4 Principles for a Great Customer Feedback Program

Customer submitting feedback on her mobile phone

If you want to deliver great customer service, you need a sold customer feedback program – one that’s based on the 4 principles outlined here.

Is your goal to deliver great customer service? That’s terrific! I like it. More importantly, your customers appreciate your ambition too!

To succeed you’ll need a feedback program that keeps you on course with customer service insights while pinpointing gaps and areas to improve.

What Can Customer Feedback Do?

When done correctly, customer feedback is a research-driven discipline that uncovers details that improve the customer experience. It explores customer successes, friction points, and missed opportunities. In addition, it keeps you on top of customers’ issues and it enables you to address those issues as they occur.

Quality feedback addresses tactical customer service questions such as:

  • Did we completely answer your question?
  • Was your product repaired to your satisfaction?

Quality feedback also handles strategic concerns like:

  • What would make our customer service better than the competition?
  • How can we position our customer service to increase sales?

A strong feedback program gives you accountability as well as a lens into the details that will supercharge the customer service you provide every day.

On to the principles…

Principle #1: Be Objective!

If your data fails to capture what’s really going on with your customer service, what’s the point? Many customer satisfaction surveys and other feedback methods suffer from uneven representation and bias.

As the saying goes “garbage in, garbage out”. Don’t base important customer service decisions on garbage! You need facts, not fiction. Guidelines for objectivity could fill an entire book, but here are three best practices:

Use an accurate sample: Ask yourself: How well does your sample represent your customer base? Your sample should be random, statistically valid, and representative. For example, if only one type of customer is responding to your tech support survey, perhaps those that had great experiences, your data will be skewed.

Eliminate bias: Remove leading statements, skewed scales, double-barreled questions, and other subjective constructs. Don’t ask questions like: “How satisfied were you with our service?” (This implies that the customer was at least somewhat satisfied.) Instead, ask neutral questions like: “How would you rate the quality of your service today?”

Ensure replicability: Any analyst working with your data should arrive at the same conclusions whether it’s coding, categorization, or assessments.

Principle #2: Use the Best Methods

Surveys may be the default method for gauging satisfaction with customer service, but sometimes there are better tools. Ask yourself what you need to know and match your methods to those objectives. Other methods include customer interviews, mystery shops, and customer service evaluations.

Recorded Customer Interviews: Give you an in-depth view of your customers’ expectations for service versus their actual lived experiences. They’re also the best way to uncover customer service issues you didn’t know to ask about.

Mystery Shops: Reveal real customer service insights regarding specific scenarios. They’re also an effective way to compare your customer service with that of your competitors.

Customer Service Evaluations: Quantify how well associates perform with their calls, emails and chats. Service evaluations are one of the few ways to get a statistically valid read on the quality of your customer communication.

Principle #3: Engage Your Customers

Surveys that are too long or ask irrelevant questions alienate your customers and distort your data. Keep customer feedback surveys relevant and short!

With your surveys this means:

Ask compelling questions: Write questions that are conversational so that customers feel at ease and want to share. Consider what words will engage your customers and what types of questions they are most likely to find worth their time.

Use dynamic logic to keep questions relevant: No customer is the same, applying branching logic allows customers to only answer questions that apply to them.

Add small tokens of appreciation such as gift cards and priority codes: By thanking customers for their time and effort, they’ll be more likely to give feedback about your customer service. If you can find out how you’re doing with customer service without asking your customers, that’s even better! For example, if you have contact centers, use mystery shops and service evaluations.

These methods give you data that is inherently more accurate and objective, without asking anything of your customers.

Principle #4: Take Analysis Seriously

Analysis is where meaning is uncovered, and where the the signal is separated from the noise. So, give analysis your undivided attention!

Segment your data in myriad ways: Be sure to code your unstructured data. You need to thoroughly tag and categorize your customers’ comments because the point is to uncover themes!

Find out what’s driving your outcomes: Correlation analysis is the only way to prioritize next steps and actions. Simply knowing your Net Promoter or Satisfaction Score is not enough—especially when it comes to customer service.

Make sure your analysis accounts for the subtleties of the customer experience: This is crucial because experiences are comprised of multiple touchpoints and personas. In addition, experiences are largely subconscious and always evolving.

Customer Feedback is a Research Discipline

Customer Feedback is a research discipline. Unfortunately, all too often getting feedback about your customer service is treated as a task that doesn’t require time or expertise. But if you ask tired questions in tired ways you won’t learn much. Let’s change that!

Toward the best customer listening and great customer service!

About the Author

Martha Brooke is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP) and holds a Blackbelt in Six Sigma. To dramatically improve the Customer Experience, Martha founded Interaction Metrics, a research-driven Customer Listening agency in 2004. Interaction Metrics shows clients how to improve with methods such as satisfaction surveys and service evaluations.

You can find Martha at linkedin.com/in/marthabrooke and read her blog at Interaction Metrics Insights.

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