Amazon’s Jeff Bezos famously quipped, “If you make customers unhappy in the physical world, they might each tell six friends. If you make customers unhappy on the Internet, they can each tell 6,000.” Whether those numbers are exactly right is questionable, but the sentiment certainly underscores the importance of keeping your customers happy – which is precisely why you need to know how to get customer feedback.

Let’s face it: if you don’t get accurate, actionable customer feedback, you risk losing customers – and opportunities to innovate and improve.

What’s Customer Feedback? Why Is It Important?

Customer feedback is the insights, complaints, and input your customers share about your products, services, and the overall experiences you provide. It comes in a variety of forms:

  • Survey answers to rating questions (e.g., Net Promoter Score)
  • Survey answers to open-ended questions (e.g., “How can we improve?”)
  • Customer interviews
  • Online reviews
  • Usability testing

With any of these feedback formats, your customers are most likely to share if they feel you genuinely want to hear what they have to say. So, when you reach out to your customers for feedback, show them you’re fully engaged and open to listening.

Success Tip #1:
Look at your requests for feedback (your emails, SMS messages, etc.) and remove anything that sounds dull and generic, that is, anything that sounds like what any company would say.

Now, think about how you would ask your mom or a friend to give feedback, and that’s a start for how to craft your message.

Customer Feedback Goals

Before you jump into capturing feedback, most experts (including my company, Interaction Metrics) will encourage you to outline answers to these questions first:

  • What part of the customer journey do you need to improve?
    Choose a particular aspect of the customer journey and focus on that. Don’t address everything at once – because no one wants to take an endless survey.
  • How will you act on the data?
    There is no point in asking about organizational areas that have no chance of changing in the next year. Remove any questions that can’t be acted on in the coming 12 months.
  • What methods best match what you need to know?
    You are undoubtedly familiar with the Net Promoter Survey, so you may be tempted to use it for your customer feedback. However, even the originators of NPS acknowledge that it’s not the best question and metric for every aspect of the customer journey.
    So, brainstorm a wide range of surveys as well as methods outside of surveys to ensure your objectives and methods align.

How to Get Customer Feedback: The ABCs

No matter what method you choose for getting to the heart of the customer experience, some precepts are always true. Here are three foundational truths that apply to every form of customer feedback collection, whether that’s scraping online reviews, surveys, or conducting customer interviews.

woman on a computer showing how to get more customer feedback

Truth A: Not All Data is Equal

Analysts often treat all dimensions of the customer experience as equally important. They aren’t!

Here’s an example: a survey might ask whether a tech support representative:

  • Was courteous and friendly
  • Solved the customer’s problem
  • Sent a follow-up email
All of these elements matter, but they aren’t equally important: almost always, solving the problem matters most.

To avoid this mistake of treating all data equally, use a weighting factor. Weighting makes statistical adjustments to your data to ensure it reflects your customers’ actual experiences.

The easiest way to get a weighting factor is to ask your customers to prioritize the aspects of the customer experience that matter most. Then, add those priorities into your analysis.

Truth B: Removing Bias from Your Methods is Essential

Since only honest and representative customer feedback will help you grow, here are your next essential Success Tips.

Success Tip #2:
Try to eliminate all leading constructs from the questions you plan to ask customers in focus groups, interviews, surveys, etc. Then, run your questions by five individuals not associated with your project and see if they find any leading constructs. Most likely, they will. Then, rework your questions accordingly.

Success Tip #3:
While it’s understandable that you want to “find the story in your data,” don’t twist your analysis into a narrative that isn’t there.

Sometimes, numerical differences in your data are too small to be significant. Other times, your survey response rate is too low to establish firm facts.

It’s best to acknowledge when no clear insights emerge and adjust your approach the next time.

Truth C: Customer Experience is Like a Coin

Just as a penny has a head and a tail, when it comes to the customer experience, there are two sides.

The first side is summed up by your customers’ perceptions versus their expectations. For this, surveys and interviews are usually the methods of choice.

The second side of the customer experience compares how your employees interact with customers relative to your sales and brand goals.

Your customers don’t know your values or what you are trying to achieve, so they can’t easily give feedback on these areas. For this second side of the customer experience, deep observations via usability testing, employee studies, mystery shops, and performance evaluations are best.

The most robust insights will come from considering both sides of the customer experience.

How to Get Customer Feedback: Methods That Work

Every aspect of the customer journey is distinct and requires different methods to capture customers’ honest opinions. To get you started, here are four methods for how to get customer feedback.

two people doing a customer interview to show how to get customer feedback

Method: Customer Interviews

When conducted journalistically without a preset agenda, customer interviews provide insights into customers’ thoughts and your broader marketplace. This ability to follow customer’s thoughts and priorities make interviews an invaluable research tool.

In addition, customer interviews are advantageous because they provide answers to questions you didn’t know to ask.

Plus, with interviews, you’ll be able to reach customers who don’t take surveys, thereby ensuring a diverse sample.

Keep in mind that customer interviews differ from phone surveys because the interviewer can deviate from the script to probe the interviewee. And interviews are usually recorded, whereas phone surveys usually are not.

Success Tip #4:
With interviews, strive for intense focus. For instance, a customer interview is going well when a customer pauses after a question and says, “That’s interesting. Let me think about that.”

Perhaps because customer interviews are more expensive than surveys, they are often overlooked as a research tool. But the insights they provide are unparalleled.

And because hearing from customers in their own words is uniquely galvanizing and actionable, they are worth the investment.

Success Tip #5:
Bring creativity to your project; engage your subjects with interesting and disarming questions. And encourage customers to open up by showing that what they say is important.

A tried-and-true way interviewers can stay neutral and yet show interest in the conversation is with small listening phrases like “Tell me more” or a well-placed “Wait.”  

Success Tip #6:
Plan for more time than you’ll need. Then double it. Even with great incentives, not every customer will accept your request for an interview, and some will be no-shows. And while you’ll probably use AI to transcribe your interviews, you’ll need time to edit those transcriptions and to identify the emergent themes.

Interview-based research is a rewarding but SLOW method for how to get customer feedback. It’s a seven-course fine dining experience, not a McDonald’s drive-through.

speech bubbles above customers to show how to get customer feedback with Interaction Metrics' text analysis

Method: Text Analysis

Online reviews, customer chat logs, emails, and answers to open-ended questions can be a goldmine of customer experience insights, but only if you have the right tools to analyze your data.

Is it enough to read all those comments? No! Even if you did have the time, there is no way you could remember and synthesize all that information into an actionable report.

What about AI? It’s a start, but not complete in itself and that’s where Text Analysis comes in.

Text Analysis uses tagging, a social science technique that applies conceptual buckets to categorize and then sub-categorize comments.

For Text Analysis, you’ll need multiple analysts working together because it takes a team to build a coding framework, eliminate subjectivity, and uphold the standards of objectivity and replicability.

Success Tip #7:
Tag text data by respondent, not by question. Respondents typically repeat themselves across questions, so examine your data by respondent to ensure you are not falsely duplicating data. Besides, subjects often clarify their meaning as they continue through their text-based answers.

multiple people chatting online to show how to get customer feedback with conversation analysis

Method: Customer Service Analysis

A third way to capture customer feedback is to analyze the conversations that take place between your customers and employees. Conversations can take place by chat, on the phone, or in stores.

This method focuses on what happens in real time rather than asking customers to share their comments after their experience has ended.

Like Text Analysis, Customer Service Evaluations are often aided by AI but you’ll need human researchers too.

Success Tip #8:
With Customer Service Evaluations, plan for what you’re listening (or reading) for but wait to design your criteria (scoring rules) until after you’ve observed at least 50 interactions. Within those first 50, your criteria will continue to evolve dramatically.

Success Tip #9:
The way interactions end has outsize importance. So, pay close attention to how conversations conclude. Always ask yourself if your customers know more or feel better due to their interaction with your company.

person taking a survey to show how to get customer feedback with an Interaction Metrics survey

Method: Surveys

Lastly, there are surveys — when it comes to how to get customer feedback, surveys are by far the most common method companies use. The New York Times estimates that tens of millions of surveys are sent yearly.

Certainly, with software like Medallia, Qualtrics, and SurveyMonkey, it’s easier than ever to build your own survey. But these software providers can’t compose survey questions for you. They may suggest writing prompts, but it’s your job to write survey questions that your customers will find engaging and relevant—and that will be actionable for you!

Success Tip #10:
Give customers the choice to take your survey anonymously. When given the choice, usually, around half of all respondents will take a survey anonymously. You certainly don’t want to miss out on all of that data!

Success Tip #11:
Pay attention to response rates. We are all bombarded daily with requests to take surveys, so how will your request stand out?

A high response rate matters because you need a representative sample of your customers for your data to be accurate.

To get that high response rate, incorporate persuasive phrases in your emails and consider offering incentives like priority codes or gift cards.

Success Tip #12:
Keep your surveys short, focused, and relevant. Start by reviewing your surveys multiple times for conciseness and then incorporate logic gating so that customers ONLY answer questions pertinent to their prior answers and experiences with you. Be sure to wait until after the customer has received their product or closed their support ticket before you send your survey.

Success Tip #13:
Don’t exasperate your customers. Bombarding customers with surveys after every purchase or interaction is just irritating, and not every interaction calls for a survey. Also, consider that sometimes the best customer experience research is based on sending fewer surveys, not more.

Success Tip #14:
Cut out all survey bias. Don’t nudge your customers to give you perfect scores, no matter how subtle the nudge is. Here are some common examples of survey bias:

  • A survey asks you how satisfied you are on a scale of 1 to 10. The question assumes you’re somewhat satisfied and doesn’t let you respond with a zero if you aren’t at all satisfied.
  • The survey asks one question about two distinct elements: “Was your service today efficient and pleasant?” Customers might have different answers to each of those questions.
Scrub your surveys of leading constructs and scrutinize them for anything redundant, confusing, or subjective in any way.

Success Tip #15:
Banish the no-reply email. Always send your surveys from an email address that accepts responses. Some customers may wish to share a comment but don’t want to take your whole survey. Give them a channel to communicate their thoughts.

At its core, a survey invites customers to share what’s on their minds. Sending your survey from a ‘no-reply’ email address undermines that message. So let your customers respond to your email directly. That way, even when your customer doesn’t have the time to take your survey, you are showing them their feedback is valuable.

Success Tip #16:
Keep it interesting. Surveys are not the SATs. No one wants to answer an endless litany of multiple-choice questions.

Balance your surveys between rating questions and open-ended questions to keep respondents engaged.

And the ordering of questions, the context you provide, and tone matters, so keep those elements in mind as you write your survey.

Customer Feedback is Critical

Customer feedback is the fuel that can help turn your customers into raving fans. Here are three key principles to remember:

  • Individuals are multifaceted, and your customer feedback methods should be, too. Don’t stick to one method just because you’ve been doing it for years.
  • Actively listen to your customers. You’ll need to dig deep to understand your customers’ complete thoughts and opinions.
  • Whatever method you choose, focus on upholding the standard of objectivity.

If you’re willing to truly listen, customer feedback will transform your company.

Interested in how to get customer feedback? Get in touch!

 

Categories: Customer Surveys
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