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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.

These are specific points of feedback the business owners could have used to change what they are doing. But you would also need to know if these suggestions actually improve the customer experience. Do most customers really care if the restaurant feels dark? Maybe some people like that, they might say it feels more upscale or romantic.

So your goals for using customer feedback data, and the questions you ask to get that information, should be determined by which factors most impact the (right) customer's decision to buy from you.

"Too often the person who yells a lot gets the most attention. ... It's not bad. It opens doors, phones, emails in order for customers to communicate, but you often cater to that squeaky wheel. How do you know that is the right customer for you?" says Larry Freed, president and CEO of ForeSee, a customer experience analytics company.

His technology helps companies determine the causal relationships and key drivers that led customers to buy from you. Once those are determined, they ask for feedback around those specific drivers in the right context, and to the right customers.

So let's say, for example, that our bicycle store discovered that product selection was a key driver in the customer's decision to buy. The company might ask for feedback about these factors specifically: "What brands would you like to see in the store that we don't already have?" or "What bike brands do you love?" The answers to these questions might prompt the company to bring in new brands, or make others they do have more prominent or featured on the showroom floor.

"The end result of what we are trying to accomplish is find out what will change the customer's view of the experience. What is driving their satisfaction with their experience and what is driving the changes in their behavior," Freed says.

Lesson No. 3: Think Beyond Just Measuring Customer Satisfaction
Going into this experiment, there was an assumption that feedback technology was used most often to measure customer satisfaction (according to the software makers we interviewed, we were not alone). This limited the kind of products we researched and the ways we considered evaluating those products. But what do you actually gain from learning whether satisfaction is improving or declining if you don't know what you can do about it?

So far, we've suggested using feedback in two different ways that directly impact customer satisfaction:

" One: Using feedback as an opportunity to respond to customers. This increases loyalty and retention by showing the customer you listen and care. Also, it gives you the opportunity to fix a problem, or correct a negative experience in real time.


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