Why your customer feedback isn't always actionable and how to fix it!

The problem is not necessarily within the collected feedback data itself, but in how organisations attempt to extract actionable insights, to drive process improvements and change.

Now more than ever, Customer Experience (CX) is quickly becoming the key brand differentiator for organisations. Furthermore, to be able to compete on CX, organisations must continuously be improving on it; and in today’s market to improve your CX, companies must be actively listening to and addressing customer needs.

This is where “Voice of the Customer” (VoC) is born, as it has been defined as the process of capturing customers’ experiences, sentiments and expectations on products, services, and the brand. A VoC programme is primarily used to gauge how well an organisation is doing with its CX strategy and enables organisations to deliver better experiences. Therefore, organisations that have rich VoC programmes will inherently have everything they need to optimise their CX.

For businesses today the idea of listening to customers has well and truly sunk in, so much so, that most organisations are happily investing in some type of VoC programme. The basic goal for most of these businesses is that they want to collect customer feedback on preferences and experiences, share these insights with internal stakeholders, and act on these insights to improve the customer experience.

However, as previously mentioned, the problem is not necessarily in the collection of feedback. Organisations have a plethora of data at their fingertips. The problem is how to extract actionable insights from the data to drive process improvements and change.

The fact is that it takes a great level of expertise to understand and interpret data in a way that drives change and growth. Here at HOED Research, this is our bread and butter, we have been providing businesses with actionable insights for almost 30 years! 

Common teething issues:

In the initial setting, a number of organisations compound this problem by contracting a myriad of third party digital applications, which leads to mixed data responses and a lack of cohesive insights, thus leading to mistakes in the “data collection” process, resulting in data not being as useful as it should be.

Here are a few common data collection mistakes businesses make:

  1. Making use of multiple feedback platforms – attempting to co-ordinate and action multiple feedback options that are also inconsistent and not compatible with each other, leads to an unmanageable data dump that is neither helpful and is ultimately very costly to the organisation.
  2. Sending surveys too often – sending multiple surveys within a short period of time can lead to less detailed responses which may also start to create negative feedback as customers become more frustrated and annoyed. Survey fatigue sets in and things go downhill from there.
  3. Asking more than 5-10 questions per survey – not respecting customers’ time by asking irrelevant OR too many questions is only going to contribute to their frustration level and ensure they will either ignore your surveys or provide negative feedback in the future. You must always ask yourself – do you really want to hurt a relationship that you took so long to build?
  4. Asking multiple questions within a question – when you ask a question like ‘Were staff friendly and did they make it easy to resolve your issue?, how do you interpret the feedback from these double-barrelled questions? Are customers answering the first part or the second part? You need to limit your question so only one thing is being measured.
  5. Asking leading questions – asking a question like “don’t you agree that our sustainability programme is great” influences the response and can sway the respondent into the direction you want rather than listening to their actual feedback and learning from it.
  6. Making responses too general – when you provide questions like – How frequently do you use XYZ software?, with the following responses: very often, often, rarely, very rarely, etc. the subjective nature of these responses (i.e. often & rarely) will cause inaccuracy in feedback and difficulty in interpreting the results because all customers will view these words differently. Instead, provide a specific range of values. For example: every day, once per week, once per month, etc.
  7. Requiring answers to all questions – there is nothing more annoying to respondents than taking a survey and being required to answer every question. This is likely to generate increased survey abandonment. In the grand spectrum, a few skipped responses is not going to significantly change your results. So, you must think very carefully about which questions you want to require a response to.
  8. Not speaking in the customer’s language – using jargon, acronyms, and other complex words that aren’t in your customer’s vocabulary, puts your customers at risk of becoming confused, which will leave you with inaccurate feedback.

We often see valuable data or insights being missed or overlooked in the form of unsolicited feedback. Reportedly, between 80-85% of information of this nature can be in an unstructured form, primarily text.

This unsolicited feedback data can come from three places:

  • Outside sources such as social channels, product review sites, or other online communities.
  • From outside the formal survey process like online chats, email strings, or call recordings.
  • Free text responses in surveys.

This information is often not making its way into actionable insights that need to be addressed by companies. It’s all valuable data that can be utilised but most organisation don’t have the time or resources to do so.

Systematic approach to VoC: 

HOED Research advocates for a systematic approach to VoC involving three key components: Gather, Analyse and Act.

  1. Gather: First a business must gather relevant, time-sensitive feedback and sentiment across all interaction channels in a combined or single overview. Ultimately working with a single provider such as HOED Research is preferable.
  2. Analyse: The next step is to turn data into actionable insights by drilling down and analysing VoC through different lenses, including product, service, location, and channel.
  3. Act: The third step is to turn insights into action. Insights derived from VoC data are put into action by employees by companies taking the initiative to coach and train staff on their role in influencing CX results. This approach must be coupled with regular performance measurements on how each employee, or business department, influences customer satisfaction results.

So how can companies begin to take a systematic approach to their VoC initiatives?

Here are five keys to drive VoC success:

1. Ensure executive buy-in is in place.

There must be a senior executive who champions the effort, defines what VoC means to the company, and makes it a priority.

What does this entail?

  • Establishing and driving the VoC vision.
  • Aligning and influencing the organisation by ensuring all stakeholders (not just customer-facing ones) understand the vision and their role in it and ensuring that employees also take ownership and are accountable for their contribution to the VoC effort.
  • Managing VoC metrics and connecting them to the overall business strategy.

Typically, for a senior executive to pay attention, they need to see how VoC data is impacting the bottom line so it’s essential to be able to show VoC metrics alongside financial and operational metrics.

2. Ensure listening posts are in the proper places.

The truth is that you can’t be everywhere at the same time, so it’s crucial to set up listening posts where it matters most

A great place to start is analysing your customer journeys to re-evaluate where key touch points and moments of truth are. These places are where your listening posts should be. Additionally, place listening posts in other places where your customers frequent (e.g. specific social channels or online communities)

However, you need to also make sure that you aren’t relying solely on listening posts. Have direct conversations with your customers that are relevant and concise. So while you’re getting the feedback, you’re simultaneously understanding underlying emotions as well.

Ultimately, it’s not just the customers voice that is important, to achieve in all realms it is also important to listen to the employee’s voice as employees have very valuable data to share.

3. Empower customers to provide feedback.

Creating lengthy, irrelevant surveys that are too frequent or untimely will increase survey fatigue and discourage customers from providing honest, accurate feedback.

Deliver shorter, more relevant surveys at appropriate times. Provide a sense of urgency on when you need the feedback. Give a guarantee on how long the survey will take to complete. Inform customers on how you plan to use the feedback. Also, try using less traditional methods to elicit feedback, for example a customer advocacy programme or customer advisory board.

4. Tell a complete story with your data.

Using only structured data in your VoC initiatives is like having a one-sided coin. It doesn’t depict the full story. In fact, it could actually set you up for a lot of false positives. Rather, combine structured and unstructured feedback data in your analyses. Here at HOED Research, we’re big on using quantitative and qualitative data from many sources to help tell a complete story.

5. Develop a plan to close the feedback loop.

This is the biggest challenge for VoC programmes in obtaining actionable insights from collected feedback, dispersed and acknowledged within the business.

This step requires and involves:

  • Collecting and analysing customer feedback data.
  • Extracting actionable insights.
  • Prioritising these insights.
  • Disseminating insights to appropriate personnel.
  • Implementing these insights into business processes and closing the loop with the customer.
  • Re-evaluating and re-surveying on a consistent yet appropriate time scale.

Digitisation has enabled a plethora of CX feedback and insights options to become available, some appropriate and worthwhile whilst others are either too technical or simply inappropriate for the job. At HOED Research we work with multiple third-party applications, on your behalf, as well as our own CX systems, to extract the benefits from each and in turn are able to provide a combined overview of open, valuable and actionable insight reports.

At HOED Research we also offer one-to-one or group presentations via online discussion, post each ‘round’ of feedback insights or a set term such as monthly. Contact the HOED Research team today to further discuss your requirements at sales@hoed.co.nz