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3 lessons learned from a failed customer feedback test

Ashley Verrill | June 12, 2013
Things didn't go exactly as planned when we gave three retail businesses a customer feedback system to test for a customer service software buyers' guide . The goal was to see how the features worked in a real-life setting. However, we discovered that testing customer service software in a real-life setting involves more than simply installing and using. It requires a certain amount of planning, and there were several key issues we realized we should have addressed before beginning to test.

Creating context is the most important factor to consider when placing customer feedback requests. This will also dictate which system is a best fit for your company. Where would the form be most relevant to the customer's current experience?

"The customer needs to feel like there's benefit to them in providing the feedback," says Guy Letts, founder of CustomerSure, a customer feedback management and customer satisfaction software.

Your team might, for example, want to program the software to email customers or clients a week after the sale closes. This might ask if they are satisfied with the product or service so far, or if there's anything they can do to improve the experience.

Another common context is right after delivering customer service. Here's a screenshot from an email I received 23 hours after Vocus resolved an issue I was having with a Help a Reporter Out request:

I responded to this email immediately, but only because the experience was still fresh on my mind and I saw a potential benefit to me. I actually did have a slightly negative response to the service and I wanted to tell them about it so it would be better next time. Unfortunately, the bad taste in my mouth was further soured because they never wrote back.

One of the strongest benefits of customer feedback is the ability to impact customer retention, loyalty and positive word of mouth. For this reason, it's just as crucial you have procedures for responding to feedback, not just for getting it.

"It's so important you act immediately, and let customers know you plan on doing something instantly. You've already raised the expectation that you care by asking for their feedback. By not responding, you risk them feeling like they've been ignored and that you've also wasted their time," Letts says.

Lesson No. 2: Set Specific Goals That Align with Your Customer Experience
Another issue we ran into with the experiment was not receiving feedback that was actionable for the goals we wanted to achieve. Ideally, we hoped our business participants would experience the following:

Staff would improve their behavior because customer feedback was more transparent.

Managers could use the feedback to create incentives—the store with the best, or most positive feedback would be rewarded.

The feedback would provide insights that could be used to make changes that would improve the customer experience.

The first two goals would have been possible had we received enough data, but for the final point it was clear this was not specific enough. Take these two messages from the test:

While messages like these could be useful for measuring overall customer satisfaction, it would be more useful for our third goal if these messages mentioned something more specific. "I wish you had more flavors," for example. Or, "The seating felt really crowded, and the ambiance was dark and cold feeling."


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