Customer Experience feedback conversations – some practical considerations

In a previous blog article, I discussed how customer conversations can offer rich feedback to complement quantitative feedback from surveys. The following considerations may be useful in structuring such conversations to get maximum return for you and for your customer. Your goal should be to target feedback in a few key areas such as to validate survey findings, whilst allowing the Customers the opportunity to offer unsolicited feedback.

Why have Customer Conversations?

Surveys by their nature have many variables that impact response rates and the interpretation and accuracy of responses. In many instances, they can reflect transactional business and be narrow in scope as a result. Some of the benefits of conducting customer conversations include:

  • Allowing additional Customer feedback to surface, beyond the scope of a transactional survey.
  • Reveal hidden opportunities or a ‘heads-up’ on a potentially high impact customer issue.
  • Calibrate information coming from internal operational metrics.
  • Communicate and validate internal improvement strategy with customers.
  • Build and strengthen relationships between Customers and your company’s team directly.

Setting Customer expectations – The invitation

Think about the context for introducing this process to customers – Is this a one off conversation or part of an ongoing series? Perhaps the appointment of a new leader responsible for Customer Support offers context for speaking with customers to get some feedback as well as receiving input on planned service improvements. As with any process of getting customer feedback, when asking customers to invest some of their time, you should outline your intent and how the feedback will be used. Forward planning on how the data will be recorded, analysed and actioned and how you will close the loop with these customers is required. Remember, done correctly you can build trust and credibility with these customers, all who can become promoters with the power of social media at their fingertips. Done poorly, the opposite outcome can also happen.

Which Customers will you select?

This depends on the size and scope of your business and the corresponding segmentation of your customers by region, vertical, size, revenue importance etc. You should control the variables in a selected group so that the feedback is not too diverse and is statistically valid and meaningful in terms of how it is to be interpreted and actioned.

  • Which Geography/Region? In a multinational context each Geography will possess unique factors be it cultural, preferences for phone Vs mail contact, channel Vs direct business, and interaction with the local sales and support organisations.  Similarly, within a Geography countries may have unique traits especially in EMEA and Asia so having a customer conversations by geography or country may be valid.
  • What products/services? If you want to solicit feedback along particular lines of business in a particular region you can define customer groups who have experienced that product or service. Within that category you could also include:
  • Customers who contribute significant revenue and at the lower end who may be emerging clients with growth potential.
  • Specific Customers that have had several touch-points with your company e.g. Support, Renewals etc.

Scheduling and timing:

The timing of the conversation should avoid obvious conflict times e.g. month or quarter end or the days following these periods. Pay attention to time zone differences that would result in scheduling at unsocial hours or commute times. From an internal perspective if you are scheduling a conversation to get feedback on a new product or service, make sure it has been in the market long enough and specifically that the customer attendee has actually had the opportunity to use the product or service. Agenda and logistics should be sent out in advance.

Who will attend?  

Typically around 8 customers is sufficient for a meaningful conversation so around 10 invitations is appropriate. Consider the roles and level of your customers so that it is appropriate for the subject matter.  Ideally 3-4  from Your Organisation should be sufficient including

  • Your facilitator – someone independent who has good customer facing and communication skills who will be able to facilitate an open safe environment for honest conversation.
  • Your relevant functional representatives – who will be able to offer introductions, answer questions, be open to listening and be accountable for subsequent actions.
  • Ideally one of your executives. Good for them to hear from customers directly and customers will appreciate it also. It also will help to have an executive sponsor to support follow up actions as well as fostering ‘Customer Champions’ at a senior level in your organisation.

Advance preparation:

Whilst your facilitator will set out that the conversation is not to go down a ‘rat-hole’ discussing any hot issues in detail, do be aware of any hot issues or critical situations or events that the customers have recently experienced and be able to address it if needed. Additionally you may wish to allow a customer to vent and receive feedback on how any hot issue or event was handled from a process point of view and where improvements could be made.  Be prepared as a team and avoid any surprises.

Remember to express your appreciation:

Don’t forget, these Customers have given up their time to help you. Express your thanks – do it sincerely by offering contact details for your functional representatives. You could also offer a thank you item like your company branded T-Shirt or backpack, which they will wear with pride as the latest band of promoters for your company. Lastly set an expectation for follow up on the items discussed and how and when you will close the loop with them.

Summary

  • Think about the context for the invitation to your customer as well as the follow through process.
  • Consider Customers selection criteria in terms of your feedback categories e.g. Region, Product, Vertical etc
  • Pay attention to scheduling and timing details to avoid conflicts and maximise attendance.
  • Be prepared as a team and avoid any surprises.
  • Remember to say Thank You, offer your teams contact details for follow up and offer a thank you gift and set expectations around next steps.

 

About CustomerLink

CustomerLink helps your business succeed by providing the link to your customers and their satisfaction with your product or service. With broad industry experience improving customer operations for some of the world’s leading brands, we combine technology with deep knowledge in business process design and people systems to measure and improve your customer’s satisfaction, value and overall experience in dealing with your company.

Contact us today to find out how we can help your business on +353 1 4100600 or contact John Kelly at john@thecustomerlink.com