This is the #4 Principle in the series, Core Principles for Delivering an Exceptional Customer Experience.
There are two opportunities inherent in every customer service interaction. The first is to deliver an exceptional experience, one that differentiates your company and builds customer loyalty. The second is the opportunity to listen, to learn what is really important to your customers. The first of these opportunities has been the primary focus of this blog series thus far, so today we want to turn our attention to the latter.
CUSTOMER FEEDBACK IS ESSENTIAL
Customer expectations are constantly increasing as consumers become more demanding of the companies that are going to earn their business. Microsoft’s 2019 State of Global Customer Service Report backs this up, with 59% of customers reporting having higher service expectations today than they did one year ago.
Today’s consumers are not judging you against other players in your own industry; rather they are judging your company against the best practices to be found anywhere – setting an extremely high bar. The best companies out there are always looking to better know their customers, to understand not just what they are looking for, but also the underlying need. Listening to the customer entails not only determining their sentiment towards your company, but also what the drivers of that sentiment are. While it is clearly important to understand what is behind negative feeling so that any issues or service breakdowns can be addressed, it is also crucial to understand the drivers of positive customer sentiment, so that those behaviors can be replicated, allowing you to reap the benefits of more and more satisfied customers.
TYPES OF CUSTOMER FEEDBACK
Customer feedback can tell you a lot about a lot. Below are just some of the areas where feedback can shine a light on what you are doing, and how you could be doing it better.
- Service within your own channel
- Service through other channels
- Breakdowns between service channels
- How they want to interact
- How to optimize customer journeys
- Processes and procedures – how they want to conduct business
While much of the focus on customer feedback is on the service and customer interactions, it is not limited to that either. Customer feedback can also be used to build forward-looking products and/or product features. Those companies that have their finger on the pulse of customer’s needs will be the first to offer the product features that will be in demand tomorrow, putting them ahead of the curve.
Feedback can come from a variety of sources, all of which can work together to build a complete picture of customer sentiment, wants and desires.
Surveys are the most prevalent source of customer feedback and are great in that they can produce a high volume of customer insight, but they do suffer from a number of limitations. With so many companies employing surveys one each and every customer touchpoint, survey fatigue has become a very real thing, and can turn people off. Surveys are also prone to a participation bias, where only outliers (whether good or bad) are taking the time to fill them out.
Customer Service Representatives are on the front line and can be a fantastic source of customer feedback, providing that they are taking the time to listen, and that you are taking the time to listen to them. Unsolicited feedback is the gold standard. If the customer is taking the time to tell you how they feel without being asked, it is clearly something that matters. Representatives should not only be trained to capture this feedback and pass it along, but also take the time to probe the customer to get all of the details to make that feedback as actionable as possible.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning can also help us listen to our customers. Speech analytics is able to mine the words coming out of your customer’s mouths to gain valuable insight. Other forms of machine learning are able to focus not just on what your customer is saying, but is also able to listen to what your customers are doing when interacting with tools such as a website, a mobile app or an IVR system. Interactions across and between channels, such as calling the contact center after spending time on a particular part of the company website can also speak volumes and help improve the overall customer journey.
Follow up conversations can be extremely valuable in cases where a customer has had a negative experience. A trained customer experience analyst taking the time to reach out to a potentially dissatisfied customer is a great way to perform root cause analysis and really dive into what went wrong, and how to avoid similar issues in the future. As an added bonus, customers love feeling heard and proactively reaching out after an issue is a great way to recover from a bad service experience.
- By Brendan Yeager