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The Importance of Customer Feedback

The Importance
of Customer
Feedback

Craig Stoss

E very growing company has input and ideas coming from all different directions. There is the market demanding new features, engineering needing to adapt to new technology, the business requesting 'quick wins' to make a sale, support reporting defects, founder or CEO delivering their vision and many more. One of these inputs stands out and differs from the others, and that is the feedback received from actual users. This feedback is commonly known as Voice of Customer, and it is vital to the success of any business to not only listen, but to take helpful actions consistently and cultivate for both positive reviews and constructive feedback.

The Definition of Voice of Customer (VOC)

VOC is a culmination of your customer’s needs, expectations and requirements. It includes everything your customer says and feels about your product, company and/or services. If you imagined all of your customers in a room together with speech bubbles over their head containing all of their thoughts about you — that would be VOC.

Voice of Customer can be an entire department in a larger company, tasked specifically with diving into customer’s brains to understand who they are and what they want. In a smaller company, VOC can come from a variety of people in a variety of positions. Everyone has a hand in collecting data in order to develop a thorough understanding of who your customer is.

Collecting voice of customer (VOC) feedback is a process that needs to include capturing, owning, actioning and potentially showcasing everything your customers are saying about your business, your product, and your services. When done correctly, the positive impact this feedback can have on your company’s success is significant. It has been said that the purpose of a business is to create a customer who creates a customer. That can only happen if you are actively considering positive and negative feedback as you evolve your company. If your customers are happy and are willing to promote you to others, you will save marketing effort and shrink the sales cycle leading to more revenue and success.

Voice of Customer, whether in the form of actionable feedback or publicly available reviews, is key to your success. Let’s explore how you can capture this voice effectively and consistently and then action it quickly to maximize your desired outcomes.

2.

Ways to Collect Feedback

The short answer to “How do I collect customer feedback?” is: every way you can. Anytime you interact with your customers, you should be enthusiastically willing to hear their feedback. However, a more structured way of collecting and encouraging feedback from all of your customers can provide a more robust picture of your customer’s needs and expectations.

Ways to Collect Feedback

As Help Scout points out, there are multiple ways to collect data from your users. Of the eight methods they list, all are part of two high-level types of feedback: explicitly requested and implicitly given. Feedback comes in many different forms and often the key to collecting it is simply recognizing it.

Explicitly Requested Feedback

Recognizing feedback is easy when it is explicitly requested. If you ask your customers questions, some of them will give you answers. You can ask for feedback in a variety of channels and formats — and in fact, the more chances you provide customers to share their opinion, the better! Examples of explicitly requested feedback are:

  • Customer surveys
  • User Testing
  • Customer Interviews

In each of these formats, you (the company) is reaching out to the customer to ask them about something specific. These kind of guided feedback surveys can help gather opinions on a specific change or aspect of your product or service.

Implicitly Given Feedback

It is more challenging to recognize feedback when it is implicitly given, ie. given organically during a discussion, meeting, or as part of a support ticket. With either type of feedback, it can be incredibly easy to not action what you’ve received.

Listening for Voice of Customer feedback is difficult. It can take the form of an 'off-the-cuff' remark in a sales or support call, a post on social media, or a sigh in a quarterly business review. Whenever a customer expresses an opinion on something, whether through verbal or non-verbal cues, that is feedback that could be used to better your product or service. Train yourself and your employees to listen for these cues, document them, and submit them into a common process to be actioned and you will quickly see exactly where your company needs to evolve. In addition, start to track and frequently review answers to questions such as:

  • Why did we lose that deal?
  • Why did that customer churn?
  • Why is this customer choosing to stay with our offering?
  • What drives our customers' loyalty?

These questions can easily be asked as part of your internal process or regular customer communications. Once these questions are answered, you start to understand gaps that need to be filled or places where you excel. Use that information to keep doing the things that are working and stop doing the things that are not. The mistake is that companies often treat this as a quarterly or even yearly action and not an exercise in continuous improvement. Making these changes quickly and visibly makes customers feel like they have been heard and generates strong word of mouth praise.

Customers are kept happy when you do more of what they love and less of what they hate. That includes all types of feedback. How can you maximize your ability to take in feedback and make meaningful change based on it? Let’s examine some best practices.

3.

Executing Successful Surveys

Surveys have been around forever and come in many different lengths, formats, and intentions. Smaller surveys, while potentially less informative, can be done on-the-fly and help detect a change in sentiment about something specific. Longer surveys may take time for your customers to complete, but also have the advantage of providing more details, and correlations between responses. How and when you present them should be considered in advance and depends on your desired outcomes.

We participate in surveys sometimes without even thinking about it. Quick surveys are typically used to assess one specific aspect of your experience and are fast and unintrusive. Those ratings you give on your mobile apps, or when a cashier at a store asks:

Did you find everything you were looking for today?

...are just a couple examples of how surveys are integrated seamlessly into our daily lives.

When using these short surveys, assess if the rating itself is useful or if you require more context on the answer. As a best practice, always include a “Why?” question after the main question. It may not always get a response, but if you don’t ask it, you lose the opportunity for valuable data and make the results more difficult to take action on. In the supermarket example, it is good to learn that someone struggled to find some product, but knowing it was specifically the canned tomatoes is much more useful. You can make an impactful change based on that detail.

Happy or not. Please rate our service today

Source: KissPNG

The ratings, along with any reasoning given, should be tracked in a common location or tool so you can analyze trends against a user, or a grouped set of users such as by company, demographic, or location. Watching these trends change as you tweak your offering could help you correct a misstep more quickly.

Net Promoter Score

Net Promoter Score (NPS) is an example of a quick survey. NPS helps to measure loyalty and sentiment around your brand or a specific product or service. It is presented as a question, on either a 0-10 or 1-10 point scale.

How likely are you to recommend our product to a family member or colleague?

Depending on what you would like to measure, as Rentently points out, you can adjust the question to different levels of specificity. For a broader scope, replace 'our product' with 'our company' or to be more specific replace with 'our support team' or 'this feature'.

As mentioned above, no matter what you are measuring, you should always include a follow-up question. Shep Hyken highlights the importance of learning from the NPS rating:

Two of my favorite questions to follow the standard one-to-10 survey are to ask, “Why?”, and if the number is lower than a 10, “What would it take to raise our score just by one point?” [...] That is important feedback that any company can use.

It isn’t just relevant that the customer will or won’t recommend you, it is essential to know why. With this information, you can continue doing things that create promoters and stop doing things that breed detractors.

0-10 point scale NPS example

There are two main ways to use NPS surveys: fixed interval, or in-product (also known as a real-time request).

At a fixed interval, you would send a notice to a set of your users to ask this question. This could be through email or as part of a larger survey. You would trend the results over time and report fluctuations over the fixed intervals. This methodology is useful when you wish to focus on overall sentiment in the marketplace or quarterly planning inputs. A downside to this method is that scheduling the same users to get the same question, at the same cadence can lead to fatigue and the response rate may drop. It’s best to do this type of survey on a different, but comparable, group of users each time to avoid this problem.

In-product surveys should be set up based on key milestones. Rules can be created that align with whom you want to ask, when you want to ask them, and how frequently. For example, you may want to ask new users after their first few actions in your product, or users who login more than a certain frequency within a given time period, or users that reach a significant threshold of data. It is highly product dependent, but the key is that quick surveys work best when random ized. NPS surveys should not feel algorithmic to the end user, as to not be tied to any noticeably specific action or pattern of behavior. You do not, for example, want to ask a consumer to rate your application or company every time they access it, or once per week. In software, you can use a tool such as Pendo to integrate quick questions into the natural workflow of your product and can specify rules such as who does get the survey and who does not. This capability gives the sensation of randomness and not being repetitive, while still assessing the actions you want.

Software offerings such as Retently or Nicereply have NPS specific features that can help you to track these trends, monitor ownership and actions stemming from the responses, and make visualization easier.

Long Form Surveys

Long form customer surveys cover a wider scope of your products and services. These surveys are expected to be broader, but it remains important to keep them as brief as possible. Too long, and your customers may not want to take the time to respond. Too short, and you won’t get the value from the time that is taken to set them up and respond. When deciding if a question is necessary, there are four questions you should ask yourself that GrooveHQ outlines:

  • Does this question have a strong reason for being in this survey?
  • Is it tied very closely to the topic of this survey?
  • Is it background information/other noise that I don’t actually need to know?
  • Is it something that is going to actually help me analyze the survey results and make any useful conclusions?

This list is good at paring down just to the information you need to build a strong set of survey questions. You do not want to waste the respondent’s time with questions that won’t help you improve.

Your survey should always start with a general satisfaction question as an anchor metric you can view as a trend over time and user segment. Something such as:

Overall, how satisfied are you with our [Product/Company]?
Alternatively, you could replace this with the NPS question. Either way, it is crucial to gauge a user’s overall opinion before diving into specifics. This overall satisfaction question is useful when it is compared to the rest of the responses. You can then gauge what your satisfied customers like or dislike compared to your dissatisfied customers. If they dislike the same things, you have clearly identified an area to improve. However, if they dislike different aspects of your product or service, you may have identified a value proposition gap or some other problem that only affects a portion of your customers.

Long form survey example

An example where this helps is if your satisfied customers think your product is simple to use, and your dissatisfied customers think it is difficult to use. You have just found a gap! Digging deeper into the data, you might find a segment of your customers needs a different onboarding process, or your knowledge center is lacking important details or is written for a technical audience or the wrong industry. The insight that a specific segment needs to be handled differently wouldn’t have been noticed if you hadn’t analyzed the correlation between satisfaction scores and how easy customers find your product to use.

Once you understand what types of information you want to collect and for what purposes, it’s time to design the survey itself. When creating a survey, make sure you understand these 2 things:

1. Which question type will give you the data you need to make a good decision?

As Hubspot outlines, there are various types of questions you can use to serve different purposes. A common mistake, for example, is to view Likert scales as interchangeable with semantic differential questions. They are both 5 or 7 point scales, and both have a quality of ranking. The difference is in the types of questions for which they should be used. Likert scales are best used for gauging agreement or disagreement with a statement, and semantic differential questions are more focused on feeling or qualitative measures. These differences are significant because it changes the way you write the question and analyze the results.

For example “On a scale of 1-5, how would you rate our service?” is a neutrally phrased, semantic differential question that could capture how a respondent feels about your service. If you were to try and form this question using a Likert scale, you might phrase it as “I received excellent service” rate on a scale of Strongly Disagree to Strongly Agree. That phrasing is less neutral and can lead the customer towards a different response.

Another important survey technique is to combine open-ended and dichotomous questions. As discussed for quick surveys, it’s great to get an initial response to a dichotomous question like “Yes, I did find everything today” or “No, I am not satisfied with my service.” However, the real information comes from asking an open-ended question after, such as: “Why or Why Not?” or “What were the main factors for your rating?” Dichotomous questions are great if you want to spot check something specific. But open-ended questions are where you receive tangible feedback that can alter the way you operate or your product is designed.

Finally, while conventional wisdom states that open-ended questions provide more value, they also take significantly more time to review and analyze. Open-ended questions may be interpreted incorrectly, due to language, or space constraints. The sentiment of a response is hard to read as well. Misinterpreting a response can lead to aggregating completely different ideas that happen to use similar words into the same action. Some open-ended questions, especially ones like “Is there anything else you would like to share with us?” are great questions with which to end a survey. However, if you aren’t going to invest the time to analyze the data adequately, it’s best to use a close-ended question.

2. Know your audience

There are cultural differences to how surveys are answered. SAP highlights that language and culture can play a significant role in how your surveys are answered. Most notably many European countries rate 10 as low and 1 as high, versus the North American standard which is opposite. Always know with whom you are communicating and how to compare responses.

Another common issue is targeting the questions to a user but sending the survey to the purchaser. In B2B scenarios, there are often different actors involved in a sale. The questions you create must be targeted to the correct roles within an organization, or there will be no response, or worse, a response that skews your actual data.

If you want to reach multiple types of audiences, and have slightly different surveys for each, depending on their role, country or other criteria, Mail merge tools such as MailChimp are excellent at helping segment customers to give different content based on the criteria you specify.

Finally, once your survey questions are created, assess the time commitment for your customers and be honest about it in any communication. As a recipient of a survey, it is annoying to open something labeled as a 'quick survey', and by page 5 or minute 20 you are still wading into questions. If your survey is going to take 20 minutes, that is fine (well, maybe see if you can shorten it a little…), but tell everyone that before they click the link and start to respond. You don’t want to create any hostility while someone is trying to help you.

Survey Tooling

There are a significant number of tools on the market to help with surveys. These tools serve different purposes and have features sets that range from generic question/answer creation and storage to niche surveying techniques. It is important that you fully outline your use cases before deciding on which one(s) to purchase.

On the more generic surveys side, tools such as SurveyMonkey or Typeform will help you structure your survey, brand it, keep it engaging and also help you to compile your analytics. These tools are heavily configurable for most any type of survey. If you have a wide variety of survey needs, tools of this type is the route to go. Most of these tools are focused on the long form feedback surveys, and while some can be embedded directly into your app, that is generally not their primary purpose. You mainly see these types of surveys delivered through a survey button or email link.

Voice of Customer tools such as or Clarabridge and InMoment are specifically made to gather customer feedback. These tools get feedback by being seamlessly integrating into your software product and capturing your customer opinion in real-time without interrupting their workflow. In general, these tools are focused on the 'quick survey' type responses discussed previously. They focus on gathering smaller responses across more customers, more frequently and allowing you to trend, or set up alert s based on sentiment changes within your user base. They often have features to aggregate users based on metadata such as their company or demographics or over certain time periods. If your goal is to gather and trend customer sentiment, measure against targets and create actions based on the feedback (more on actioning feedback later!), this class of tools is a good place to start.

There are several tools that look less like a traditional survey but still collect important feedback. Similar to how large consumer product companies use special glasses, and cameras to measure what colors, shelf locations, and promotions capture the shopper’s eye, software products exist to capture the same data from your website or app. Visual Feedback and User Testing tools, such as Hotjar and UserSnap, embed themselves into your product to measure what elements users click and also allow a user to comment on the locations of an element or confusing workflows. This use case is very specific but can yield powerful results to improve your product’s user experience. If you understand how your users use your product, you can make adjustments that make it easier and therefore more desirable to use.

Finally, you can also use customer forums for feedback. Often these are a marketing department initiative, but they are so much more powerful as a cross-functional endeavor. These forums encourage users to post feedback and ideas and then have discussions about them. These discussions range from bolstering the idea or adding new use cases, to solving the problem through a workaround or directing someone to training. As we will discuss below about actioning feedback, forum post moderation and responses are a must when taking this approach.

With any of the above tool types, there are important things to consider during the selection and evaluation process:

  • Delivery channels for surveys
  • Any integrations you need to use, including a Customer Relationship Management Tool (CRM)
  • Branding Requirements
  • Analytics Requirements
  • Goals or changes you hope to drive by the feedback
  • Cross-functional use cases

If you document the business needs and compare the tools to them, you will have an easier time choosing the one or more solutions that will make you most successful.

One feature that should be considered a must-have is the ability to automatically correlate responses to important metadata that you already have on the customer. Many survey tools have ways to remove unnecessary fields from your customers and make your surveys shorter. This feature allows you to encode unique URLs to send to an individual which contains information you already know. This means that instead of re-requesting known information such as customer name, industry, size, contact details, etc. the form comes pre-filled in, or hidden entirely from the end user. By using this functionality, you can maintain the ability to analyze certain customer segments or demographics, while lessening the burden to the people filling out the survey. Anything to make surveys easier for your respondents should be considered. Remember that submitting feedback is often a favor. If the favor is simpler, it is more likely to be done.

Beyond survey-specific tools, you should also consider Customer Experience Management (CEM) tools. Tools such as Totango and Gainsight advance your ability to take in and action feedback from surveys. While these tools aren’t explicitly focused on surveying, using them has advantages. Built right into your CRM, you can use these tools to generate lists of customers that meet certain criteria, auto-generate tasks based on specific question responses, trend answers against a customer or customer segment and do in-depth analysis that helps you better action the results. If you do own a CEM tool, you also should investigate what purpose-built survey tools integrate well with them to combine the best functions of both.

Maximizing Customer Interactions

Surveys are not the only way to gather feedback. People within your organization interact with customers all the time, and you should be taking advantage of those conversations. Customer-facing teams such as Support, Success & Services are continually receiving feedback. It could come in the form of a cheer or a sigh during a feature explanation, a sarcastic “that was easy” comment during a demo or outright frustration at a process or policy you are enforcing. All of that input needs to be listened to, understood and actioned.

The phrase “this call may be recorded for quality control” is commonplace across the service industry. There is, rightly, a hyper-focus on making sure your customer-facing representatives are delivering the customer experience with which your company wants to be associated. But if you are only analyzing your calls for your agent quality, you are missing one of the single biggest inputs into feedback! The phrase you internally need to think about as part of the assessment is: “this interaction will be monitored for all feedback you provide.” Train your customer-facing teams to listen for key phrases and how t hey can identify feedback in normal conversation. Finally, have a process in place that can be used to collect the details and pass them on to the right team.

Maximizing Customer Interactions

Source: Productboard

We get a lot of feedback during live chat conversations with our customers: feature requests, bug reports, suggestions for improving the product, etc. Thanks to the feedback, we are able to see what our existing customers want and what prevents potential customers from switching to Chatra. We take all of that into consideration when we decide what to focus on each sprint. It helps us keep Chatra a convenient and functional live chat tool. Give Chatra a try and see for yourself!

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Tools such as Productboard allow you to collect unfiltered or raw feedback which can then be correlated and organized into meaningful product suggestions to be used during a product management planning cycle. A product tool can combine data generated by different teams into one place simply by having those team members forward emails, support tickets, screenshots, or slides into the tool. Once there, it can be categorized and actioned as product changes. Your customer-facing teams will become instrumental to the feedback loop and the product direction.

4.

Listening on Social Media

Who could have predicted the @ and # symbols becoming so powerful to the consumer and, if handled correctly, to your business? More and more consumers who mention your brand expect answers to be quick, from a human, specific to them and actually solve the problem.

Listening on Social Media

As Matt Davison, founder of Travel Tractions says:

Tracking brand mentions is an extremely important part of marketing, it allows you to jump in a conversation and help your brand in real time, this is extremely important for brands in general and not something that should be overlooked.

Depending on the nature of your product or the demographic of your end users you will have a different approach to collect and respond to feedback. Not all strategies will be the same, and you need to take the time to consider what is right for your organization. So how do you prepare a listening and response strategy for social media?

Selecting a Social Media Platform

The first step is to figure out where your online brand will live. There are a wide variety of choices for different markets and media. Nimble outlines the different demographics that use different types of social media. It is vital you understand those differences and who you want to target as you create your social media strategy.

For example, the written content posts that are seen on LinkedIn are frequented by fewer millennials than the more media-driven platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. LinkedIn remains the top place for business users to share ideas and guidance on how to solve business problems. If you want to spread B2B brand awareness through your blog posts, product updates, or key business partnerships, LinkedIn would be a great platform on which to do so. However, if you want to attract younger customers, or sell more B2C focused products, it is more beneficial to invest in image and video content that can be added to Twitter or Facebook. Another example of demographics being split is that Instagram and Snapchat have more female users, and as such, if your product is targeted for women, those platforms will give you higher success.

Twitter can be very appealing in both the B2C and B2B markets because it allows you to reach a lot of people and businesses very fast. There are over 67 million Americans on Twitter, and the international presence is even larger. 79% of Twitter accounts are non-US based. Twitter also has become a popular first place to go to send feedback to a company. Stuck in a long line at a store? Tweet at the brand to express your frustration. Had a great meal? Tweet a picture to the restaurant to say thanks. It’s fast, public and a powerful platform to showcase your brand.

With over 2 billion monthly active users, Facebook has become the cornerstone of a lot of social media strategies. Nimble says:

With its great ‘Facebook for Business’ platform and analytics, you are able to track your success and engage with a massive audience. This includes many items, such as targeting tools that allow you to segment your organic posts by a number of demographics including age, gender, and education to name a few.

Like Twitter, posting on a brand’s Facebook page has become commonplace. When handled correctly, it is a great way to engage B2C consumers.

Maintaining social media responses and content feeds can be a time-consuming project, so focus your energy on the platforms that most suit your addressable market and product demographics.

What To Monitor

The next key to your social media strategy is monitoring mentions. To do this at scale, you will need to find a tool that can help make sense of the noise that social media often contains. Mention and Hootsuite are tools that can help you organize mentions, highlight responses, read sentiment and allow you to control your messaging. To make these tools successful, you need to ensure you monitor the right words and phrases:

  • Any account associated with your company across social platforms
  • Any keywords or phrases that are likely to be associated with you
  • Acronyms of your company name
  • Common nicknames (Think McDonald’s versus McD’s) and misspells
  • Product names
  • Slogans
  • Industry terms and events
  • Competitor names

By monitoring the right keywords, you can easily assess who is using your product, visiting your stores, what they think about it, if there are any influencers with whom you should be engaging, and learn about what the market is demanding from you. All of this data can help you to create a better offering and build better relationships with your users.

Your Online Brand

After your keywords are aligned, you are now receiving feedback! Your customers are tweeting at you, or posting on your pages and are starting to expect responses:

  • What do those responses look like?
  • What is your brand online?
  • How do you want your customers and potential customer s to view you?
  • What types of responses do you want to make public or keep in private?
  • Do you share or comment on positive feedback?

All of these are great questions to ask yourself as you plan your strategy. The answers will lead you to one (or more) approaches that depend on your social media goals, your target demographic and the platform itself. Let’s outline a few strategies with some examples.

Many customers separate their marketing brand from their support/help services. For example @SamsungUS and @SamsungSupport. Their brand account is used for marketing, and if there is feedback or someone that needs assistance they ask the person to reach out to their support account:

This strategy is common, but also adds an extra step to your customer experience known sometimes known as channel switching. Moving a customer to a different communication channel is easier for the company because it separates responsibilities, but more difficult for a customer to give feedback to and to get a response from the right people. If you choose to take on this approach, it could discourage your customers from submitting feedback. If you do require separate accounts, make it easy to send comments between them. For example, instead of asking the customer to do more work as in the above example, perhaps @ mention your support account directly so they see the tweet and can respond.

Some companies choose to focus on being quick and human, but are more repetitive in their responses:

Air Canada uses a signature at the end of each tweet

When adopting this model, ensure you show some variability to indicate the response is coming from a real person. Automated responses don’t convey the trust or attention customers demand. Air Canada uses a signature at the end of each tweet to signify that someone is reading your comment and waiting for your response. The downside of this approach is that it can feel repetitive online. Followers see a series of similar messages and apologies which sound robotic over time. Depending on the nature of your business, this could be a real problem. In the case of a large B2C company, every customer is potentially more focused on you solving their problem, instead of reading other responses, because each situation is highly unique and might involve personal details. Showing you are there to help is more important than publicly customizing the experience for each customer.

Disqus uses a similar approach, but with more customized messaging. In their model, product feedback and concerns are more repeatable and therefore they offer direct, public responses inline.

With this model, each answer is customized to the question and shows that a real person is reading the feedback and taking some action. A considerable benefit of responding in this manner is that it allows other followers to passively learn or gain new ideas or insight into your product. As a byproduct, it may help advertise a help center, the quality of the product or your support services. Making your responses public, fast and human can be a selling point and help drive trust within your user base.

Sometimes, the custom response can be taken even farther towards being personalized. Rogers, a telecommunications company in Canada, attempts to form a bond with their customers through their social media and keep their responses very casual. As opposed to merely attempting to solve a problem, they attempt at relating to it or showing empathy for the situation.

Roger's human touch to the customers feedback

In a tense situation, such as a service outage, this approach can be criticized as unprofessional, but in general shows a human touch to the feedback.

Then there is the extreme of being casual with your content. Some companies are famous responding with witty comments or monitoring competitor keywords to chime in with comparisons.

Wendy’s Twitter offers up humorous, often sarcastic responses to the feedback they get. While this may not be the best customer experience, it generates shares and viral publicity, which may be your ultimate goal. It’s a human connection, fun to engage with, but as a brand, may not be what your customers are seeking.

Once you have chosen your brand based on the types of feedback you expect to receive and how you want to present your actions to the public, it’s time to hone the messaging strategy. When you have a large team that monitors your channels, they must be up-to-date on important messaging and happenings within your organization. It becomes obvious very quickly when there are two different responses to the same question going out in the same time frame. Conflicting responses like this can harm your brand as it builds distrust in the accuracy of your assistance. If your organization is getting feedback at a high rate because of some impact to your users like a software product outage or a highly visible public facing problem, you need to ensure that the messaging is accurate and people understand the status of the situation.

No matter what methodology you choose, the key is to keep it consistent, on brand, and to always focus on the customers' comment. Where social media monitoring fails is when the messaging is inconsistent, unreliable, takes longer than expected, or is generic sales or marketing messaging. Meaningfully responding to mentions is critical to your customer experience and will build loyal and trustworthy relationships.

5.

Taking Action
on Collected Feedback

The biggest mistake a company can make when running surveys or taking in suggestions from social media or otherwise is not doing something with the feedback once it is received. It is vital that when feedback is given it is acknowledged regardless whether it is positive or negative.

Taking Action on Collected Feedback

An acknowledgment could be a simple thank you, a response that shows you are taking some action, a timeline when the customer can expect follow-up, or next steps to progress the issue. According to Business Insider:

More than half of all companies are not translating customer observations or feedback into actions that can drive performance for their organizations. We learn much. We don’t execute enough, or leverage what we learn in the most meaningful way.

What does actioning feedback mean and how can you use it to make a positive impact on your business?

Action all the Feedback

All feedback is valid and needs to be actioned. It is human nature to want to ignore bad feedback or feedback with which you disagree while celebrating good feedback. This behavior leads to serious problems for your organization in the form of blind spots in trends, changing sentiment, or market direction. Missing these movements can result in customers not feeling heard, reduction in loyalty, increased churn rate or being surpassed in the market by a competitor.

The action you take will depend on the feedback itself. Real-time actions can be things like changing a policy or process or fixing a bug. Longer term actions should be fed into a process that has accountability and updates, for example, on a product roadmap or as an agenda item at a management meeting. Sometimes, there may not be an action at all, but there still needs to be recognition and potentially documentation to show that you have, at a minimum, considered the feedback.

Like we mentioned earlier, we get a lot of feedback ourselves from our customers. Most feature requests and suggestions are reasonable, but if we acted on all of them, Chatra would become cluttered with features that only help a few customers but add complexity for everyone. Our top priority is to keep Chatra simple and easy to use, so we analyze every piece of feedback we receive, and say no to a lot of them. Don’t worry if you can’t meet the expectations of certain customers: it’s impossible to please everyone.

Try Chatra to see how a simple and easy chat tool can still be powerful.

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Responding to Feedback

The very first thing you should do when you receive new feedback is to decide whether it needs a reply. Spoiler alert: almost all feedback will need a reply. When customers take the time to let you know how they feel, the very least you can do is respond to them. How you respond will depend on the type and tone of the feedback. Aim to reply to feedback at a similar speed as you reply to customer support tickets — usually within 24 hours over email and more quickly over social media.

For positive feedback, respond with a thank you and an assurance that, if there is ever a problem, you are there to listen. Simply letting the customer know you’ve read the comment and appreciate their business is almost always enough.

Hi Sarah!

Thank you so much for taking the time to let us know that the new reporting feature was helpful to your team. We love hearing that and will certainly pass on your kind words to the engineering team who is hard at work developing even more new features for you! If there’s anything else we can do for you, don’t hesitate to get in touch. :)

Sincerely,
Amber
Customer Support

When feedback is negative, you should also take the time to let the customer know what you are doing about their concern, when they can expect a response or some follow-up action on it, or if you have a solution.

Hi Sarah!

Thank you so much for writing in regarding your experience using the new reporting feature. I can definitely understand your frustration with the loading time. I want to assure you that we’re continuing to work on improving the speed of the service over the next few weeks. I’ve forwarded your specific concern to our engineering team and I’ll follow up with you directly when they’ve implemented a fix. Thanks again for writing in and for your patience while we act on your feedback. If there’s anything I can help with in the meantime, please let me know. I’m here to help!

Sincerely,
Amber
Customer Support

Many companies don’t reply personally to all feedback, so taking the time to respond will make you stand out from your competitors!

Create an action plan

After responding to the feedback have the feedback assigned to some set of actions:

Type of Feedback Action Examples
Neutral None Some comments and feedback need no response. This could be a positive or neutral comment such as “Thanks” or “Keep doing great work!”
Feature Requests Document product feedback If the feedback is asking for a product change or a new feature, feed this into your Product Management process. This could mean logging a new feature request or submitting survey aggregations into a product planning cycle or further use cases for existing product research. Eg. “Would love if your product would allow me to….”, “It is a real pain that I have to click multiple times to…”
Help Needed Create a support ticket Sometimes customers ask for assistance in their survey responses. Other times they ask for you to add something specific that already exists in the product — they just need to be shown how to do it. These types of responses should create cases in your support ticketing system and the follow-up should come from your support team. Eg. “I had trouble with trying to…”, “Could someone explain how to…”
Churn Risk Bring in customer success If you see a comment that a customer is unable to be successful with your tool, you should assign a task to the Customer Success Manager or Account Manager. This is especially true if the comment hints at churn, or switching to a competitor. The account team is best equipped to contact the customer and help them achieve their desired outcomes. “Your tool isn’t helping me to save time.”, “I can’t get the data I need out of your system.”
Positive Customer Feedback Connect with the marketing team Positive feedback needs to be actioned too! If a customer is over the moon with your company, connect them with your marketing team to see if they can act as a customer reference or become a case study.

These are just some of the types of feedback you might see. If you have other types of feedback being sent to you, create action plans for those as well.

Turning Qualitative Data into Insight

One of the biggest problems with passing feedback to other teams is the potential to include bias or focus on anecdotes. While emotionally charged feedback can help to prove a point, it’s not always the most important. For example, which feedback is more urgent: 20 loyal customers asking politely about a small change or one customer screaming about their item they bought on sale? Without a set method of quantifying feedback, it can be very difficult to make data-driven decisions.

When trying to extract meaning from thousands of user feedback comments, it’s critical to turn words into quantitative data. That means looking objectively at the value of each piece of feedback, the overall volume, sentiment of each comment and the ROI of acting on the feedback.

  1. Connect feedback to customer accounts to calculate the impacted revenue and associated lifetime value. Moving your NPS score from 35 to 70 is a meaningful goal, but how will that actually impact your business? Are you catering to free or discounted customers? Or are you acting on feedback that meets the needs of your highest value customers? Without associating feedback to a customer’s history and context, it’s impossible to answer these decisions. When presenting feedback to product teams or the executive team, statements should sound like the following:
    1. 30% of our enterprise users have mentioned the reporting system in feedback with negative sentiment.
    2. Customers who spend more than $100 per order frequently mention the customer service in their feedback.
    3. Of the customers who churned last month, 10% mentioned the speed of service as a reason for leaving.
  2. Use machine learning and natural language processing to uncover sentiment and themes at scale. This is a new opportunity available to almost every business now. Where big data processing used to be exclusively available to corporations with big budgets to match, new technology has made sentiment and theme analysis available to everyone — often very cost effectively. Humans have their own bias when it comes to reading feedback. We tend to give more weight to feedback that supports our own opinions and discount feedback that doesn’t align with our own views. Machine Learning can overcome this bias and uncover trends that humans didn’t even think to look for. This is even more important when you see thousands of customer comments and conversations. Each agent can only read a small slice of the overall information (for example, one agent might respond to 2% of your total ticket volume). At this scale, no agent has a big enough view to accurately understand what customers want — they don’t have an effective sample size to pull from. In this case, using technology to analyze text based feedback can help to quantify it.

Once you’ve turned your customer comments into quantitative feedback you can use it to inform your strategy going forward. Connecting feedback to the bottom line means that you can be confident in your decision making and action plans.

Assign Ownership & Accountability

To ensure the action plans you’ve created are executed, every piece of feedback needs an owner assigned to it. This accountability ensures that there is someone responsible for taking action or reporting back when something has been done.

Start with assigning an overall owner of customer feedback. Typically a team like Support, Success or Marketing drives these initiatives. Some companies hire a specific role for managing the customer journey, NPS or Voice of Customer program, and surveying and feedback gathering should be a top priority within that job description. Once the overall ownership is assigned, then you can start to determine who should be involved in the actions. At a high level, you may see feedback that involves product, process, support questions or driving success. A good plan will involve stakeholders from those departments.

Within the process, nominate some person or team to triage incoming feedback. The more centralized the feedback is, the better you will be able to organize it. As discussed above, having tightly integrated tooling is vital to success. The triage person assigns the ownership to the responsible party.

It also helps when there is documentation of who has taken action and what that action was. Having this accountability means that if similar comments are submitted later, you can see who made the decision, why it was made, and when it was last revisited. This allows you to reuse the responses, or if further context is added or changed, you can easily re-evaluate the response.

This level of accountability can be challenging to scale efficiently. Depending on the type and size of your business, a personalized response may not be feasible or practical. To solve this problem, group similar comments into some outward facing communication, such as a community tool, ideation software, or a newsletter. Highlight the common feedback and your response. If there are solutions, point to reusable content such as knowledge base articles or a video. Even large volume organizations need to show they are listening to feedback. All customers want their opinion to be heard regardless of the size of your business. Actively listening and responding promptly is one major way to drive loyalty, renewals, and promoters amongst your customer base.

The Feedback Loop

The Feedback Loop scheme

You are never “done” improving. Taking in feedback, actioning it and re-assessing your decisions is an ongoing process where you are constantly asking questions and making changes. As a best practice, have frequent set times throughout your year to review your successes and failures with a team of cross-functional stakeholders.

A/B testing is a way of trying multiple solutions to a problem and assessing which one has the most success. The different designs or solutions are presented at random to users of your website or application and in the background, you use a tool to measure how each one performs. This method of taking in feedback has become incredibly important to software these days. Amazon is an exemplar in this area. They are constantly running split tests to understand which UI changes, color, or phrasing attracts more clicks. In 2017 they ran 7000 tests which all gave them valuable information on how to change for the better. When you receive feedback that may have multiple solutions, A/B testing is a great way to validate your solution choices. Once you’ve proven something works, move forward with the next test.

Regardless of what action is taken, part of good surveying techniques is to measure the reaction to the change(s). Over time, trending your customers' reactions can help you to make better decisions. You can track this through survey responses, sentiment analysis of social media posts, or by using Net Promoter Score. Analyze those metrics and find out if you made the problem worse or better. Either way, what do you do with that information? Well, that is just another piece of feedback that you feed back into the same process. It’s a loop!

6.

The Importance
of Voice of Customer

L istening to your customers is an essential way to improve your products and services in order to remain competitive, drive value, and grow and strengthen your organization. The voice of the customer will always reflect the actual sentiments about your offerings that exist in the market.

The Importance of Voice of Customer

Each piece of feedback or review, whether requested through a survey, solicited for a review page, or posted to social media should be seen as an opportunity to learn, to change, and create more satisfied customers who want to help your business succeed.

To accomplish this goal take these steps:

  1. Request feedback as often and through as many channels as possible
  2. Train your customer-facing teams to listen for and report feedback at every opportunity through a common process
  3. Listen to social media mentions and sentiment
  4. Keep a consistent brand style and tone of voice online
  5. Build a comprehensive feedback loop that has strong ownership and accountability
  6. Solicit and advertise reviews from your key promoters
  7. Respond to all feedback and reviewers to show you care

Ingrain these tasks in your corporate culture and hone these interactions over time to create a sense of loyalty and dependability on your product. The voice of customer feedback you get will inform better decisions that produce happier customers and more prospects. When done correctly, the value you gain by taking the time to listen will propel you above the competition.