Want to Go Beyond Customer Satisfaction? Here are 4 Principles You Need to Know
Here’s what the research from Gallup and other research organizations says: If you are trying to drive up your repurchase rate and overall customer loyalty, customer satisfaction is never enough.
In order to boost customer loyalty and advocacy, you need to exceed customer satisfaction. And for that you need a customer feedback program that gives you the insight and depth to show you how to improve.
There are four basic guidelines for a solid customer feedback program—and failing to follow them can make it easy to veer off course.
But first, what can good customer feedback do?
High-quality customer feedback can give you the insight and nuance to take your customer satisfaction to the next level. At its best, customer feedback is a research-driven discipline that seeks concrete insights to improve the customer experience. It explores customer successes, friction points, and missed opportunities. In addition, it’s a way to stay on top of—and address—customer issues.
It can address tactical questions such as:
- Did we completely answer your question?
- Was your product repaired to your satisfaction?
It can also tackle strategic concerns like:
- What would make our customer service better than the competition?
- How can we increase customer satisfaction and sales?
When done correctly customer feedback gives you greater accountability, more insight, and a lens into the details that will boost customer happiness.
Now, on to the principles…
Principle 1: Be Objective!
If your data can’t capture what’s really going on with your customers, what’s the point? Many customer satisfaction surveys and other feedback methods suffer from uneven representation and bias. And as the saying goes “garbage in, garbage out.” Don’t base business decisions on garbage! You deserve facts, not fiction.
Guidelines for objectivity could fill an entire book, but here are three best practices:
- Use an accurate sample. Ask yourself: How well does your sample represent your customer base? Your sample should be random, statistically valid, and representative. For example, if only one type of customer is responding and giving feedback, then your data will be skewed.
- Eliminate bias. Remove leading statements, skewed scales, double-barreled questions, and other subjective constructs. Instead of asking questions like “How satisfied were you with your service?” (which implies that the customer was at least somewhat satisfied) ask more neutral questions like “How would you rate the quality of your service?”
- Ensure replicability. Any analyst with your data should be able to apply your methods and arrive at the same conclusions whether it’s coding, categorization, or assessments.
Principle 2: Use the Best Methods
Surveys are the default method for gauging customer satisfaction, but sometimes there are better tools. Ask yourself what you need to know and match your methods to those objectives. Other methods include customer interviews, mystery shops, and customer service evaluations.
- Customer interviews: These give you an in-depth view of your customers’ expectations versus their lived experience. They’re also the best way to uncover customer issues you didn’t know to ask about.
- Mystery shops: These reveal real customer service insights, especially regarding specific scenarios. They’re also a great way to compare yourself to competitors.
- Customer service evaluations: These quantify associate performance and identify communication gaps.
Principle 3: Engage Your Customers
Engagement is a cornerstone of customer satisfaction. Surveys that are too long or ask irrelevant questions can alienate your customers and skew your data. Keep it relevant and short!
With your surveys, this means:
- Ask compelling questions. Write them conversationally so customers feel at ease and actually want to share. Consider what words they might use and what information is most important to them.
- Use dynamic logic to keep questions relevant. No customer is the same, so applying branching logic allows them to only answer questions that apply to them.
- Add small tokens of gratitude such as gift cards and priority codes. By thanking customers for their time and effort, they’ll be more likely to give feedback in the future.
Also, if you can find out how you’re doing without asking your customers, that’s even better! For example, if you have contact centers, apply statistically valid analysis to your calls, emails, and chats instead of surveying customers.
This gives you data that is inherently more accurate and objective, without asking anything more of your customers.
Principle 4: Take Analysis Seriously
This is where nuance and insights come in. Give this process its due diligence and find the signal in all that noise.
- Segment your data and code unstructured data like your open-ended comments. You need to scientifically parse and categorize the comments—the point is to uncover themes!
- Find out what’s driving your outcomes. It’s the only way to prioritize next steps and actions. Simply knowing your Net Promoter or Satisfaction Score is not enough.
- Make sure your analysis accounts for the subtleties of the customer experience. This is crucial because experiences are comprised of multiple touchpoints and personas. In addition, experiences are largely subconscious and always evolving.
Customer Feedback Is a Research Discipline
These principles are all interconnected and affect the outcomes of each other. For example, if you have unbiased questions but they don’t engage your customers, your response rate will be off and your data will be skewed. Customer feedback is often treated as a cut-and-paste task that doesn’t require time or expertise. But if you ask tired questions in unengaging ways, you won’t learn much.
Customer feedback is a research discipline. And if you are scientific in your approach, you’ll gain actionable insights that can dramatically boost customer satisfaction and your business’ bottom line.
Martha Brooke is the founder of Interaction Metrics, a research-driven customer listening agency. Brooke is a certified customer experience professional (CCXP) and holds a Six Sigma Black Belt. Interaction Metrics uses customer feedback methods such as surveys and service evaluations to uncover clients’ missed opportunities with customers and show how to improve. Connect with Brooke on LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/marthabrooke.