How to Optimize Customer Feedback

Optimizing customer feedback is one of the most straightforward ways to garner the momentum for customer focus, yet most companies don’t do it in an organized way. You don’t need to spend millions on a “satisfaction” survey. All you have to do is listen to customers tell you what is broken and fix it.

The information your customers are taking the time to give you are the broken things that are in the way of your reliability. The broken things are inhibiting your ability to create a unified customer experience. You have the information right at your fingertips if you’d only listen for it.

Here’s what usually happens with corporate customer listening:  Customer service hears the complaints day after day, year after year. A decision is made that surely the company will want to know the volume and trend with which customers are delivered these sub-par experiences. This material is compiled in a report and sent to executives, yet little action results from the compilation.

To interrupt quarterly sales goals with customer issues, you must translate them to include numbers, totals, counting, and competition. Unless you’re in a place where the leadership shares your customer passion, you need to find a way to collapse masses of information acquired from customers into a system of issues that can be tracked and accounted for.  There must also be an exercise that clearly assigns the categories of comments to operating areas of the company.  As the results are reported, the operational areas can be held accountable with the ebb and flow of customer issues attached to their area. This is a reliable and public forum for who is doing well and who is not. Now you will turn some heads and drive some action.

Read More:  How to Hold Operating Areas Accountable for Incoming Feedback Build a Listening and Understanding Engine

1. Create Uniform Categories for Reporting

A major “culture boost” activity will occur in the simple action of getting everyone to agree on the categories for collecting information for reporting. With many clients, we automate the collection of this information into the call center’s software program for consistency, and with other high volume places where customers volunteer information. By focusing here first, within a month, you can have a decent tracking mechanism to identify the issues bugging customers.  Remember don’t worry about it being the best right away – just get started.

2. Collapse All Incoming Customer Complaints and Comments into a Monthly Trending Report

To get traction for a financial services client, one of the first things we did was to collapse all of the incoming customer complaints and comments into a monthly trending report. Suddenly the areas of the operation could see the big issues emerge based on the volume.  This moved action way beyond what was being done before –  reading letters from upset customers in the executive committee meetings.  That seemed too ‘soft’- but there was no hiding from the volume of multitudes of customers being upset about a set of common issues!

3. Identify and Prioritize the “Cracks in the Foundation” that Emerge

Somewhere along the way, we came up with the term “cracks in the foundation” to define this ever-growing list and it stuck. This was the list of priority issues that had to be fixed before we could move on to other actions.

People could make the connection that the foundation of our offering to customers was being compromised because of lapses in how we executed the different functions of business. Once that was understood, we determined how many of the “cracks” we could fix each quarter or year. Then the operating vice presidents responsible for improving these issues were made accountable for fixing them, which in turn removed them from the issues being reported by customers.

You can’t leapfrog over fixing these issues. Resolving the day-to-day bugs in the system are critical to creating customer experience reliability.

 

7 comments to " How to Optimize Customer Feedback "

  • Very practical and actionable advice, Jeanne. The efforts you describe are great for a SMB to get on tomorrow, but are very applicable even to orgs looking at multi-thousand dollar VoC and analytics solutions(as I have done in the past) since the resultant learnings and socialization will absolutely come into play regardless of what product is ultimately put into place.

    I realize it’s maybe a bit outside scope of what you’re discussing here, but I would emphasize the chasm/leap which exists between the gathering/collection of feedback and how all of this data drives insight and action(e.g. informing the product roadmap, prioritized bug fixes and feature requests). As you noted, it can be a challenge to interrupt quarterly sales discussions so it’s necessary for us to align and tie all of these insights to what matters most to the business — speak the CxO language to get their attention. WE have to connect the dots for them else all we’ve really done is create a bunch of reports : )

    Thanks!

    Russ

    https://twitter.com/russhatfield

    • jeanne

      Russ
      Thanks for your feedback — so much appreciated!

      I actually do agree with you. This level and approach to diligence is so important. We need to make customers part of the conversation – talk about their lives – not just the numbers!

      Hope you are thriving and I look forward to more feedback!

      J

  • Creating uniform categories for reporting customer feedback can be counterproductive as the agreed categories will reflect a company-centric bias. There are tools available today to analyze unstructured customer feedback and extract algorithmically the categories that are important to customers. Our Opinion Miner is one of such tools that introduce “outside in” analysis and measurements of customer experience. Also we “trained” it on publicly available customer feedback, some of our clients reported excellent results after using the tool for analysis of internal VoC content.

    • jeanne

      Gregory this is a really great point. When we do this, it is always tempered and presented along with the analysis of unstructured feedback. You are right, if this is not put in context and balanced with a complete story of the experience – it is very internally driven.

      I urge my clients to “tell the story” of the experience stage by stage. This includes emerging feedback from unaided and aided feedback — trending of complaints and unstructured comments, and aided ‘push’ feedback such as surveys (but not too many!). This should be combined with deliberate operational listening, which is managing proactively the process metrics that comprise the experiences customers care about, and the outcomes they care about.

      I’m so glad you brought up this point bc as you know, people tend to jump on one of these ideas as a silver bullet and go with gusto just down one path. Thanks a million for pointing this out!!!

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