It's Time to Stop Surveying Customers

Surveys stink. Whether you're a consumer being asked to remain on the line after your interaction to answer a few questions about your experience or a customer service manager trying to make sense of customer responses, most customer surveys are at worst a waste of money and at best an unnecessary burden. Let's look at why:

  • Your sample is biased. Because you're only asking questions of customers who have chosen to interact with you, you're not getting a full picture of customer experiences, both satisfied and unsatisfied. Add to that the fact that there's bias by channel (customers are more likely to give a low ranking to an automated channel than a human being) and bias toward the outcome of the most recent interaction, any data gathered is only a limited and unrepresentative snapshot of what customers actually think and feel about your brand.
  • You're looking backwards. Unless you're proactively asking customers about what they expect of you and analyzing those results in near real time, you're only getting data about what has happened in the past, not things upon which you can act or correct in the moment. While the data (despite bias) can be helpful for training purposes, you've missed the opportunity to improve the customer experience in real time.
  • You're asking customers to do your work for you. With every in-person interaction recorded and the ability to use tools to analyze the effort and outcomes of digital ones, there's no need today to ask customers about the quality of their experiences: you can get a more accurate, reliable, and complete view of customer experience quality by analyzing the engagements themselves, at scale, in real time, without asking customers to spend more time with you.

Today, customer service organizations should be ditching surveys and instead investing time and resources in natural language processing (NLP), artificial intelligence (AI), and real-time interaction monitoring tools (regardless of channel) to understand what's happening with each customer interaction and using that to make each experience better. Here are a few guidelines to help optimize your efforts and outcomes:

  • When selecting technologies, choose cloud solutions, pretrained models and libraries for your industries, and tools with low-code/no-code capabilities that business users can manage with limited IT intervention. This will keep deployment and support costs low, enable you to get more value over time with minimal effort, and reduce risk.
  • Prepare managers to act on service and product quality data and empower them to drive product and service changes based on that data. We've found that when managers can understand trends and issues in real time at scale, they can have a real impact on changing processes and products that improve customer experience, provided the business listens to them.
  • Move toward giving agents real-time coaching in the moment and train them on how to use it. Obviously, agents will need to trust the coaching to be successful but will also need to balance data and empathy, as well as critical thinking, to ensure the technology keeps them and the customer on the right track.
  • Don't forget digital channels. We often forget that the customer interaction begins in many different places—the Web, an app, social channels—not simply when a customer initiates one-on-one contact. Using inobtrusive tools that measure the effort and quality of self-service interactions and using that data to make continuous improvements will improve customer experiences and give you more data on customer experience quality than you'd ever get from even extensive surveys.

The business case for using technology, not surveys, to really understand customers is clear. Valoir has found that companies taking this approach can eliminate costly survey and analysis costs while increasing the ability of quality teams and managers to review cases by up to 20 times, reducing agent training and onboarding time and cost, and driving sustainable improvements in both customer and agent experience.

Rebecca Wettemann is founder and CEO of Valoir.