6 Steps for Actionable Customer Listening


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In this day and age, it's practically a given that every company will issue a customer satisfaction survey. But it's not a given that every survey will improve customer satisfaction. Think about your own survey. Are you collecting accurate data? Is your customer feedback actionable? Does it clearly indicate your gaps and opportunities?

Lots of customer listening programs suffer from a host of flaws and biases. Examples of common flaws include:

  • surveys that are so long that they alienate customers;
  • surveys that force customers to choose from irrelevant multiple-choice options; and
  • surveys in which customer comments are never properly analyzed.

Good data reflects the experiences your customers actually have with your company. Furthermore, good data equips your company to take action. This six-step process will help you develop a satisfaction survey that probes truthfully into the heart of your gaps and opportunities.

Step 1. Evaluation. Take a comprehensive look at your recent surveys. Work through each of your current survey questions individually. The goal is to isolate and identify which questions can be asked in better ways. Check for:

  • Neutrality: Are your questions impartial so you don't force the answers you want?
  • Engagement: Are questions conversational so that customers will want to respond?
  • Relevance: Are customers given the option of skipping questions that don't apply to them?
  • Sampling Biases: Do your respondents represent your customer base?
  • Actionability: Are you asking for information that can be put to use?

Step 2. Customization. Consider who you are and what you need to know. To make sure your survey is specific to your particular customers and company, ask yourself:

  • Who are our customers? How engaged are they?
  • If we could only know a few things about our customers, what would they be?
  • What's the vocabulary our customers use?
  • What was most inconclusive about our last survey?

Step 3. Wireframe. Develop and apply survey logic to maximize relevance. Don't force a customer to scroll through 10 questions about your policies if she's never had a policy issue. Your survey should employ an advanced logic that branches based on each customer's role, and the touch points they've interacted with.

Step 4. Questions. Develop targeted questions and engaging formats. Don't just Google "customer satisfaction survey questions" and adapt questions from someone else's survey template. If you're asking your customers for their time, you'll need to spend your time making sure your questions are meaningful. In this order, we recommend the following:

  • Ask each of your departments where they want to see feedback.
  • Write an initial set of questions.
  • Internally test those questions; make edits.
  • Incorporate outside feedback; edit again.
  • Integrate questions with survey logic and a variety of answer formats (slide bar, drop lists, etc.).

Step 5. Analysis. Run statistical tests and deeply mine customers' comments. If you have a large set of respondents, multiple-choice answers can be analyzed for results that are predictive and detect potential issues. However, regardless of how many responses you get, you need to examine customer comments in detail. Analyzing your customers' stream-of-consciousness comments is critically important because it's the only way to:

  • test hypotheses inherent in the multiple-choice areas of your survey;
  • allow unsolicited customer themes to emerge;
  • identify customer vocabulary; and
  • uncover the root causes driving customer complaints.

Step 6. Presentation. Your findings should provide easy-to-understand metrics and include next steps.

You will need to present a few scores in order to motivate your team. Examples of great customer experience metrics that track progress over time are: customer effort, competitive edge, and Quality of Customer Interaction Scores. Beyond that, your presentation should highlight key themes, clearly supported by your customers' own words.

In sum, not all surveys are equal. In fact, many produce data that may not even be correct. Our six-step process ensures you'll get accurate customer feedback that can be translated into action—and shows customers you care and that they're being heard!