Customer Comments + Intelligent Analysis = Gold

by Martha Brooke on April 12, 2016

The point of a customer survey is to learn what you don’t know, and gain insight into what’s driving customer satisfaction and dissatisfaction. And while billions of customer surveys are issued each year—typically including open-ended comment fields—most survey programs lack research protocols for listening to and understanding what customers are actually saying in those comments. Customer Satisfaction Surveys Need Intelligent Text Analysis

After all, as Seth Godin said in a recent blog: “If you’re not going to read the answers and take action, why are you asking?” In a moment, we’ll get to why reading isn’t enough, but Seth is on the right path.

There are a few reasons behind why companies often ignore their valuable customer comments.

First, many executives don’t know there are research methods for systematically and efficiently unpacking customer comments. Certainly, executives know that they could read comments or apply software-based text analytics—but what’s really needed to unpack meaning is intelligent text analysis. Unfortunately, most research agencies have not been good at educating the marketplace on the advantages of this kind of analysis.

Second, many companies—in spite of their banners and slogans pledging their customer focus—just aren’t that focused on customers and their experiences, because in the short term, it can be difficult to see how customer research is profitable.

But common sense and extensive research proves that “the market works”; customers reward companies that provide superior experiences. Nevertheless, the reality for many companies is that the voice of the customer can seem like something off in the distance, compared to the “right now” importance of shaving costs, boosting margins, etc.

So there are several reasons that customer comments get the short end of the stick, but when intelligent text analysis is applied to comments, that’s when you start to uncover incredibly valuable, actionable insights into specific ways to improve.

Is text analysis similar to just reading customer comments? Not at all. The problem with reading comments is that the brain’s working memory starts cutting off at seven items. So even if you read thousands of comments, there’s really no point, because you simply can’t remember and synthesize all that information.

You may see a few obvious problems you already knew about, but you won’t see the details or possible solutions. Furthermore, you’ll overlook more subtle existing problems, and new problems you’re not prepared to recognize. Even worse, you can’t quantify anything about this data. So if you’re only reading your survey comments, you won’t learn about unknown problems and ways to improve—and you won’t have a compelling report because business audiences demand numbers, not meandering stories.

Software-based text analytics is another way to handle customer comments—and because software can identify some types of customer issues in real time, it’s a step in the right direction. However, software text analytics runs the risk of missing problems you’re not aware of, because it’s limited (even biased) by the words, expressions and facts that you already know to look for.

In the same way that customer experiences are varied and complex, customer comments are messy and unpredictable. They can be brief or lengthy, vague or hyper specific. Some comments stay on-topic; others trail off from the question. And of course, customers refer to similar issues in different ways—and within all this complexity lies valuable, game-changing insights.

Intelligent text analysis requires a team of expert analysts so that comments can be deciphered from multiple perspectives. It also requires protocols for:

• Filtering out non-codeable text
• Building an initial framework of codes
• Establishing a statistically valid sample of codeable comments
• Adding new codes for emergent themes (good text analysis must be performed in an iterative, non-linear way)
• Scoring the coded sample to enable prioritization of themes
• Presenting prioritized themes with clear examples and solutions

Loyal customers who come back and buy again—that’s the end goal. To get there, you need actionable customer surveys with intelligent text analysis. If you spend resources on a customer survey (like most companies do), it makes no sense to ignore the answers. So ask. Then listen. Don’t let your customer survey comments be a sunk cost.

Want to learn more about survey strategies? Get a demo or Mini-Audit. It’s free.

Your Customer Survey is Biased: Here’s the Fix

by Martha Brooke on April 7, 2016

Most customer satisfaction surveys suffer from uneven customer representation, which leads to inaccurate data. As the saying goes, “garbage in, garbage out.”Learn about 2 grave survey sampling errors and how to fix them—because your business decisions should be based on fact, not fiction. And let’s face it, garbage should never be the basis of your business decisions. You deserve facts, not fiction. So here are a few ways to improve your customer survey sampling methods to achieve balanced customer representation and high quality data.

Customer Survey Sampling Error #1:
Non-Response Bias, Some Don’t Respond

Just because you openly invite all customers to take your survey does not mean you have a random sample. The difference between an open invite and randomized responses is critical because satisfied customers with time to spare tend to be the population most apt to take your survey.

Similarly, you are more likely to hear from repeat customers than from one-time customers—yet customers who aren’t coming back may have the most useful feedback. Here are a few ways to get a representative customer survey sample:

  • Start by dividing your customer database into categories, such as: current most-profitable customers, current less-profitable customers, lapsed customers, long-gone customers, prior most-profitable customers, etc.

  • For each customer category, determine how many customers you need to survey to achieve a reasonable confidence interval and error rate. Then randomly select customers from each category you want to test.

  • Proactively ask the selected customers for their feedback. You may need to offer incentives. Test different types of incentives, but make sure they’re not related to the products or services you sell, because this introduces yet another type of bias—those who like your product will be more inclined to take your customer survey.

  • When you invite customers to take your survey, ask if they would prefer to share their thoughts by phone at a convenient time. Creative, busy, and dissatisfied customers may not be receptive to multiple choice questions—yet for accurate, actionable data, you need to hear from your entire population. Again, using an incentive may need to be part of your customer survey strategy.

Customer Survey Sampling Error #2:
The Medium Controls the Audience

Do you offer your survey online? By IVR? Mail? Email? How you provide your customer survey has a huge impact on who takes it. Here are a few ways to increase responses from all your survey channels and correct for channel-related distortion:

  • Most likely, your customer satisfaction survey is online, which provides for a variety of delivery options. Set up your survey so customers can dial an 800 number, visit a URL, or use their mobile to text their answers. The more options you offer, the more respondents you’ll get.

  • Be willing to receive survey responses the way customers want to give them. For example, if you email your customers with a link to your survey, tell customers that if they prefer, they can simply reply to the email with their thoughts about your company and their experiences—they don’t have to take the survey. Then, use a scientific coding technique to incorporate their open-ended comments with the rest of your text analysis.

  • Finally, tell customers the survey is short, and then keep good on the promise.

Most customer surveys are plagued with biases—and sampling errors are just one type. But with strategies to prevent sample bias and channel distortion, you’ll be one step closer to accurate data, leading to decisions based on fact, not fiction.

Gain a new perspective. See how you rate; it’s free.

Break Your NPS® Routine

by Martha Brooke on February 17, 2016

NPS® is a routine question used in customer feedback surveys. Nearly everyone has seen it: How likely is it that you would recommend us to a friend?

This question assumes that customers think in terms of their likelihood to recommend companies—but all too often, it’s not realistic, and it’s not how people think.

For instance, say a traveler rents a car. Recommending that car rental company to a friend later on—unless something truly extraordinary happened—just isn’t something most people would do. Furthermore, if a customer has already seen a question many times before, they’re unlikely to engage with the question and give it its due. They may even find your customer feedback survey annoying.

If you want powerful insights, don’t use generic stock questions that your customers have seen countless times before. The problem with “me too” questions is that they come across as if you don’t really care and you’re not really listening.

Here’s what customer feedback questions should do. They should be engaging, dynamic, and thoughtful. They should invite your customers to voice their true feelings. For example:

• “What would have made your experience better?”
• “What words come to mind when you think of our company?”
• “Who do you see as our main competitor? What do they do better?”

These questions recognize the contextual nature of experiences, and that your company doesn’t exist in a vacuum. In this way, they are more intellectually honest and therefore encourage customers to pause, think, and give honest answers.

Another way to break the NPS® routine is to apply adaptive logic so that your survey uncovers who the customer is, their situation, and the specific touchpoints they interacted with. An Interaction Thinking™ approach recognizes that your survey can and should add value for both you and your customers. Repetitive “me-too” surveys are out. Personalized, relevant interactions are in. Break your usual customer feedback routine. Give value and you’ll get value. Dare to interact. Show your customers you care.

Try a Free Net Promoter Mini-Audit. We’ll tell you if the Net Promoter question is right for you.

Friendly Customer Service Is NOT Enough

by Martha Brooke on January 22, 2016

Often, companies don’t sufficiently invest in customer service evaluations because they believe hiring smart, friendly staff will produce adequate customer service. And yet, many of these same companies claim that customer service is one of their core strengths.

But why settle for adequate? If you want to make strides and get a strong ROI on your customer service, you must exceed customers’ expectations. In fact, an oft-quoted 2005 Gallup Research study reported that emotionally satisfied customers spent 67% more per year than customers who were dissatisfied or satisfied (ask us for the research). Yes, that’s right: dissatisfied and satisfied customers spend virtually the same amount. That’s why it’s worth it to go above and beyond in your customer service.

The secret to leveraging your customer service is having a solid customer service evaluation program that continually shows you how and where to improve your execution.

Customer Service Evaluation | Advantages:

1. Get more with what you have in place. Businesses tend to spend a lot on customer service payroll, but little on evaluating the return on that expense. Objective customer service evaluations provide a reliable way to work toward effective, efficient customer service.

2. Increase current sales and long-term loyalty. Great service brings customers back, plain and simple. When customers return—and recommend you to their social networks—you gain sales revenue. So, customer service that strengthens ROI must go beyond simple satisfaction: it needs to emotionally engage your customers. But you’ll only get there if you have an objective customer service evaluation program measuring how often and the degree to which your associates create “wow.”

3. Reduce risk. Terrible Yelp and Google reviews are a looming threat for all companies, especially in today’s review-driven market. That’s why you need customer service evaluations in place to ensure that bad reviews don’t drag you down.

Remember, great customer service is an opportunity to create authentic interactions that:
Ensure long-term loyalty
Polish your online reputation
Attract new customers

But the kind of customer service that does more never happens by coincidence or just by having smart, friendly staff. If you’re serious about customer service that delivers ROI, you need to invest in a rigorous Customer Service Evaluation Program that shows how you score, where to improve, and what that improvement looks like.

Onward and upward toward customer service that’s positive for your customers and profitable for you!

Find out more about Customer Service Evaluations. Say hello!

“Talk Your Walk” with Branded Customer Service

by Martha Brooke on January 15, 2016

Your company’s brand: it represents the qualities and values of your products and services.

So shouldn’t your customer service showcase your brand? Branded customer service gives your brand substance and depth. While your competitors are busy showing their brand simply through advertising, you’ll be cementing your brand through the lived customer experience. This is critical in a time when authentic communication is a priority.interaction-brand-score

But branded customer service isn’t easy. Sometimes customer service reps do everything “right,” but don’t demonstrate the key aspects of your brand. You work hard to define your brand, but if you ignore the potential of customer service to reinforce it, you miss a crucial opportunity to show customers that your brand is more than a logo—it’s a set of real practices and values that set your company apart.

That’s why what you say needs to reflect what you do: in other words, you need to “talk your walk,” to twist a familiar phrase. For example, if your brand is about caring, your customer service should consistently demonstrate caring. Likewise, if your brand is about technical products, your associates should provide clear, detailed information.

While performing a Customer Experience Evaluation for a LASIK practice, Interaction Metrics analysts discovered our client was missing a huge opportunity to communicate the unique attributes of their brand—in this case, safety and expertise.

Here’s what happened before the evaluation:

Customer: “How does the procedure work?”
Associate: “We cut your eye and zap your cornea with a laser.”
Customer: “Yow! That sounds scary.”

The associate used volatile, casual language, with no regard to supporting the company’s brand pillars of safety and expertise—top priorities for any surgery. So, we showed our client how to improve their customer service by anticipating the customer’s concerns and providing reassuring information: “Before I get into the details of our laser, let me tell you that the procedure is FDA approved and has been around for many years. Over time it’s gotten safer than ever…Our practice also has a 99% success rate…”

While optimizing one moment might seem easy, the fact is, customer service consists of thousands of interactions. We’re often asked how to reduce the many to a manageable number. The solution is to create model answers for each unique type of interaction. The LASIK example above is a great model answer because it did more than the bare minimum—it created value for the company and value for the customer. But clearly, companies require a complete knowledge base of model answers if their goal is to brand customer service.

To create branded customer service at all touchpoints, you need a Customer Experience Plan based on rigorous analysis of your brand goals, customers, and touchpoints. Your plan should incorporate precise metrics like Interaction Brand Score to measure and track how well you “talk your walk.”

So don’t let your customer service just be a cost, and don’t let your brand stop at your logo. Instead, use branded customer service and actionable customer experience metrics to bring your brand to life through each and every customer interaction.

One Call Does It All: Get there with the Proactive Solutions Score

by Martha Brooke on January 9, 2016

It’s a familiar scenario: you call a company’s customer service, get your problem solved…and then discover it wasn’t solved at all. It’s a frustrating experience—but a preventable one. Companies that solve all problems in one call offer the best customer experience and maximize their efficiency.Customer-Experience-Metric

Take, for example, a guest who called a resort after booking a vacation. “What’s this extra two hundred dollar fee? No one mentioned that when I called the first time!”

Now this company has both a second phone call to handle and an increased risk of losing their customer.

That’s why a “one call does it all” standard should be a top priority for your company. Anticipating customer needs reduces customer service costs. Besides, when associates are proactive, your customer service will be efficient and well-received.

Great customer service always does more than simply answer the question at hand. This is one of the central tenets of Interaction Thinking™. Great customer service always finds ways to add value—which, in the case of the resort, means proactively explaining what the fees cover, such as WiFi and pool access. In fact, not explaining all of those amenities is a lost branding opportunity.

So how do you fine-tune your customer experiences to get to “one call does it all?” First, you need to know your Proactive Solutions Score (PSS). PSS shows the thoroughness of each interaction, and accounts for issues the customer didn’t know to ask about until later.

Applying precise customer service metrics like PSS is key to offering great customer service. As we always say, if you don’t measure it, you don’t know it. So, start measuring now!

A Cold Night, Hot Soup…and Great Customer Service!

by Martha Brooke on December 9, 2015

Not too long ago, while checking into a hotel on a damp San Francisco night, the front desk clerk noticed my sniffling and asked if I wanted chicken soup. “That’d be great,” I replied, assuming it was just a sympathetic comment and not an actual offer. I was therefore quite surprised when, only a few minutes later, there was a knock on my door and a server brought in a steaming bowl of soup.

Now this, I thought, is great customer service.People with Text Edits

Why did that chicken soup feel like great customer service, even to a seasoned and rather skeptical CX analyst like me?

Because that bowl of soup was the perfect example of a customer experience that built value—for the hotel chain and for the customer. Guests expect comfortable pillows and a friendly concierge, but they don’t expect complimentary soup when they’re sick. Therefore, this interaction didn’t just satisfy—it created a positive, memorable moment, while showcasing the hotel’s brand as caring and customer-centric.

There are thousands of ways to build value: sometimes it’s what you say, other times it’s how you say it, and sometimes it’s in the amenities.

Building value to create customers who are more than just “satisfied” is critical, because only emotionally engaging experiences correlate with a lift in loyalty and revenue (ask us for the research by Gallup and others).

Every interaction can build value—but you won’t consistently accomplish this through random luck. That’s why you need a plan to strategically build value into each customer’s experience.

One way to add value is to brand outside the box. Providing soup to sick guests brings the brand into the customer’s lived experience­—and makes the brand more than just a logo and mission statement.

Another way to build value is by providing useful information and tips to customers, which highlights your company’s expertise. Similarly, cross-selling your existing products and services ensures that your customers’ needs are met—including those they don’t realize they have.

The point is that your customer service should add value for you AND your customers; it should never just be a cost. Chicken soup is one way that one company added value and created great customer service—but the options are endless!

Start adding value. Learn about Customer Experience Planning by Interaction Metrics.

Beyond Surveys: Capturing the Real Customer Experience

by Martha Brooke on June 24, 2015

Customer feedback surveys are great because they can be objective and easy to implement. But they only capture the tiniest slice of the actual customer experience, especially when it comes to the experiences customers have with contact centers.CallMiner_Blog_Image_2

According to CallMiner, companies may have 45 times more phone calls than survey responses per year. So companies have a lot more call data than customer feedback data—and these calls are the raw, unfiltered reality of customer experience.

However, unlike customer feedback responses, calls are complex—they involve myriad customer personas, situations, and subconscious cues. Call recording, monitoring, and speech analytics, such as those provided by CallMiner, allow you to capture this rich data.

So what do you do with all this data? Well, from the perspective of a research-driven customer experience agency, you segment, mine, and find within the data exacting ways to boost contact center performance. Register for the webinar to learn how research layers on top of data to uncover key insights and opportunities. Here are a few points about a research-driven approach to contact data that I’ll touch upon:

• The difference between all data versus representative samples—and how sampling facilitates accurate analysis.
• The value of customer experience metrics like Contact Branding, Persuasion, and QCI™ Scores.
• How Contact Branding can help you get more value from associates, software, and everything else you have in place.

At Interaction Metrics, we see that customer experience is complex. If you fail to acknowledge that complexity, you fail to capture the heart and soul of customer experience. To learn about an approach to CX that accounts for—rather than flattens—CX complexity, check out our Slideshare, “Take CX Seriously.” It’s been viewed nearly 5,000 times since we uploaded it last month.

Or, kick back with our video about a serious approach to CX here.

Get a Better (More Accurate) Customer Satisfaction Survey—Your Questions Asked and Answered

by Martha Brooke on June 17, 2015

Earlier this month, I discussed how to improve your customer satisfaction survey in a GoToAssist webinar. Participants shared lots of comments and questions, so here are a few more ideas and resources.

One person said they learned about what NOT to do with their satisfaction survey, but they wanted to hear more about what they SHOULD do.

There’s so much to cover with surveys, and it can take hundreds of hours to do even a simple survey well. That’s because the best surveys are customized for your customers, your company and the specific touchpoints you are testing.

That said, here are a few questions that my team at Interaction Metrics has used successfully with many companies in many situations:

  • What words come to mind when you think about your experiences with [co. name]?
  • What’s one thing you would do to improve [co. name or situation]?
  • Who do you view as [co. name]’s competition?
  • What do you see [competitor name] doing especially well? (Be sure to use that competitor’s name in a few areas of the survey.)

Another attendee wanted to know the pros and cons of Net Promoter Score.

Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a commonly used customer feedback metric that’s based on the question “how likely are you recommend us to a friend or colleague?” We’ve written a lot about NPS, including an overview and some critical concerns.

Here are the pros:

  • It’s easy to calculate. NPS is based on one question on a 0-10 scale. You subtract the percent of “detractors” who rated you 6 and below from the “promoters” who rated you 9 and 10.
  • It’s one number. It could provide a sense of how customers feel over time, especially if your company’s services or products are very, very simple.
  • It’s social. “Would you recommend…” is a social question, so it makes sense for products and services that are “socialized.”

The cons:

  • It’s simplistic. Other scores are as easy to calculate but use more inputs and provide more nuanced information.
  • It’s only the outcome. You don’t know what impacts your NPS or how to create better customer experiences.
  • It’s tired. When Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Symantec Software and thousands of other companies use the same question, your customers may feel like you’re not listening and don’t really care.

A third attendee said they got more insight from a few customer interviews than they did from their survey responses.

I’m not surprised. Not only are most surveys asking flawed, generic questions, but the customer comments are barely analyzed.

Customer interviews are ideal because they give you answers to questions you didn’t think to ask. When customers share their stories, you get insights about their perceptions and expectations that provide ideas for how to improve your business in some way. Plus they can provide motivating audio clips that allow your employees to take a walk in your customers’ shoes.

If you can’t do customer interviews, make sure to at least include some great open-ended questions in your survey, and don’t forget to analyze the comments that come in!

There is a lot to say about customer satisfaction surveys. Overall, I hope participants took away some ways to question the surveys they are using and a process for moving their survey forward. Just because most surveys are bad and don’t capture factual data doesn’t mean they have to be bad.

Let’s make customer feedback surveys better!

The Interaction Metrics Difference

by Martha Brooke on May 20, 2015

Federico Muchnik of Mighty Visual Media just finished a dynamite video (below) that explains the difference between the usual simplistic ways of measuring customer experience and our nuanced approach. It’s not about MORE data, it’s about SMART data—and Federico drives that point home. First, watch Fed’s video. Then, contact us to discuss whether a serious, research-backed approach to customer experience could have advantages for your company. Knowing how your customer experience measures and seeing your gaps presented in a Interaction Metrics’ Findings Report is the most efficient way to create more engaging customer experiences. Reach out to discuss whether our approach and metrics could be right for you. Because, let’s face it, if you can’t measure, you don’t know it.