Is the sound of your own voice drowning the Voice of your Customer?

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I read this recently in an article by a leading Customer Experience Management Consultant who was discussing whether the ‘customer feedback survey’ was dead or not. His conclusion was that the survey is still a very valuable tool for engaging with customers, but that businesses need to change the way they do it. Surveys should focus more on allowing customers to tell them about the things that are important to them, rather than forcing the customer to answer questions about things that are important to the business.

Emotions don’t fit on lists

This observation fits with my own experience and fed into our thinking at Opinyin. Personally, I give up on surveys very quickly when they ask me things I don’t care about. I want to provide feedback, but often the closed questions don’t cover what it’s my mind. Okay, they give you the ‘please tell us more’ box after some questions, but I can’t be bothered to fill each one out, and that’s assuming any of the closed questions are relative to how I feel. I want to tell you what I think in my words, in one go, and be done with it! I then want the business to listen to me and demonstrate that they heard me. If you consider how quickly social media became a customer feedback channel, it would seem a lot of people feel the same way.

Value from outside the box

Interestingly, we have seen exactly the issue the CX consultant was talking about recently. A colleague was chatting to a marketing manager the other day about our Opinyin Survey solution and they said, I quote, ‘We do customer surveys, but they largely tell us stuff we already know, so I am not sure they are that valuable’. He asked if that could be because they always asked the same questions, and then enjoyed watching that manager have an epiphany.

Customers spend money, you take a salary – who matters most?

It’s quite not the same thing, but I was speaking to a product manager who wanted to design a survey to ask customers why they didn’t use a new software tool they had developed for them. I suggested that they could simply ask ‘Please tell us why you don’t use our software’. He responded this wouldn’t work as they could get 700 different answers. I suggested they would probably get correlation around the main reasons. But they had prepared 9 reasons they thought we most likely plus the famous ‘other’ with the little text box, and wanted to see which ones got the most votes. That’s historically the mainstream approach and arguably valid, but I think I can pretty much guarantee his answer would be of his 9 reasons, and not the (possibly killer) one that they hadn’t thought of.

These anecdotes demonstrate examples of how businesses are potentially getting in the way of letting their customers tell them what’s important. They are taking a prescribed approach to surveying which, by the very nature of the process, relies on asking closed questions about stuff that often tends to be important to the business and not the customer. If they had taken a discovery-led approach, they would ask open questions like, ‘What do you think of our company?’ They can then discover not just what people really feel but also how strongly they feel about it. I know they would hear not only the things they are expecting, but a load of stuff they did not.

In defence, this is not the businesses being closed-minded or not caring. As you can see from the comment by the marketing manager, they were genuinely frustrated by the lack of value in the prescribed process. Sound familiar? I believe the fault lies in traditional survey tools that just don’t support the discovery process and, in some cases, actually discourage it. The reason? It either relies on a human doing the laborious task of reading lots of qualitative feedback, or the solution being able to accurately turn this qualitative feedback automatically into actionable insights. More challenging is the demand for comparative data and trends. How should we handle the question – “is this better than last year?” or “what has changed since last year?”.  The traditional survey industry relies on consistent data points and data collection to validate its existence.

Going back to my point that I want business to listen to me and then show that they have listened to me, it needs to analyse my unfettered, qualitative feedback, otherwise the business can’t discern what is important to me. And when I say listening, I don’t mean just saying thank you for the feedback. I mean actually responding to my feedback.

Aha, you shout! Isn’t that what AI is promising to do? But as the CX Consultant mentioned above also commented, ‘Too many AI claims have been found wanting out in the wild’. The reason? It’s very difficult to do unless you restrict what people can say and, even then, it requires a large amount of data heavy lifting and technology training in order to get started, be effective and deliver results. Is that realistic considering the agility you really need in engaging with customers at the speed of business today?

These were the issues we set out to solve when we created Opinyin. We wanted to make customer feedback surveying a true discovery process that works out of the box with as little effort as traditional survey tools and automatically delivers as many insights as your customers give you.

So, if you want to truly understand your customers get out of their way and let them tell you what is important!

Jonnie Davis, Opinyin

[email protected]


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