The High Price of Ignoring Customer Input and Big Data

A new study by Forbes and ASQ of more than 2,000 global senior executives and quality professionals found that only one-fourth formally involve customers in quality discussions.

But companies that describe their quality programs as world class are twice as likely (52 percent) to be ones that involve customers in such discussions.

Also according to the research, only 16 percent "strongly agree" that they use big data to measure customer experience and sentiment. Organizations that assess their quality programs as world class are two and a half times more likely to use big data to measure customer experience.

What's wrong with traditional customer involvement methods?

Most companies measure quality with a voice-of-the-customer process that includes two kinds of benign surveys and an analysis of complaints.

There are several problems with this approach.

  1. Most surveys mainly confirm that things are not too bad, via what I call the Annual "Do You Love Us?" survey—"Things are OK, aren't they?"
  2. Survey response rates tend to be low because most customers suffer from hopelessness—they have no idea what has been done with the results of previous surveys.
  3. Complaint rates are low, as the majority of customers with problems do not complain because previous problems they voiced were not resolved.
  4. Survey and complaint data is always a lagging indicator that is almost never converted into an estimate of the resulting revenue and word-of-mouth damage. Unless an issue has serious top- and bottom-line impact, it gets little attention.
  5. Big data is often anticipatory and can more accurately describe the customer experience than other methods, but few companies even look at it. For example, a delivery company knows in advance from operational data that 500 packages missed their connection at the hub and will not be delivered on time. Five hundred disappointments might generate 100 phone complaints and 40 surveys. If the company looked at the data, it could act proactively.

What world-class companies do right

Leading companies take a very specific kind of approach to gaining and analyzing customer input.

Organizations that describe their quality programs as world class aggressively solicit problems more than they do affirmation. One of the 

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