moment and real-time. Often you want customer feedback after a specific customer experience, like a customer service call or purchase experience. Calling the customer on the phone lets you get feedback immediately, not when the customer gets around to it.
  • Person-to-person contact shows you care and creates a positive brand impression. Making the effort to have a real human being follow up with a customer sends a powerful message that you actually care what they have to say and their feedback won't just disappear into the machine.

Of course no one solution is always the right answer in every situation. Our experience with phone interviews is that if you want to collect feedback your organization will actually listen to, then most often than not phone interviews are the way to go.

Customer Experience is Driven by Core Values Peter Leppik Fri, 2017-07-21 13:26

It seems that corporate culture may soon be having a moment. An article in Recode yesterday by Patrick Quinlan highlights the many recent high-profile examples of corporate misbehavior, such as Wells Fargo to Uber, and argues that the root cause of these problems is that many companies have viewed ethics through the lens of compliance rather than core values.

The problem, in Quinlan's view, is that for too long many companies have lacked any core values other than making money. Not breaking the law is also in there somewhere, but as a secondary consideration. You can see how this leads to problems. If a company's core values are "make money" and "don't break the law," but you only get fired if you don't make money, then employees are going to break the law and turn a blind eye when their peers and managers are a little loose with the legalities. This applies all the way from the C-suite to the salesman, except that the salesman is more likely to get blamed with misbehavior comes to light.

Customer Experience, like ethical behavior, is also driven by a company's core values. You hear most any CX expert talk about "Leadership" as one of the core components of success in Customer Experience, and this is what the Leadership is all about.

Effective leadership in Customer Experience means making the customer part of the mission and core values of the company. It's not just the business school mechanics of structure, governance, incentives, and metrics. It's about genuinely caring about how the company serves customers.

I don't know if Quinan is right, and that we are going to see more companies reevaluating their core values. I agree that the lack of any deep moral compass in most large businesses (other than "maximize profitability") is a huge problem today, and not just in the areas of not abusing customers or employees. I see it in the way that global tax evasion has become an accepted way of doing business, and the way some enormous companies don't seem to care whether or not their employees have to choose between eating, paying rent, or visiting the doctor.

So I do hope that this is going to become a greater part of the conversation. Because if a company can align itself with the right set of core values, many other things will be a lot easier, from Customer Experience to staying out of legal trouble.

Issue 107 of the Vocalabs Newsletter is published Peter Leppik Wed, 2017-06-28 13:32

We just published the 107th issue of Quality Times, our mostly-monthly newsletter about all things related to Customer Experience and Customer Feedback.

In this issue I discuss how journey maps are really about mapping the desire paths of the customer experience. What's a desire path? Read on...

As always I hope you find this interesting and useful. Email subscribers should be receiving their copies shortly. You can subscribe to our newsletter and get the latest issue delivered straight to your inbox.

Desire Paths in Journey Maps Peter Leppik Fri, 2017-06-23 14:26

Desire Path
People often don't behave the way you expect them to. Customer feedback helps you uncover the disconnect between what you think customers do, and what they're really doing.

It's tempting, in a journey mapping project, to skip the time-consuming and sometimes expensive process of asking customers what their actual experience was in completing a particular journey.

This is a mistake. We constantly discover that in the real world people behave differently than we expect. If your journey mapping process is only gathering data from company insiders, you're almost guaranteed to get a skewed perspective. Insiders understand how the system works, and that makes it hard to see where an outsider customer might find things confusing or illogical.

Even if you're gathering behavioral data, chances are you're missing important parts of the puzzle. The best web analytics in the world won't tell you why customers do certain things, they'll only tell you that real customers are behaving in ways you can't easily explain. And in the real world, lots of customer behavior won't be captured for a variety of reasons.

This is illustrated nicely by the idea of the Desire Path. A Desire Path is one of those trampled paths that people create by the routes they actually follow, rather than the paths the designers expect them to use.

A desire path is what happens when people find their own way, rather than following the path that's been laid out for them.

Desire paths happen all the time in Customer Experience. Every time a customer hits "zero" instead of cooperating with the IVR menus, that's a desire path. Companies may try to corral customers into certain behaviors, but usually wind up opening desire paths in the face of unhappy, frustrated customers.

The goal of most journey mapping projects should be to document actual customer journeys, as opposed to the journeys you want or hope your customers to take (the want or hope part usually comes later). You are, in essence, documenting the desire paths your customers are following when they interact with you.

In the customer experience world we usually can't just look to see where the grass is trampled, so we have to ask customers where they actually went, why they chose that route, and how they felt about it.

Without customer feedback, your journey map will only show the sidewalks. 

Listening to Customers Peter Leppik Wed, 2017-06-14 14:01

Every company likes to say that it listens to customers. But when was the last time you literally listened to a customer?

I've learned over the years that listening to customers--through audio recordings of interviews or direct conversation with customers--is one of the most powerful tools for developing customer insights and empathy. Through our voices we communicate so much more than mere words: we communicate emotions, context, and subtle shadings of meaning.

If you've ever tried (and failed) to use sarcasm in an email, you know what I'm talking about.

I firmly believe that how you use recordings of customer interviews is a big factor in whether your customer feedback process actually drives change in your company or just sits on a shelf. From coaching front-line employees to advocating in front of executives, audio recordings are often the difference between inspiring change and arguing about statistics.

But I've found that many companies don't use this powerful tool, even when it's available. They think that listening to audio feedback will take too long, or bias their thinking. Or they assign low-level employees to listen to recordings, and senior decision-makers never hear them.

Here's three places you should be using the literal voice of your customers to drive change in your organization:

1. Persuading leadership to back changes

As part of your customer feedback, you've probably identified a few areas where investment is needed. It's important to make the business case, but many other initiatives will also have a strong payback (at least on paper).

I believe that in a customer-focused company customer-focused initiatives should have priority (all else being equal). Using a few audio snippets to illustrate the customer impact can help drive this point home. Of course you will want to make sure that your recommendations are backed by solid data and statistics.

It's hard to ignore when actual customers are telling you that you've got a problem. Illustrating your recommendations with selected recordings can help build a sense of urgency for taking action.

2. Gaining new insights

Recordings of customer interviews can help you understand customers' needs and opinions in a way that statistics and written feedback often don't. Audio lends itself to empathy and understanding.

Rather than listening to a large number of customer recordings (which can take a long time and not feel very productive), I generally use the statistical data to look for interesting trends and correlations. When I see something that makes me go, "hmmm," I'll select several recordings that seem to have a similar pattern and listen to them all to see what's really going on.

This method avoids a lot of the guesswork and assumptions that often happen when you try to interpret survey data. Often you discover that the customer is telling you exactly what you want to know, you just need to listen.

3. Coaching customer-facing employees

Interview recordings can help employees better understand what customers want and need. Customers are viewed as more credible sources of criticism and feedback than supervisors and coaches.

I recommend having the employee listen to the entire customer interview, and then ask the employee to interpret the interview through the lens of how their actions could have better served the customer or changed the customer's opinion of the interaction. In many cases, when the customer was completely satisfied, there's not much that could be done. But if the customer was not happy, often the employee will see the root cause and what could have been done differently to help or mitigate the problem.

It's important with this kind of coaching to remind the employee that each customer's feedback is just one person's opinion, and should be taken in the spirit of constructive criticism. Viewed in this light, often very negative or unfair feedback can lead to ideas for how to better handle a similar situation in the future.

The bottom line is this: If you are collecting audio customer feedback and not actively listening to it and using it to drive change, you are missing one of the most powerful tools in the Voice of the Customer toolkit.

Issue 106 of Vocalabs Newsletter Peter Leppik Wed, 2017-05-31 14:00

I just published the 106th issue of Quality Times, Vocalabs' newsletter.

This month I discuss what happens when incentives and the metrics which drive them get out of control, using three real-world examples as a guide.

As always I hope you find this interesting and informative. If you like this one, you can subscribe to our newsletter, or browse our archive of past issues.

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