How do I make sure my customer isn’t inconvenienced?

Ironically, we find that a lot of customer experience feedback programmes are not, in themselves, a good customer experience. Most customers want to give feedback because they want you to improve, but remember that you are asking them to give up their time to help your business. It’s important to make this as easy and painless as possible. Let your customer give feedback on their terms. That means letting them do it at the right time – the time that suits them – and letting them expand freely on their ideas. Think about it from their point of view – they’re ringing to tell you something, let them get on with it!

A good example is demographic questions – it’s great to know the gender and age of the caller, but the customer is not at all interested in that. These questions are a roadblock to the customer and prevent him from saying what’s on his mind. So our recommendation is that if you want to include demographic questions, include them in a pilot or for a short period of time so that you can get a helpful measure – and then turn them off.

What sort of questions should I ask?

At Big Ears we strongly recommend using open-ended questions, allowing the customer to expand on their ideas and volunteer extra, unexpected details. Keep in mind that this is not a mystery-shopper checklist. You want your customer to focus on what matters to them, not what you think should matter to them.

A good example is the following question:

‘Were you greeted at the door when you entered the store?’

A lot of organisations want to know if their staff are following protocol and greeting every customer who comes through the door, but this may not be of importance to the customer. The customer might remember that the staff were really nice and warm and friendly – but might not remember if he was immediately greeted when he walked through the door. So a better question might be:

‘Were the staff helpful and friendly?’

What are the most common mistakes people make when designing their survey?

One of the worst things you can do is duplicate questions, forcing the customer to repeat herself. If a customer senses that her time is being wasted repeating information she’s already given, she will become frustrated and resentful, and will feel that you aren’t taking the survey seriously. If you haven’t taken the time to get the questions right, why should she waste her time taking part?

So, a strong edit is necessary when designing your survey. Too often the tough decisions aren’t made at the time of survey-design and what should be five questions becomes twelve or thirteen. Be prepared to give up some of the things you’d like to find out – such as whether or not your staff are greeting every arrival at the door – to achieve your primary goal, which is authentic customer insight.

Why isn’t it a good idea to use the questions from my web-survey?

A lot of organisations want their feedback systems to have consistency across all media. But remember, a voice survey is going to give you better and more useful data – if you let it! Don’t blow it by trying to use the same questions and rating scale as on your website. There is no one-size-fits-all in customer surveying – make the best use of every channel you have available to you. Your web-based or paper-based survey might be the place to get all that demographic data you wanted – but it won’t give you the unedited, uncensored voice of your customer.

Why should I use a zero-to-nine scale instead of a one-to-ten scale?

We always recommend using a zero-to nine scale for a number of reasons.

Anchoring the lower end of your scale at zero avoids confusion about which end of the scale is good. For example, people with a good impression might give you a number one score, feeling that you’re number one! But nobody feels that zero is best. This is particularly important with a voice survey because you lack the visual dimension where by convention the left-hand side is bad and the right-hand side is good.

The reason we recommend a top score of nine and not ten is that there’s no number ten on the phone. This means that to give a top score of ten the customer has to do something slightly different than with all the other scores, which is never a good thing. Furthermore, when a customer enters a one you are forced to wait to see if they follow that up with a zero (making ten).

How long do you wait? If you wait too long the customer hears a long dead pause, and if you don’t wait long enough you risk accidentally reversing a potentially very high score (ten) to a very low score (one). In terms of mistakes that can badly corrupt your data, this is one of the worst.

A single-number rating scale is also more reliable on occasions where you have a bad phone line and a key press goes undetected. If a single-digit score is entered and is undetected, our survey will assume nothing has been entered and ask for the rating again. However, if you’ve got a two-digit scale and the zero or the one is missed, this will be entered as a valid answer which is completely wrong.

Some people feel that NPS mandates a zero-to-ten score, but it doesn’t. The NPS rating is point-agnostic by its very nature.

Would I be better off using an 0800 number or a text-and-callback option?

There are pros and cons to both systems which is why we often recommend using both. People of all ages will use an 0800 number, but we find that it’s more popular with older people who are more likely to go home and call from a landline. There are a lot of customers aged sixty or older who will be happier using an 0800 number, so if this demographic is important to your business then it’s a good idea to include that. However, younger customers are more likely to respond to the text and callback system, which is cheaper or sometimes free from a mobile. There is also the perception that a text and callback system is going to be quicker and easier.

An added advantage with the text and callback option is that we eliminate the need to ask the caller the location of their engagement. The customer is asked to text in to a short-code with a keyword that immediately identifies the location and campaign.

What sort of response rate can I expect?

There’s never an easy answer to what the response rate is going to be for a new campaign, because it depends on the company’s relationship with its customers. Incentives help, but some companies will struggle to get any feedback because the relationship with the customer is so broken. Other companies who have a good relationship with their customers can get an eighty or ninety percent response rate.

In retail situations where the call to action is a poster or a flier in the store, the attitude of the staff is key in determining the response rate. If your staff understand the value of voice feedback and are supportive of the program, you’re much more likely to get a good response rate. If your staff fear the program or are cynical about its goals, then you’ll find that you receive little or no responses.

One of the ways we help you to achieve a good response rate is to give you data about which locations have the best customer engagement. This means that you can reinforce across the entire company what certain locations are doing to receive feedback and which locations are consistently getting good feedback. Customer Radio is a great way to convert the cynics among your staff, because once they hear audio clips they’ll want to hear more, and they’ll want to hear clips about their own location. For the staff it becomes an exciting opportunity to impress their employer. They realise that every customer interaction matters – that each and every interaction might get played back to the CEO of the company.

Should I offer an incentive?

In our experience incentives do improve response rates and are good for programmes, but the key when offering an incentive is to get the balance right. The incentive conveys to the caller that you value their opinion and it can help the customer to overcome the mental barrier that the effort required to give feedback is not worth it. However, if the incentive is too strong you risk attracting feedback that isn’t genuine.

Any other tips?

One of the things you can do to make the feedback experience more enjoyable for your customer is to have a senior member of the company; a spokesperson or a celebrity closely associated with your brand record the voice-over for your survey. This conveys to the customer that her feedback is important to you while maintaining a strong brand-presence during the call. Imagine that the voice your customer hears asking for feedback is that of the company-CEO. Your customer is going to have a strong sense of expectation that someone in that company will listen to her feedback and that it’s not going to end up gathering dust in a file somewhere.