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Voice of the Customer: Are You Really Hearing What They’re Saying?

This is a guest post by Jeremy Watkin, Director of Customer Experience at FCR.

Are you in the habit of closing the loop with customers that offer negative feedback on post-interaction surveys like Customer Satisfaction or Net Promoter Score? I certainly hope so, because it’s a great practice that many companies aren’t in the habit of doing. When I led a customer service team, I was very proud of the fact that we made every attempt at closing the loop with the upset customers we knew about, and by some combination of resolving their issue and offering compensation, we managed to save a good many of them from churning.

But what about those customers that don’t complete a survey voicing their displeasure? What about those where something goes wrong and it’s “too much trouble to complain?” Or perhaps they do complain and the disinterested reply from support is enough for the customer to cut their losses and move on to a company that actually wants their business. And then there’s that statistic where upset customers tell dozens of people about negative experiences while happy customers tell a small handful of their friends. I’m convinced that someone invented that statistic to strike fear into the hearts of customer service leaders with the sole purpose of selling books, software, consulting, etc.

Regardless, it’s the upset customers I don’t hear from that keep me up at night—the unhappy ones we’ll never have the opportunity to save. There’s got to be more we can do, right? What if I told you that more customers are offering feedback about how we can improve and keep their business? It’s time that we start listening to the “voice of the customer” far beyond surveys, and the great news is that what once seemed far off in the distant future is totally possible right now. Let’s discuss further.

A Survey is Not Enough

I love surveys. The act of asking for feedback and then taking the time to act on that feedback is what fuels a great continuous improvement process, but it alone as a voice of customer program is incomplete at best. In my work at FCR, I see a wide range of response rates to surveys anywhere from 10 to 30%—and rarely beyond that.

Can a company really consider a voice of customer program robust if it doesn’t hear from 70% of its customers? If our goal is to truly understand what’s driving dissatisfaction and drive our customer churn rate down, we need to do more. Customers are giving feedback on traditional support channels and social media, and we must listen to that valuable non-survey feedback as well.

Sentiment Tells Us Much More

Consider for a moment relationships and what we know about nonverbal communication. In my own relationship with my wife, most of the feedback I receive about how to be a better husband is nonverbal. Whether it be “the look” or perhaps a tone of voice, I had better be adept at recognizing her signals long before she has to explicitly tell me she’s upset.

Natural language process (NLP) works in much the same way, by understanding not just what customers are saying but the way they’re saying it. Considering the fact that only 1 of every 26 customers actually complains when something goes wrong, the ability to capture customer sentiment from all customer interactions including social posts, voice, email, chat, and SMS significantly broadens our understanding of what customers are saying. And it allows us to recognize an upset customer—sometimes long before they give explicit feedback via a survey. Now we’re on our way to listening to 100% of customer communication with our company. But there’s still more.

But Actions Give Us the Full Picture

Traditional contact center platforms do a great job of helping us pull in customer communication from a variety of sources and respond in a timely manner. For teams of all sizes this is important, and the ability to track a myriad of KPIs helps us measure success, but these systems are almost exclusively predicated on the customer reaching out to us first. Are we to assume that if the customer doesn’t reach out, they’re happy?

If that’s your assumption, you may want to read up on customer journey mapping. This is the exercise of looking at the customer journey from A to Z, identifying all of the places customers touch your company (AKA touchpoints), and evaluating that experience. As I’ve learned about journey mapping, I’ve come to realize what a small (but important) role customer service plays in the overall customer experience.

Clearly a modern contact center platform must take into account the entire customer journey and understand what customers are telling us at each touchpoint with their actions. A few ideas where this might come in handy include:

  • Understanding whether the customer is a first-time buyer or long-time customer.
  • A regular subscription stopped or downgraded after a long history of purchasing regularly.
  • Order fulfillment or shipment is delayed.

There might be a variety of issues. The ability to see this full picture of the customer’s history allows us to take a more proactive approach and reach out to customers, sometimes before they become aggravated.

Focus on Customer Lifetime Value

Now this is starting to sound like the comprehensive voice of customer program we’re going for. We’ve moved beyond reacting to customers with known issues and are proactively acting based on patterns in the customer journey. There’s a final, invaluable ingredient, or metric, in this process that’s so often missing from the process of supporting customers: lifetime value.

Understanding how much a customer has purchased historically and potential future spending is an invaluable tool for a couple reasons. First, it allows your support team to understand what it might take to make things right when something has gone wrong. For example, if a customer spends $25 per month, a $10 coupon might be appreciated, but if they spend thousands annually, that same $10 credit might be insulting.

Second, with lifetime value, we can offer a premium level of service to those high value customers. When it comes to proactively reaching out to customers at various points in the journey we’re now working smarter, not harder by prioritizing our reach out first to those that spend the most and/or have been with us the longest.

A true voice of customer program should absolutely strive toward a 360-degree view of the customer’s experience—and this is totally possible when we can easily see support history, feedback, sentiment, actions and lifetime value. With that information, we shift our approach from a reactive to a proactive one. Once that’s occurred, I see a future where customer service leaders everywhere sleep a whole lot better at night.

Jeremy Watkin is the Director of Customer Experience at FCR. He has more than 17 years of experience as a customer service, customer experience, and contact center professional. He’s also the co-founder and regular contributor on Customer Service Life. Jeremy has been recognized many times for his thought leadership. 

The Why, How, and What of Measuring Customer Service Quality

This is a guest post by Jakub Slámka, CMO at Nicereply

As customer service professionals, we’re in the business of making sure our customers get the highest quality support. We strive to help them succeed with the highest caliber guidance we can provide, and to solve their problems with excellent solutions and service. When we do that, it feels good.

To create long term relationships with your customers, you need to understand how and why they act the way they do. There are three surveys that work really well for this: Customer Satisfaction, Net Promoter Survey, and Customer Effort Score. All of them involve surveying customers to get their opinion, but they ask different questions to find out different things.

Let’s break them down the Simon Sinek way so you know exactly Why, How, and What to measure when it comes to customer service quality.

Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT)

Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) is most often used to measure customer’s feelings about a specific interaction with your support team. It can also refer to how happy a customer is generally, though in the customer service industry it usually refers to an agent or a customer support team.

WHY should you measure CSAT?

Measuring customer satisfaction means having a better idea of what works to keep customers satisfied – and what leaves them unhappy. This way you’ll know what to keep up and what to fix. You’ll also be able to gauge performance of not just support generally, but specific teams and individuals as well.

HOW do you measure CSAT?

Customers will receive a survey asking if they were happy or satisfied with the service they received, which they can respond positively or negatively to. The customer chooses their response on a scale from bad (or not satisfied) to good (or satisfied). To calculate the CSAT score, subtract the % of customers who were unhappy from 100%.

WHAT does a CSAT survey look like?

You can set your CSAT survey in one of two different ways. Either you can send out an email with a survey after a ticket is closed, or you can measure it in every email interaction with your customers in the form of “instant ratings”. Survey itself can have many different looks. Nicereply CSAT survey usually looks like 3 smileys portraying different emotions, 2 hand with fingers facing upward or downwards or a scale of 10 stars.

Net Promoter Score (NPS)

Net Promoter Score (NPS) was specifically developed to measure loyalty and to provide you with feedback about how well your products are received. This metric will tell you, how likely your customers will recommend your services or products.

WHY should you measure NPS?

NPS brings a simple solution to finding out who is your loyal customer and transform unhappy clients into satisfied promoters. You can use NPS to enhance your customer service, but it can also be used by your marketing department to gauge your customers feeling toward your product.

How do you measure NPS?

NPS is usually measured via a regular survey (bi-monthly, yearly etc…). In this survey, customers are asked the above question “How likely are you to recommend *|COMPANY|* to a friend or colleague?” and they respond on a scale from 1 (very unlikely) to 10 (very likely).

If a customer answers lower than 6, they are a detractor. If they respond 9 or higher, they are a promoter. Customers responding 7-8 are passives.

NPS is calculated by subtracting the % of customers who replied as detractors from the % of customers who answered as promoters. NPS scores are not a percentage and range from -100 (very bad) to +100 (very good).

WHAT does an NPS survey look like?

Due to it being based on a research by Bain & Co, NPS survey will always look the same—a scale from 0 to 10. The question itself can vary slightly. One such example could be a question “On a scale from 1-10, how likely are you to recommend this organization as a good place to work?”—this is also known as Employee Net Promoter Score.

Customer Effort Score (CES)

Customer Effort Score is a highly specific measure of how much work your customer felt they had to do to solve an issue. Support teams using CES are able to find and eliminate friction points that cause high-effort experiences.

WHY should you measure CES?

Imagine having a problem you need to solve. Now imagine you have to jump through several hoops and switch multiple channels to get hold of someone willing to help you fix it. Even though this support agent might be “super nice”, there’s a big chance you won’t ever want to go through the same experience again.

The idea of CES is that customers enjoy doing business with companies, that are easy to work with. It means, that CES measure the amount of effort customers were experiencing with your company as a whole.

HOW do you measure CES?

CES is often sent as part of a post-service survey and it’s measured by surveying customers after the resolution of their customer service conversation (usually 24 hours after a ticket is closed).

Similar to the NPS before, customers are asked to rate one simple statement: “The *|COMPANY|* made it easy for me to handle my issue.” a standard 1(low) – 7(high) scale whether they agree or disagree with the statement.

Your CES will then be the averages of these ratings, although we recommend to look not just at your average score, but at their distribution as well. Afterall, if your scores are bunch of 7s and 1s, it still means your experience is confusing a lot of people.

WHAT does a CES survey look like?

Being based off of a research paper by CEB, CES survey will always ask the same question. Original CES used a scale of 5 different answers, while updated CES 2.0 uses a scale of 7.

Measure, Manage, and Improve

As the old saying goes, “Whatever gets measured gets managed.” Measuring quality and using what you learn to better meet customer expectations is what will propel your efforts to truly serve your customers and drive your business forward.

Try Nicereply for Kustomer for free and measure any and all of these metrics to get more feedback out of your customer interactions.

Jakub Slámka is CMO at Nicereply.

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