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6 ways of using customer feedback to improve financial performance

In January’s edition of CXM, I interviewed Guy Letts, Founder and Managing Director of CustomerSure – the all in one customer feedback system.

By way of a follow up, I spoke to Guy again to understand more about his approach, his philosophy and his underlying principles upon which both the Customer Sure software and Guy’s perspective on measuring and applying customer feedback has been created to meet customer and business needs. Below are 6 tenets to collecting, measuring and applying customer feedback that have been forged out of the heat of experience and applied with successful outcomes.

1. Link customer feedback and/or satisfaction to revenue Stack of coins

One of the first lessons that Guy articulates from his time at Sage is this; “Job #1 is that you have to link customer feedback and or satisfaction to revenue. I don’t mean this in a mercenary way as in the numbers are everything, but neither do I mean it in an altruistic way either. The important point here is that unless people are convinced there is a link, improvements just won’t get done.”

Maybe not a startling revelation, but interestingly this link seems to quite quickly get forgotten, once customer feedback data starts to enter an organisation. Suddenly the data become the focus, rather than the customer, service recovery or process improvement that will ultimately make customers’ lives better.

“Once this link is established, everything gets easier because everyone is used to being measured on job #1 being financial performance. People can then relate collecting and acting on customer feedback directly to improving financial performance.”

2. Attracting customers is nothing without retention

Guy went on to expand on job #2;   Please come back sign

“Good marketers know how to attract customers. Great marketers know how to attract and keep customers. The link here is that keeping customers delivers the 2Rs (recommendations and repeat business). If you’re not working at these then marketing is much more difficult as you have to substitute new customers to replace the never ending attrition of less than satisfied customers who leave. This is smart marketing. This should be one of the main reasons, and drivers of action rather than simply having the knowledge that the organisation needs to improve often for improvements sake. Again, being able to clearly link input to outcome, gets things done”

So if we were to construct a working model from these lessons so far that could be applied successfully within any organisation, then it would be;

 

  • Get customer feedback
  • Act on it first and foremost (and immediately)
  • Thirdly learn from it and continuously improve

Clear and simple, a theme that runs through Guy’s approach and also though the CustomerSure Software itself as we’ll see.

3. Transactional surveys not relationship surveys

Gathering customer feedback after a service interaction or an event is referred to as transactional surveying. This is in contrast to a once a year survey irrespective of recent events, often referred to as a relationship survey. So why this approach and what’s the advantage over relationship surveying – say on an annual basis as a lot of organisations practise?

“Timely customer feedback allows for almost immediate service recovery and if done well, is a great way to create customer advocates rather than trying to use and apply across the board ‘vanilla’ type improvements (from a relationship survey) that may or may not improve overall customer satisfaction, but which often don’t allow for very rapid and reactive service recovery opportunities.”

It’s a fair point and an often articulated advantage of transactional surveying over the relationship approach. It’s well proven in research in that customers who have had an issue and have had it resolved to their satisfaction in a timely fashion, are much more satisfied and as such much more likely to recommend than customers who have never had an issue in the first place.

Transactional surveying though isn’t for everyone and it’s mainly dependent upon the pattern of business transactions i.e. suitable more for high volume rather than low volume customer interactions. If you’re in a business to business service delivery environment with a relatively small number of high value customers, then transactional surveying may not be best for you.

As a point to add, Guy went on to say “If you gather customer feedback on a transactional basis, then you need to build it (both the feedback and action) into ‘business as usual’. If an unreturned call to a customer happens today, there’s little point in trying to catch and correct that in an annual relationship survey. It’s way too late at that point. The service recovery opportunity has been missed and in all likelihood, the customer has already left by the time you get round to reviewing their feedback, if indeed they are bothered to actually give it in the first place.”

“This is what works from a CustomerSure approach as this is what we see customers doing and getting the benefit from. We simply want to bring this approach and technique to others so that they can benefit too.”

4. Don’t give customer feedback to marketing or the analysts

Well not initially anyway. In line with the model mentioned above and based on his experience, Guy advocates using the feedback first and only then learning from it to continuously improve.

“The lesson I learned at Sage was to get lots of responses going to the front line teams first as these are the people who need to stay in tune with customer’s needs and invariably can fix the issues that the customers have. There’s little advantage if service recovery is the objective, in giving customer feedback data to the marketing department or the analysts first, who will pore over it at their leisure before disseminating it around the organisation for everyone else to review. This process takes weeks, if not months and misses the service recovery opportunities. Of course, let marketing and the analysts have the data, but only after the frontline teams have acted on it first”.

5. Make software simple.

Another big lesson Guy learnt which he brought to the CustomerSure approach is in learning how software is changing. “People now want business software to be simple.” Seems obvious, but you’ve not got to look far in order to see an example which embodies the opposite of this simple approach;

“Take Microsoft Outlook for example. There are now so many configurations in how to make it work in one way or another, options to choose from to turn on or off to customise it to your heart’s content. What you’re actually left with though is on overly complex piece of business software. All the configurations are individually valid and presumably they’ve all been asked for at some point along the way as upgrades or improvements. However, simply adding on additional choice upon choice, only goes to create a paralysing plethora of options that adds to our confusion and anxiety rather than clarifying, simplifying, or eliminating it completely”. This choice paradox (where we think we want more choice, but where ultimately more choice makes us more confused or makes us avoid choosing altogether) is a common and very real problem. Simplicity then (and positive limited choice), is the solution and foundation upon which CustomerSure is founded.

Guy refers to the software as a satisfaction system rather than a research tool which is a simple but important difference. “We built the software to do satisfaction surveys whilst learning along the way, reinforcing simplicity and adding the obvious next steps as we went”.

Thus, CustomerSure was born. A simple, elegant solution combining a customer feedback and case management solution, giving you less choice overall but delivering exactly what both businesses and customers need. Indeed, initial customer feedback showed that customers were prepared to trade off getting 100% of the functionality fit that they thought they wanted, for low hassle, ease of usage, robustness and reliability, a low training requirement and an intuitive user interface.

Easy and simple to follow up features allow organisations to do the best job possible in collecting and acting on customer feedback whilst also allowing categorisation of issues and root cause analysis. In addition, through capturing and identifying positive customer feedback, this also opens up the possibilities of both up-sell and cross-sell opportunities with customers at the right point in time, maximising the feel good factor rather than trying to convert cold or luke warm customers after an event.

Whilst the software was originally put together for SMEs, it has attracted large companies primarily because they appreciate the simplicity of the software. Guy adds, “Our guiding principle is that if you can buy from Amazon then you can use our software!’

6. Who’s benefitting from the feedback – the research department or the customer?

This is a great example of how products and services should be designed. Whether it be software, call routing technology or a delivery process they should all be designed from the lens of the customer rather than the lens of the organisation.  Again this latter point is interesting as some early requests for upgrades on CustomerSure were for the addition of various types of rating scales in addition to conditional logic questions “which are all very good” Guy Commented “but these requests are more important to researchers and marketers rather than customers. What’s most important to customers is being able to give feedback that’s acted on straight away”.

Everyone has their preferred way of working and clearly there are benefits of working in this way and using this approach as Guy has demonstrated. Whichever way you decide to work, organisations and customers alike can benefit from greater simplicity and a re-focus on the objectives for collecting customer feedback in the first place; to deliver a better customer experience with key business benefits.  With this in mind, the customer, the company and the bottom line can win every time.

For your free trial of Customer Sure go to www.customersure.com

Article originally written for the February edition of Customer Experience Magazine.