Your Flawed Customer Feedback Loop Is Costing You Money

What defines good customer experience? When the customer experience (CX) is positive, customers walk away from every interaction with a company feeling happy and satisfied. Those interactions include marketing campaigns that are thoughtful and well-executed, shopping experiences that are efficient and pleasurable, simplified buying processes, effective post-sales and support options, and the ability to connect with company representatives anytime, anywhere, using any device.

As we seek to measure CX, customer service professionals often think in terms of customer satisfaction outcomes. For metrics, post-interaction surveys, such as customer satisfaction, net promoter score, or your own variant of these, can gauge CX success for the company overall or specifically for the contact center.

The problem is that generic surveys for measuring CX focus on the past, not the present. They provide delayed insights into customer journeys and general information about the interactions, solutions proposed, and representatives who were involved. If we cannot quickly identify where we are falling short of our customers' expectations and feed the lessons back into our organizations, we will limit our potential to improve CX.

How can we address timeliness, seeking a customer's experience immediately after an interaction and personalization by including key, relevant details of the interaction?

To answer this, let's take two examples that illustrate how timely, personal, and relevant surveys can identify specific areas that need improvement, provide pointers to enhance operations and CX, and boost customer loyalty.

Meet Joan: she needs help with an invoice.

Let's start with Joan. She's a long-standing customer who contacts her cable company to challenge a line item on her bill. She identifies herself in the IVR and selects the billing department. After waiting 10 minutes in the queue for an agent, she hangs up. Understandably, Joan is angry that she couldn't connect with the company and resolve her problem. She resolves that when she finds the time to call back and get the problem corrected, she'll also make sure to comment on the company's poor customer service.

I'm going out on a limb here to say that Joan is probably not expecting to hear back from that finance department anytime soon. If we took her NPS pulse, she'd probably indicate that she's a detractor. But it's an unfortunate part of her journey, and within minutes of her hanging up, her incomplete call and status as a high-value customer is noted.

The next day, when Joan calls back, she's put through to Wendy, who is ready to assist with her billing question and quickly rectifies the billing problem.

Directly after this call, Joan receives a text message inviting her to provide her opinion about the billing department's responsiveness. It asks her to rate Wendy's response to her billing problem and her opinion of the company's commitment to resolving her issues.

The survey recognizes her long-standing relationship with the company, addresses her by name, includes Wendy's name and the nature of her billing problem, and the steps Wendy took to resolve her problem. It also asks her how the company might improve its customer service: Faster connection with an agent? Easier callback options? How could they improve their invoices?

After completing this survey, she's no longer angry. In fact she's impressed that the company quickly reconnected to close the loop on her billing problem. And the survey itself reinforced the company's attention to detail and dedication to a good outcome. Quite possibly, this experience has created a long-lasting impression on Joan—one that she might share with others.

Meanwhile, the cable company has made some valuable observations. The survey goes directly to Wendy's boss, who can now advocate for a virtual queueing service to remediate the long hold times. It's also sent to the product and experience design teams, who discover that there's a system-wide issue with an incorrect bill and make immediate corrections to help all customers like Joan and mitigate the possibility of more frustrated customers calling in.

The key success factors here are timeliness, personalization, and the instantaneous application of customer feedback. Without waiting weeks to see trends, this company can mobilize changes based on real-time feedback. In terms of sophistication, this is several notches above what most companies aim for with their customer surveys, but new technology is making it easy for any company to implement just this approach.

Meet Ed: he's got an urgent technical issue.

Ed is a repeat-purchase customer. His electronics product has stopped working, and Ed has been searching the company website support pages to figure out how to fix it. After 12 minutes of fruitless keyword searching and "Did this page answer your question?" frustration, he finally gives up and calls support. He spends 15 minutes waiting for an agent and an additional 20 minutes online with the agent to diagnose the problem and set up a store visit for a product exchange. Ed is frustrated that it took so long but happy, overall, that his problem is closer to resolution.

Because we can track Ed's interactions with the company, we have some useful details about his experience: the product, the problem, the time he spent searching the support pages and the search terms he used, his hold time, and to which agent he spoke. We also know which actions the agent recommended during the call to diagnose the issue, what the agent determined is causing the problem, and that we'll see Ed soon in a retail store to exchange the product.

Once Ed completes his call, we send him a voice survey that focuses on the product exchange and his opinion of the overall experience. From this, we discover that Ed was frustrated that he had to walk through five different processes with the agent on the phone—something he could have done on his own in the digital self-serve channel. We also learn that Ed had to be escalated to another rep because the first one didn't have the knowledge to answer his problem. It was the more skilled rep who determined he needed to go into the store for a replacement.

With the right tools, these survey results deliver timely feedback into a Slack channel with digital teams so they know they need to add two or three more articles to cover processes performed over the phone. And the team also sees that, for this issue, customers need to be routed immediately to a tier-two rep after confirming that they've done the troubleshooting processes on their own.

This brings drastic improvement to digital containment (customers like Ed will have more self-serve troubleshooting resources next time) and improve average handle time for the agents since there's now documentation about this issue and the steps needed to replace the product. And, since agent time is the most costly part of customer service, this instantly reduces operational costs.

Plan for responsive CX in 2022.

As you plan your customer-feedback initiatives for 2022, think about how you might add more timeliness, relevance, and personalization to your surveys. Review what your team has learned about meeting your customers' expectations during the pandemic. Think about how you will meet customers in their preferred channels (phone, text, chat, email, or web). And, lastly, consider which process changes you should make to close customer-feedback loops faster and improve your operations in response to recent (not delayed) feedback.

Matt DiMaria is president and CEO of VHT.