Over the last few years, we have seen major advancements in obtaining customer feedback, and technology. Surveys are dying out, and artificially intelligent robots are communicating with us at the speed of light. 

Let’s put them together – how is the new form of AI impacting our collection of customer feedback? How can one utilise the other? How could one hinder the other? 

To help us understand, we have been given the chance to interview Reputation’s CMO, Liz Carter. Liz oversees Reputation’s global marketing organisation, which includes demand gen, product marketing and corporate marketing function. She is an experienced marketing leader who has built and managed high performing teams that deliver results across demand gen, communications, corporate events, field marketing and thought leadership. 

There’s been plenty of research recently about the shift away from customer surveys as the best form of feedback. What do you think of this, and how should businesses be adapting to this? What is next?

Surveys have always been one piece of data in a business’ desire to understand customer feedback. But what we know is that businesses need and want a multi-channel approach to understanding feedback. 

In addition to surveys, online reviews, social media comments and ratings on other online forums can provide a more complete picture of what works well and where improvements can be made. A holistic approach enables brands to deliver better experiences by making strategic decisions rooted in actionable insights. 

As for what’s next – with AI becoming more prevalent, two things will start to play out for businesses. First, we’ll see that publicly available data from reviews and business listings will fuel AI-powered search engines – meaning private survey data won’t help you in your online reputation. Additionally, businesses will want to be able to get richer insights at a faster pace, so platforms that use AI for natural language processing will gain dominance, as they enable organisations to get those insights from public feedback quickly. However, having a multi-channel feedback approach will be key, as we know you need to gather insights from a variety of sources to truly understand your customer experience. 

What would you say is the best platform or channel to accept customer feedback from; which is the most trustworthy? i.e. an outside public source like Google reviews, or your internal survey platform created by your own team?

Some feedback channels might take priority depending on business goals, but in general the idea is to leverage multiple channels of feedback in order to have a full picture of your customer experience. Surveys provide one piece of that picture – but we all know they can be gamed – so if you only rely on them, you’ll never have a complete view. Similarly, if you only look at Google Reviews, you will limit your view of the customer experience to that of customers leaving those proactive reviews. 

Different forms of feedback will be made available at each part of the customer journey. At what touchpoint do you think gaining that customer feedback is the most valuable? 

The most valuable touchpoint for gathering customer feedback is right after each transaction. Exact timing after can vary depending on industry, but this approach enables the customer to provide as much detail as possible, as the experience will be fresh in their minds.

There’s a fine line between a proactive upkeep of communication with customers, and coming across as bombarding them where they tend to turn away from your brand. With this in mind, how often should companies be asking for feedback?

We are moving to a much more customer-led buying journey. They are doing research, finding you online, reading reviews and coming in armed with a lot more knowledge about what the experience should look like. We have to create ways in which we meet them where they are and give them opportunities to leave feedback or engage with them along the way. This means an orchestrated effort of opportunities for feedback online, in email or text after your transaction and then keeping your eye on social interactions as well.

The reality is that understanding what is happening along your customer journey is really important and you should have different ways to manage receiving and analysing that feedback. Traditionally getting feedback right after a transaction is a time where the journey is fresh in a customer’s mind. However, other methods work as well. Some of our Reputation customers have empowered their customers to leave feedback during their service appointment – our customer then reacts in real time at the location and individual level.

How should businesses take on and respond to complaints and genuine constructive criticism? Especially those that are on public platforms.

Negative feedback is both a great learning experience and an opportunity to strategically improve. Engaging with customers that leave negative feedback and responding as quickly as possible is key. If it is in a public forum, you should post a response that outlines you’ve heard the feedback, and what you are doing to rectify the situation either for the customer, future customers or preferably both and provide a way for them to take the conversation offline.

Once you have a private conversation with the customer, ask questions that will help you understand the root cause of their experience and work to rectify the situation. If the customer is satisfied with the resolution, you can ask them if they’d be comfortable leaving an updated review. 

We’re now in the age of AI. How do you see it being used to gain feedback and sentiment from customers?

It’s no secret that AI is now everywhere. From responding to customers via chatbots to analysing customer feedback through natural language processing, AI has enabled brands to more efficiently communicate with customers. With generative AI becoming more widely used, we will likely see more advanced analysis and customer interactions. 

Additionally, customer search behavior might start to change, making it even more important for brands to be aware of how they show up online in publicly searchable forums. On the flip side, AI could also empower brands to analyse customer feedback in real-time. This will make the world of customer experience even more important as businesses will be expected to have a more buttoned-up plan for listening to and responding to their customers. With so much innovation coming from AI, it is wise for CX and marketing leaders to remember that the technology is evolving daily.

Brands should continue to exercise caution when leveraging AI in their businesses, and remember that the best customer experiences are also fueled by human interaction. So while AI tools can help speed up certain processes, it should be used in tandem with humans, not as a replacement.

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