Does your customer feedback include open-ended survey questions? If so, what are you doing with the verbatim comments? Are you simply reading them? Or, are you quantifying them and showing the actions you’re taking?

My guess? You’re missing the one thing you need most.

Rating questions show your scores, but verbatim comments do the heavy lifting. Verbatims uncover what to change and for whom. They are the tools that enable you to improve.

Since you’ve taken the trouble to write open-ended survey questions, you know that verbatim comments are where the meaning lies; they are your survey ‘gold.’ But are you getting their full value? Are you sure?

Unfortunately, most companies rely on word clouds or AI-driven sentiment summaries (positive, negative, neutral) to show the content of their verbatims–instead of a scientific verbatims analysis.  

Edward Tufte: Don’t Abbreviate

But as information designer Edward Tufte says, “We shouldn’t abbreviate the truth but rather get a new method of presentation.” Word clouds and sentiment summaries are exactly that, an abbreviation.

Similarly, as I’ve written about previously, reading verbatim comments is a data dead-end because your brain can’t synthesize and quantify all that information.

More Than a Pretty Picture

The solution? An interactive dashboard that gives you an ongoing Text Analysis Plan.

After all, it’s likely you are using dashboards to display critical business facts like your NPS survey scores. But since your open-ended survey questions contain gold, they deserve a dashboard too.

And not just a ‘pretty picture’ dashboard, one that enables full participation.

This way, while your research team is using intelligent Text Analysis  to categorize the comments, your customer success team is indicating the cases they’ve closed.

For example, here’s a dashboard in which we are showing 24 anonymous comments. Typically, you’d have thousands of verbatims, but this gives you a sense of what’s possible.

IM Text Analysis Dashboard

Live Example

Click on the picture above. You’ll  see that you can filter this dashboard by department, tag, date and more. Each filter shows your scores and themes within each area.

For example:

  • Choose ‘Repairs’: This consolidates the comments just about repairs.
  • Choose ‘Improve’: The ‘Action Needed’ column shows what to address and for whom.


Your Rating Questions Are Lying to You!

Wondering if your verbatims are worth dashboarding? Yes, because often customers’ ratings and their comments are at odds. 

For example, we recently analyzed a survey where most customers reported their expectations were met. Yet, in their comments, customers complained that it took forever to reach an associate.

Going by just the ratings, things looked fine. But with the verbatims data, our client is already putting in place new IVR messaging, superior call routing, and different staff break times to address call queue issues.

Another example is a client’s Net Promoter survey. While the NPS survey score was high, customers had a lot of suggestions for how to improve associates’ communication skills and expertise. Net Promoter only becomes actionable when verbatims contextualize scores.

Armed with verbatims data shown in charts and graphs, you’re able to improve the customer experience and prove that you’ve actually made a dent.

Benefits of Open-Ended Survey Questions

There are two main benefits of open-ended questions.

  1. They keep your survey short.
  2. They uncover what you don’t know you don’t know.

Survey fatigue is growing exponentially, so shortening your survey is essential. Open-ended questions condense your survey by keeping extraneous questions at bay.

Furthermore, ‘open-ends’ allow themes to emerge. You’re able to discover issues that you never even thought to ask. For example, in one survey project, we found that customers were outraged by staff attire. We saw this in the comments, but who would have thought to ask customers to rate employee’s clothes?!

Show the Data

But even with verbatims to give you context, consider how you display that information. Your staff knows what to prioritize. To quote Edward Tufte again, “above all else, show the data”. Don’t obfuscate; don’t abbreviate. Give your audience the facts they need to make sound business decisions.

You’re one step away from nailing your open-ended survey questions. Give your verbatims their due with their own, high-participation dashboard.

Toward more customer empathy and profitable voice of the customer listening!

Categories: Customer Feedback
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