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The three golden rules of customer feedback.

In this Guide…

Wondering about NPS, CSAT or Customer Effort Score? This guide cuts through all the competing claims to focus on three more important principles that will guarantee success, whichever method you use.

If you believe that a successful business depends on happy customers you’ll want to make sure you’re using the best method to measure and improve customer satisfaction.

The problem is that there are lots of competing methods like NPS, CSAT, Customer Effort Score, all with their fans and critics.

It’s even harder to work out what to do when technology vendors muddy the waters, saying you also need text analytics or AI or, well, whatever it is they sell. Although their claims are seductive, and sometimes these technologies can play a part, the truth is that for most companies they’re literally the last thing you should be doing.

And the traditional approach to customer satisfaction instinctively feels wrong to most of us too - it’s no fun for customers when they receive long surveys, poorly timed, with seemingly no action ever taken.

Fortunately you don’t need to get hung up on whether NPS is better than CSAT, or whether a 7-point customer effort scale beats a 5-point scale. Following these three principles will make a much bigger impact on your business and your customers’ experience.

The golden rules are designed to achieve a clear goal:

Customer feedback should make a direct impact on the business.

Basically, you’re not doing it right unless timely feedback is being used to improve the customer’s experience - and driving concrete upticks in spend, retention and word-of-mouth recommendations.

The key to unlocking all these benefits is to change feedback from a soul-destroying survey completion into an experience with a positive outcome.

Best of all, it’s really easy once you know how.

1. Ask for feedback at the best time.

Everyone we speak to wants the highest response rates and the best quality data. Of course they do - on the one hand if you’re already getting feedback you want more because you’ve discovered how incredibly useful it is. On the other hand, it can be a big disappointment if you’ve just started sending out satisfaction surveys but instead of the flood of inspirational insights you were expecting…you get a trickle.

So how can you get higher response rates for surveys, and better quality data?

Timing is a critical factor.

It’s a hard lesson to learn when you’re full of enthusiasm about finally collecting customer feedback, but the worst time to ask for feedback is when you decide you want some. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t start your project - collecting customer feedback systematically will make a huge impact - but think it through first and be very careful about timing.

So when’s the best time to ask for customer feedback?

We know from the evidence we’ve amassed through hundreds of implementations and millions of survey completions, that the best times to ask for feedback are the times when your customers are most likely to want to give feedback.

That may sound like an obvious answer but in practice it will translate to different times for different companies, because it depends on quite a few factors. The best time could be after they’re established as a new client if you’re in services, after they’ve received the product if you’re in online retail, or after they’ve phoned your customer service agents if you’re an energy company.

In fact you’re best to map out your customer journeys and pinpoint the times when your customers interact with you and rely on you most. If you then apply this principle for working out the best times, it becomes easy.

The skill is in choosing the time based on the customer’s point of view, rather than when you decide you want to send out surveys.

Incidentally, focusing on timing also flips on its head the usual ‘go to’ for increasing response rates - which is to blitz customers with reminders. Even if reminders do get you a little more data, it’s at the cost of pestering your customers, and that’s a very bad experience for them. Isn’t it crazy to try and improve customer experience in one place while making it worse in another?

You can use our guide to learn the principle and work out the best time to ask for feedback for your company and your customers.

Combining that with your expert knowledge of your own business and your understanding of how you deal with your customers, you can get the timing just right.

You can’t get better results than asking for feedback when customers have the strongest desire to give it.

2. Make it impressively easy for customers to give feedback.

Another way to increase the volume and quality of feedback is to make it fast and easy. Aim for 20 seconds. Don’t limit it to that, a customer may want to tell you more, but don’t force them to spend longer.

There are two reasons why this is important. The first and most obvious is that a customer only needs about 20 seconds to tell you how they feel about you and why it’s positive, or what you need to do better.

Keeping it short shows that you’re thinking of their interests and respecting their time, and that’s key to a good customer experience.

The second reason is that if you burden customers to complete a long survey it’s counter-productive in other ways too. Not only is it frustrating, but you’ll reduce response rates and learn less. Because although customers do want to give feedback (of course they want suppliers to listen to them and meet their needs better), they’re not happy about the long, time-consuming surveys that most companies use.

Keep it fast and simple, and only ask questions about things that are important to your customers.

You can learn about the best questions for a customer satisfaction survey in our guide.

3. Act on feedback as the customer would reasonably expect.

Once you’re receiving good volumes of high quality feedback it might feel like mission accomplished.

But for your customers nothing has changed at this point, so your job’s certainly not finished if your goal is to improve customer satisfaction rather than just measure it.

In fact however well intentioned you are about using their feedback to make improvements, unless you have a well-defined process for follow-up, the danger is they’ll wonder why they invested time to give feedback at all because it will feel to them as though their comments have been completely ignored. Regrettably, and you’ll know this if you ever complete satisfaction surveys, this is usually true.

Without a carefully designed follow-up strategy you will:

  • Leave customers feeling ignored, and unlikely to recommend you to others;
  • Further anger, or even lose, customers who have reported urgent issues in feedback which are causing them pain;
  • Receive mediocre satisfaction scores and miss out on the financial benefits that an increase in satisfaction should drive.

That means there’s a negative financial impact if you don’t follow up effectively, rather than the positive impact you were hoping for, and it’s why the third golden rule is the most important.

Feedback is a two-edged sword. If you invite it, you can really impress your customers by making them feel that you’ve listened to them. And they’ll be much more likely to continue giving you feedback in future. It becomes a virtuous circle.

However if you invite feedback and don’t act on it, or at least respond in a way they might reasonably expect, then it sends a signal that you’ve ignored it. And that’s worse than not asking at all because you’ve raised customers’ expectations, and then failed to meet them.

A good follow-up strategy leads to an excellent reputation.

Sometimes people worry that it will create a lot of extra work, and goodness knows we’re all busy enough already. But if there was ever an opportunity to work smarter rather than harder, this is it.

In fact not following up on feedback means you’re effectively accepting the risk of losing customers. Compare it to following up a list of qualified sales leads (which hopefully needs no encouragement). Both activities generate revenue, it’s just that one does it by increasing new business and the other does it by increasing retention and word-of-mouth referrals.

So to sum up, here are the Three Golden Rules again:

  1. Ask at the best times.
  2. Make it impressively easy to give feedback.
  3. There’s no impact unless you follow up.

Whichever scale or method of scoring you use, the three golden rules benefit both company and customer. A positive experience for a customer who gives feedback leads to better business for the company.

Read the case studies our customers have written to discover how this approach has helped their businesses.

Other resources to link to

Read more:

Why is Customer Feedback Important?

Feedback is important. But collecting it in a way which respects your customers is more important still. Here’s all nine benefits you’ll see when you’re get it right.

When Should I Ask Customers For Feedback?

Real time feedback is great. But done wrong, it can be a nightmare for both you and your customers. Learn when to do it, and how to do it well…

See how CustomerSure could work for you

To find out more about how CustomerSure could help you, get in touch today.

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