Get 5 Best Practices to Boost Your Customer Listening

I founded Interaction Metrics in 2004 because I felt like companies weren’t listening. Simple requests were rewarded by silence. And if I had an issue or question, rote ‘sorry for the inconvenience’ was often the reply.

I figured if this was happening to me, it was happening to other customers too. In the interim years, we’ve vastly improved the quality of customer listening for our clients, but broadly speaking, what’s the state of customer experience in 2020?

Two things are for sure: 1) companies care endlessly about their NPS survey scores and 2) many tout customer experience as a differentiator. So, it appears customer experience has advanced as a discipline and closed-loop surveys are increasingly popular. But in terms of customers feeling the love, research shows that companies are still not there.

For example, the 2020 Rage Customer Rage study found that 66% of consumers had experienced a problem with a product or service; that’s up from 56% in 2017. Alarmingly, this same study discovered that 55% of complainants who reached out on social media didn’t get a response.

Meanwhile, for Q1, 2020, the American Customer Satisfaction Index shows that across the entire economy, the satisfaction score is 75.4, basically a C grade. Clearly, when it comes to customer service and customer satisfaction, companies still have a long way to go.

Solution: Deep Empathy and Interactivity

To measurably improve the customer experience and show customer listening, companies need to be deeply empathetic and interactive. They need a process that reveals the details of what to prioritize, while also engaging with customers in specific and authentic ways. This is a closed-loop survey system, and it needs to function in near real-time—when it does, companies can act both strategically and tactically.

From the customer’s perspective, this is the bare minimum of what you should have in place. After all, why are you conducting surveys if not to find and resolve problems quickly?

For example, supposing an emergent theme in the data were ‘lack of associate expertise.’ A strategic action could involve channeling data about this to the customer service team and designing an approach that improves training systemically.

Tactical actions are more immediate and directly benefit the customer. For instance, you can reach out within the day to say, “I read what you said, and I’m sorry. Let’s make this right!”

Qualtrics, the CX software company says about closed-loop systems, “it’s an opportunity to demonstrate to your customer in a much more direct and personal way that their feedback is important and you care about the outcome.”

Closed-Loop Surveys are for ALL Companies

Unfortunately, many companies either don’t have a closed-loop survey system or if they do, they fail to maximize its potential. But with Power BI and a host of other inexpensive dashboard and CRM tools on the market, there’s nothing to hold any company back from having a closed-loop customer feedback system.

Should Net Promoter be the Trigger?

Some closed-loop feedback systems are triggered by low NPS survey scores. The problem here is that if you reach out to customers in response to low ratings, customers may feel less listened to and more harassed for a higher score.

So, the question to ask your team is: ‘Are we looking to simply push our NPS survey score, or do we truly care about the quality of the customer experience?’ Perhaps because you have a merger underway, or sell a commodity, it makes sense to chase and force the highest NPS survey score possible.

Verbatim Comments Should be the Trigger

However, if you’re invested in the customer experience, then your closed-loop feedback system should be based on customer verbatims. That’s because verbatim comments are the most accurate and insight-rich data you have—and often contain the exact actions you need to take.

The 3 Elements of a Closed-Loop Survey System

The three elements of a functional closed-loop survey system start with your open-ended survey questions, continue through to your dashboard, and include a Customer Success team that can act on the data.

  • Survey Questions: Develop questions that encourage customers to share their thoughts and feelings. For example, “What are a couple of ways Company123 could improve?” You may also want to include a simple yes/no, such as “Would you like a follow-up for any reason?”
  • Dashboard: You need to see your verbatim comments being classified in real-time so you can see emergent themes quantified. Your dashboard should include a status tab showing the actions taken.
  • Customer Success Team: As themes arise in the verbatims, this team is responsible for sharing this data with the relevant departments and brainstorming solutions. This might be the same team that gets back in touch with customers to resolve their questions and issues.

A Closed-Loop Survey Example

Wondering what this looks like in action? Here’s a typical customer verbatim comment:

Applying a closed-loop system based on verbatims means that you have an effective tool to classify this comment as a: Substantive Complaint, about Repairs, in which the customer is Angry and needs a Status Update.

If you have a very large, consistent data set, consider using an AI-based text analytics tool to classify your verbatims.

If your data set is smaller or involves nuanced B2B concepts, use research intelligence to classify verbatim comments in real-time.

In the above example, if indeed Repairs/Status Updates is emerging as a theme, then you’d work with the Repairs Department to improve their process.

But lots of verbatim comments are just one-offs and don’t necessitate any kind of strategic or process change. That’s the strength of a closed-loop survey system that’s triggered by verbatims—all comments are quantified continuously and scientifically. This way, you know when you have emergent themes, and when you do, you have the evidence to back those themes up.

In the above example, whether or not the customer’s comment is reflective of a theme, to show listening, your team should reach out right away to apologize, email the report, and perhaps take an action that reflects genuine concern. For example, you could give the customer a priority code, so the next time they call into Tech Support, they get to jump to the front of the line.

This is true customer listening. The customer feels heard, and the company knows how to improve.

Show You’re in Tune

Establishing an effective, closed-loop survey system based on verbatim comments is the baseline expectation of customer listening. In fact, any customer that takes the time to write a response to your survey most likely assumes you already have this in place, otherwise, why would you even ask?

If you want to transform the customer experience, it starts with a closed-loop survey triggered by verbatims. But the triggering is just the start. When executed successfully, you’ll have an end-to-end process that is deeply empathetic, interactive, and elevates the experience for you and your customers. Learn about our approach to customer satisfaction surveys here.

Categories: Customer Feedback