Knowing how to collect customer feedback is important. Done correctly, it’s one of the most powerful CRM tools you can have. Companies that collect feedback have a new resource that tells them exactly what their customers need, what they’re more likely to buy, and what they hope to see in the future. It’s invaluable information that eliminates a lot of the guesswork in running a business.
Creating an effective feedback solution
Although a lot of organizations are collecting customer feedback, we see a lot of examples where processes could be improved. Poorly worded surveys, surveys delivered too late, and failing to act on feedback can all negate the competitive advantage that customer feedback offers. According to Gartner research, asking the right questions, conducting surveys at the right time, and following up on feedback are the three principles essential to making the most of feedback—but most organisations fail to do at least one of them.
The 3-layer strategy for customer satisfaction management
Gartner’s Esteban Kolsky suggests a three-layer approach for surveys: point of sale surveys, customer satisfaction surveys, and planning surveys. These three survey types will create different datasets of feedback for short, medium, and long term business strategies. Each of these survey types needs a different approach to be successful, but all three should incorporate the principles mentioned above: the right questions, the right time, and the right follow up approach.
Layer 1: Real-time point of sale surveys
Point of sale surveys are short, quick surveys that let customers offer feedback directly after a transaction or the delivery of goods. According to Gartner, feedback collected immediately after an event is 40% more accurate, and with a greater response rate, than feedback collected 24 hours later or more. That makes timing key to point-of-sale surveys because their focus is on a single transaction. You might offer them over the phone at the end of a customer service call, through a kiosk near a till, or online right after goods are delivered to the customer’s door. These surveys should be as seamless with the transaction as possible and delivered directly after it. For example, it’s better to have a kiosk near the checkout than to ask your customer to fill out an online survey when they get home.
Questions should be short and focused on the transaction efficacy. Here are a few examples of questions you might include on a point-of-sale survey:
- How would you rate your checkout experience? It’s a common question that gives you an overview of how a particular location is doing over time. Usually, a 5-point smiley face rating scale is the best approach to use.
- How easy was it to find what you needed? You could use a smiley face survey or even a 5-point Likert scale that helps identify any issues the customer had. If the customer’s experience wasn’t satisfactory, you could prompt them to enter what could have been improved.
- Any thoughts you’d like to add about your experience today? This open-ended question can be left optional, allowing customers to provide more specific information if they feel inclined to do so.
These surveys are best for giving you information about any problems with the transaction process, so you can identify quick-fix issues and fix them before they start affecting your bottom line. As such, it’s best to follow up on these as quickly as possible and monitor service level trends as you make changes in your organisation.
Layer 2: Customer satisfaction surveys
These surveys go beyond point-of-delivery to understand if customers are satisfied with the company overall and to make sure that they don’t have any lingering issues. Since they’re about the bigger picture, they’re not as time-sensitive as point-of-sale surveys. Usually, they’re sent every business cycle, to customers who have given their information in a point of sale survey, loyalty program, or newsletter subscription. Since the feedback is more comprehensive and the survey is completed at home, surveys can ask more in-depth questions. However, it’s still advisable to keep it on the shorter end—five to six questions at most. Kolsky recommends tracking general customer satisfaction but not using it as a KPI, since the more specific questions will give you better information.
These surveys are best sent to a customer’s email address or via a survey link sent by SMS when respondents have more time to answer. Some of the questions you ask on this type of survey might include:
How satisfied are you with the level of customer service we offer? A 5-point smiley face survey is ideal as it is universal, easy to understand and quick to fill in.
How do we rank against our competitors? This question is best framed as one or two rating scales that measure elements like friendliness and convenience on a continuum. Referencing your competitors will help you understand how your customers view you in terms of the other options available to them.
Which of our products or services are you most interested in? If you have multiple departments, having a question like this can give you an overview of where your customers’ interests lie. If customer interest and department revenues don’t line up, it might indicate that it’s time to expand the departments your customers express interest in.
Follow up on these surveys should be more strategic; it’s a good idea to have a feedback management team to decide what to act on. Although it can be tempting to use more free text fields in customer satisfaction surveys, keep in mind that it’s more difficult to aggregate and act on this type of data, particularly when responses vary widely.
Layer 3: Planning surveys
Planning surveys ask questions that can help guide your business as it moves forward. Whether it’s for a specific product or platform or more general questions, these surveys check the pulse of where your energy is best spent. They ask questions about what improvements respondents would like to see in the future, or what additional features or services they might like to see. These surveys are best posed to your biggest or most important customers, who have a vested interest in the future of your products or services.
Usually, planning surveys are a mix of open-ended and multiple-choice questions, sent to the customers you’ve selected. Here are a few questions you might ask on a planning survey:
What are some new product/service features you’d like to see in the future? If you use a checklist of options to choose from as a response, it can help you decide between alternatives you’re already considering. You could also leave “other” as an option, with a text field for further information, if you’re open to hearing new ideas.
How would you feel if you had [feature]? / How would you feel if you didn’t have [feature]? Known as the Kano questionnaire, these two questions may feel like the same question, but they’re not. They can help determine what features customers expect to have, as opposed to features that are just a bonus.
Would you be interested in participating in a focus group for XYZ product? This simple yes or no question can help you find participants willing to offer more in-depth feedback. Including this question also helps keep your survey shorter, allowing you to reserve the more specific questions for the focus group.
While point-of-sale and customer satisfaction surveys are about going back and fixing what’s broken, planning surveys are about looking ahead and steering the ship. Follow up on planning surveys will generally be a longer-term process that involves a SWOT analysis and strategic planning.
Although there’s a big difference between these three survey types, their commonalities lie in the principles you should follow when you implement them. According to Gartner, the three basic principles companies should follow when collecting feedback is choosing the right questions, choosing the right time, and following up on feedback.
Choosing the right survey questions
Since businesses are vastly different in their approaches, culture, and products, the right questions are the ones that you tailor to suit your own business. When you’re choosing survey questions, you’re choosing the type of information that you need from your customers—and that will be different for every business.
How you ask is equally as important as what you ask; leading questions, double-barrelled questions, and confusing questions will obfuscate your data. However, there are also more subtle considerations to keep in mind when you’re structuring a survey. For example, the order of your questions will influence how your customer responds; the first question you ask will always contextualise the second. In general, it’s best to start with broader questions and move down to more specific ones, so specific issues don’t dictate the general feedback a customer gives.
If you’re stuck on where to begin, a good rule of thumb is to start by deciding what you want to know from your customers. Is there a process or service that you’ve been unsure about? Is there something new you’re thinking about launching? Think about what different feedback would mean in terms of action you would take, and you’ll be on your way to creating an actionable survey.
Choosing the right time
Point of sale surveys are meant to get you quick, accurate feedback about a transaction. The best time to do them is right away, so it’s best to integrate them into the checkout or delivery experience. However, if you’re sending a survey via email, your customer will be the one determining when the right time to complete the survey is. Instead of being approached by a person or phone call, your customer gets to decide when and if they’ll take the survey.
With email surveys, you can help them make that decision by including the time to completion or number of questions in the introduction to your survey. If you’re working from a timeline that includes when you intend to follow up, let them know how long they have before the survey closes.
The timing of surveys should also work for you, especially when it comes to customer satisfaction and planning surveys. Plan to send them at times when you’re prepared to parse the data and act on it. For example, a busy retail chain might decide to send customer satisfaction surveys in February, rather than in December during the holiday rush.
Following up on survey results
Feedback is only as valuable as the ability to act on it. When you think about follow up, think about enterprise feedback management: how will you collaborate with your team to put the feedback into action? For example, who gets the feedback? What is the communication chain that leads to a different action, product, or service? How will you integrate feedback data with other data in your business, such as KPIs and strategic plans? That will help you design your survey to make it actionable from the start.
Having a culture of responsiveness with a management team dedicated to feedback is also important. Feedback data should be centralised and sent to a management team that analyses and interprets it. They can put together an action plan for managers in specific locations, based on the overall data they receive. In turn, managers and employees need to know why the targets or changes are important. If everyone is invested in responding to feedback, it’s much easier to do.
Finally, the best incentive you can give your customer is the reassurance that their voice has been heard. Many organizations send surveys without any indication of how the information is being used—but this is asking for a customer’s time without any guarantee that it will be valued. Once you’ve followed up, let your customers know what changes you’ve made as a result of their feedback. This will show them that their input on future surveys will matter and be taken seriously.
Create your customer satisfaction management process one step at a time
If you’re just starting with your customer satisfaction management process, remember that you don’t have to create the whole system at once. You can start with point-of-delivery feedback, for example, and then expand from there once you have a system in place.
One of the advantages of ViewPoint kiosks is that they aren’t just a kiosk—we provide a complete feedback dashboard that can sync with your existing resources. With real-time insights available on an easy-to-read dashboard, our in-person and online surveys help you manage every type of survey you can send, every step of the way.
Feedback matters, but only if it’s done right. Creating a feedback system is work upfront, but it will save you time and money in the end. Many businesses try to figure out what their customers want through trial and error, but it doesn’t have to be that way. All you have to do is ask!
About ViewPoint survey solutions
ViewPoint helps organisations to radically improve the quality of their services. Our interactive feedback technology engages with customers, employees and stakeholders to understand their satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the experience they encountered.
Our unique smiley face surveys attract, engage, and encourage users to leave their thoughts. Four reasons feedback kiosks are the preferred feedback collection method:
- Lower cost customer survey solution
- Suitable for all environments
- Reliable and always on
- Highly accurate insights
Find out more about how real-time surveys can help you assess customer and staffing issues, monitor improvements, and compare departments to deliver the best service possible.