Lindsay WillottLindsay WillottJune 24, 2019
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10min1606

Einstein once said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome.

When an action yields a poor result, it stands to reason that the action should be modified, not endlessly repeated. This is especially pertinent in business when every action requires resource and we need to see increasing returns if we are to achieve business growth. Why then, are so many businesses still investing in sending long customer and employee satisfaction surveys, when response rates are so low and falling year on year?

Genius idea: Shorter surveys are much more appealing for customers

When email surveys first started they were revolutionary. They were an innovative and refreshing alternative to the manual process of going person-to-person with a clip-board and pen or calling people individually on the phone. However time has moved on – the vast majority of us now consider a long email survey to be spam. Most of us don’t even open them and with actual response rates now dipping below five percent, it’s fair to say that the insight they glean is limited to say the least. The fact is, unfortunately, any representative customer survey that receives a low response rate suffers from statistical bias.

Obviously the need for timely customer insight has never been greater – especially in the era of digitisation when unhappy customers have a much greater choice of platforms to vocalise any issue that they have with your brand. However, that doesn’t mean that the poorly performing long survey should be put on a rinse and repeat cycle until we eventually hit a point where no one responds.

Instead, it’s time we looked at the institutionalised notion of long surveys with a fresh pair of eyes and debunk the myths that keep us clinging onto old habits, so we can start to look at fresh alternatives.

Myth 1: Surveys should be long because we’ve always done it this way

The traditional 10-question customer satisfaction survey has a lot in common with the multiple-choice market research questionnaires originally developed in the 1940s.

This is no coincidence. Such was the astute brilliance of customer questionnaires and their impact on the development of market intelligence in the post-war era, that when some bright spark adopted the entire methodology and applied it to the quest for customer satisfaction, nobody challenged it.

Myth 2: A survey designed by committee brings benefits to all

Stripped down to its bare bones, a purposeful and focused customer satisfaction survey appears conspicuously short – too short to be an efficient use of corporate resources. What’s more, if the people in charge of understanding customer satisfaction are the only ones allowed to design its questions, this could cast a disempowering and wholly undemocratic shadow on the rest of the organisation.

Such misguided thinking inevitably gives rise to the ‘Frankensurvey’ – a monstrous, oversized collaboration of disparate parts unwittingly borne out of a quest for perfection.

Myth 3: Don’t worry about the poor response rate, we’ll just ask another million customers

Ignoring the impact of bias and focusing purely on the response rate is a pragmatic – albeit slightly delusional – way of making the survey participation challenge into a pure numbers game. If upping the response rate is too difficult because the survey itself can’t be compromised, then attention turns to increasing the number of actual responses to a level deemed ‘representative’. Tactics for achieving this objective typically involve repeatedly issuing the survey to the same respondent, and/or extending the overall pool of respondents. The cost of doing so is negligible, so why not fill your boots?

More equals less: The more customers surveyed, the more relationships are potentially damaged

Bear in mind that to achieve a sample of 1,000 customers on a one percent response rate means pestering 1m customers, 999,000 of whom will regard the invitation with indifference, despair, or somewhere inbetween.

Myth 4: All of these stats are going to be unbelievably useful when I present them to the board

The results of your Frankensurvey are in, and its extensive length and complexity has been thoroughly vindicated by the sheer volume of data amassed. Should anyone wish to explore it, there’s plenty of detailed justification for strategies adopted and processes implemented.

What’s missing is the clarity and accuracy of the objective: to improve customer satisfaction. As Seth Godin put it: “Don’t ask a question unless you truly care about the answer.”

Are you insulating yourself with data, or are you engendering happiness? It’s also worth bearing in mind that in the vast majority of cases, the information you glean is out of date by the time you receive and process it. For example, capturing data on an unhappy customer is most beneficial when you catch it quickly and can act to rectify it – thereby turning an unhappy customer into a potential advocate.

Myth 5: The customer journey is one thing and the customer satisfaction survey is something else

Organisations rightly pool their resources and intellect into the optimum ‘customer journey’ – everyone in the company prioritises and values it. You’re all about ‘injecting delight’ and ‘promoting effortlessness’. You get a tangible ROI from shaving nanoseconds off the time it takes for a payment to process via your website.

So why on earth are so many organisations failing to make customer satisfaction surveys a seamless part of the customer journey? Is it really good enough to put so much effort into positive Customer Experience, just to undermine it all by emailing a 10-question customer survey three days later?

Our survey says…: The era of long surveys is over

Ultimately the era of the long customer survey is over – the key now is to capture and respond to feedback in the moment, whenever they engage with your brand. Technology is allowing businesses to get closer to customers in real time, as and when they interact with their products and services.

Leading brands like Amazon, Uber, Reed and Selfridges have spotted this trend. They need customer feedback to keep delivering the right service to their customers, but with the death of the long survey, they’ve had to change how they get that feedback. Instead they are opting for short feedback across interactions, which gives them fantastic insight across the customer journey.


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10min1553

Customer Experience is a global movement – across the world, an increasing number of companies are understanding the business case for focusing on the customer, and are seeking the right tools to achieve this goal.

Some countries have, however, reached a greater level of CX maturity than others. The roots of CX culture run deepest in the United States, where organisations such as Amazon have set a global standard in customer centricity.

In fact, an Ipsos + Medallia study indicated that 19 percent of US customers feel their expectations were exceeded in online retail experiences, compared to just nine percent of UK customers.

While there remains considerable variation among sectors – only 11 percent of American customers feel similarly positive about their offline retail encounters – there is also a striking difference in CX perception among countries.

             

 

In Germany, relatively few online retail customers say their expectations were exceeded – eight percent compared to 19 percent in the US.

Customer Experience in the UK lies somewhere between these two extremes; more sophisticated than in Germany, but not yet at the level of the US. Some UK sectors, such as the hotel industry, perform particularly well, with 21 percent of customers saying their expectations were exceeded. Yet the overall average across sectors is under 10 percent – well behind the US figure of 17.3 percent.

So the UK is getting there with Customer Experience, but it’s far from consistent and there is still significant progress to be made. The question at this stage is: what can UK companies do to take Customer Experience to the next level and establish themselves as the uncontested CX leaders of Europe?

1. Be smart about your surveys

There is a tricky balance to strike in Customer Experience: you want to know as much as possible about your customers, but they don’t want to spend all afternoon answering your surveys. Fortunately, a limited number of open-ended questions will typically get your customers sharing their most pressing concerns.

This is why it’s so important to get surveys right. The best time for your customers to answer questions is in the moment, when memories of the interaction are still fresh and likely to elicit the most accurate responses.

A great way of capturing these fresh opinions is by embedding surveys throughout your customer journey. These provide more granular responses than general end-of-transaction emails, and they’re a great addition to your CX toolkit.

It’s now possible to embed surveys at highly specific stages of the journey, such as when customers are watching media-heavy content or reading product pages and descriptions. You can decide which approach is best for the specific needs of your business.

2. Use real-time text analytics

Qualitative feedback is essential for gaining a more nuanced understanding of customer issues. Many companies in the UK still employ large teams of people to sift through this feedback, looking for trends, but the truth is that technology can enable your staff to make smarter, data-based decisions while saving valuable time.

For example, text analytics can identify the tone of written responses using artificial intelligence, automatically sorting them into clusters and enabling you to identify and prioritise the most important areas going forward.

This enables your team to operate at a higher level, interpreting the findings from your text analytics and putting them to good use.

3. Bring Customer Experience into instant messaging

Capturing feedback at the right time, and on the right channel, is vital. However, instant messaging integration isn’t just about feedback – you can also include targeted features that your customer will really appreciate, such as holiday or entertainment recommendations.

Using platforms like WhatsApp or Messenger also enables customers to share a wider range of media by uploading videos or sending photos while having a more convenient and frictionless feedback experience.

4. Integrate with voice technology

Abound 10 million Brits use a smart speaker, and that number is expected to grow by a third in 2019. Since this is an increasingly significant touchpoint, it’s important to measure precisely what customers think.

It is now possible to integrate surveys with Alexa and other web-connected devices through solutions such as Medallia’s Digital Anywhere.

When you combine these insights with data about how your customers interact with IoT (Internet of Things) devices, you can get a clear picture of their priorities across the whole customer journey. It’s also important to remember that Customer Experience expectations continue to rise. If your CX innovations don’t keep up with consumer trends, how do you expect to retain customers?

5. Do more to personalise

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to Customer Experience. Customers will respond differently depending on the circumstance. Being sensitive to these nuances is crucial for anyone working in CX. For instance, if a passenger’s flight has just been cancelled, that may not be the best time to ask for feedback: it will most likely serve to irritate them.

The more advanced the technology you have informing your CX strategy, the more you will be able to personalise and deliver outstanding experiences.

6. Incorporate artificial intelligence platforms

The potential for this goes far beyond text analytics, and we’re now seeing revolutionary new products using AI to optimise Customer Experience. AI-driven CX solutions can deliver targeted, precise insights about every touchpoint in your customer journey.

Beyond helping you understand qualitative feedback, these types of advanced solutions automatically assess your survey responses and can help you predict the impact of changes to your CX strategy.

What next for the UK?

Although a European leader, there remains a significant CX gap between the UK and the US. It’s only by harnessing world-beating technology that Britain will be able to deliver experiences to that same high standard.

Whether it’s collecting feedback in a smarter, less intrusive way, or using artificial intelligence to inform decisions, truly embracing the digital revolution and adopting more advanced CX capabilities is the best way to enhance Customer Experience.

 

 


Jamie ThorpeJamie ThorpeFebruary 15, 2019
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10min895

There’s no doubt about it – we’re seeing an epidemic of survey fatigue, and consumers and businesses are both suffering.    

A third of people will walk away from a brand they love after one bad experience – and that includes any follow up research.  There’s so much we want to know from our customers, but with requests for feedback constantly increasing, we risk turning off consumers with research that feels onerous and ‘old school’.

Brands need to stay focused. It’s not good enough to simply migrate old questionnaires onto newer platforms like mobile and hope for the best. Instead, brands should be thinking leaner and lighter. Here’s how:

Put yourself in the right shoes

Not yours – your customers’. Surveys shouldn’t overstretch your audience, bore them, or make them wonder what the point was.  A survey is part of their overall Customer Experience. With that in mind, make it feel right for the moment. Don’t ask everything at once – make the questions relevant and sensible. 

Get on with it

Don’t spread yourself too thin. Focus on a single aspect of their experience – one that is still fresh in their minds. By respecting the customer’s time and keeping things short and easy you’ll reduce drop-out rates, meaning you’ve got more insight to work with.

Look for the nuance

Shorter doesn’t mean multiple choice. Think about text analysis, and where written responses (and increasingly, feedback relayed via voice, video, photos, and even emoji) could help you identify key themes, pinch points, or barriers for your customers. If you’re worried about this making your survey more difficult to complete, especially if users are on mobile devices, even asking for descriptive words will help – you’re not looking for chapter and verse. 

Some companies are even moving back to interactive voice response (IVR) technology, because they understand that it’s easier for the customer to talk than to type – and that this often generates a more honest response. 

Technique matters

A series of questions measured against the same scale makes it easy for respondents to lose focus. That’s when they start simply answering ‘agree’ to everything or scoring all questions the same, because it saves thinking effort and gets them to the end of the survey faster. It’s a sure-fire way to get poor quality results. Shake things up to avoid it happening.

Make it personal

If someone’s a regular customer they don’t want to see the same old survey over and over again – survey fatigue is bad enough already. If you can, use transactional information to make your questions relevant to your customers’ experiences: dates, locations, money spent – anything that shows that you know them, and that you want to learn something specific from their feedback. Don’t show you know them too much though. Privacy is important, so don’t go against GDPR and the MRS Code of Conduct.

Give it energy

Ask a dull question and get a dull response. Instead, be creative and challenge consumers to be different. Try asking questions like: “What would you change if you were our CEO for the day?”, “If we were in a customer service competition, what medal would you give us?”, or “Would you employ one of our staff in your business?”.  

Don’t do it for the sake of differentiation or frivolity though – remember your resulting responses still need to be valuable and actionable. 

Stay on brand

Every survey is a golden opportunity to get people to engage with your brand. It’s a chance to strengthen relationships with customers and show you value them. Work closely with your marketing team to make sure that your surveys reflect your brand values and are true to its tone of voice. It might feel like you’re relinquishing control but these experts know what works, and when it comes to Customer Experience no organisation should be operating in silos.

Remember, the last impression you leave is often the most enduring, so the way you deliver your survey is going to be the way people will recall your brand.

Test it till it hurts

Test everything: your ideas, your subject lines, and your questions. Will they give you varied, insightful responses? Make every element of your survey work as hard as possible. Repeat to yourself: there’s huge benefit in marginal gains. 

Appreciate the limitations

There’s no doubt that surveys can deliver value, but they’re not the only way to gather feedback. Even when designed well, you’ll only ever receive responses from a small proportion of the survey field, and those customers who do complete them may naturally share common characteristics and preferences – something frustrated CX teams would be quick to confirm.

Think about what surveys are not giving you – are you trying to validate existing data, or fill in gaps in information? Or are you trying to gauge the opinion of a hard-to-reach group, or tap into unsolicited feedback?

Consider harvesting social data, using text or voice analysis or predictive analytics. Remember: the average NPS score of a company which integrates feedback from four or more different channels is 14 points higher than the baseline. Not convinced?  One airline we worked with saw a one percent increase in NPS translate to more than 100,000 extra bookings a year, so there’s a lot to gain from getting it right. 

And if you’re still thinking “But…!”

Relax. As a first step, concentrate on in-the-moment feedback – there’s never a better moment than now. Capturing live responses means better quality answers, higher response rates, and the chance to fix any immediate problems your customers are flagging. Once you’ve got that down, you can start joining the dots and creating a bigger picture later.




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