Right below this post, you’ll see two potential report types from our online transaction survey. The second report is derived by aggregating all of the responses from a group of customers who responded to the survey during a specific timeframe. This report, which plots satisfaction on the vertical axis against satisfaction on the horizontal axis, is intended to provide a high-level depiction of areas where the online experience is performing well (the upper right quadrant) and areas in need of attention...the lower right quadrant. We’re going to devote the next post to a closer look at this report and its potential implications for the customer experience.
For today, let’s focus on the first report...the respondent level data that will serve as the foundation for our closed-loop find and fix system. As mentioned in previous posts, establishing a closed-loop system to facilitate prompt response to customer issues is a basic staple of any customer experience undertaking. Your organization must ensure that it’s not making things difficult for your customers as this is the primary reason for defection. Addressing customer concerns in a timely manner goes a long way towards making things easier.
Before proceeding, a word about obtaining respondent level survey information. For any survey, you must provide your customer with the option of whether he or she would like their responses to be associated with their name, or would prefer to remain anonymous and simply have their replies tallied together with that of all other respondents. A customer’s willingness to be identified varies by industry and the type of transaction, as well as whether you are in a B2C or B2B environment. The ideal, particularly in a B2C context, is to encourage your customers to identify themselves so that the company can more easily follow-up with them personally on any issues they’ve raised. An organization can help its cause by providing customers with a detailed overview of the company’s data security policies, as well as explaining the reasons for collecting personal information.
What follows is a suggested 5-step process for executing your closed-loop system.
Step 1 - Identify Dissatisfied Customers
- You’ll want to establish a business rule for defining dissatisfaction. This could be, for example, a customer who rates any question with a 3 or lower. Another possible definition is a customer who rates more than, say, one-quarter of all responses with a 3 or less. You may also want to focus on any negative comments or suggestions as also fitting within your dissatisfied definition.
Step 2 - Customer Follow-Up
- Personally contact each of your dissatisfied customers. Ideally, this should be done using the customer’s preferred contact method - telephone, e-mail, text. The volume of your company’s transactions will dictate the optimal method for this follow-up. If, for example, your organization completes hundreds of transactions each month, you’ll likely want to outsource your follow-up to a third-party specializing in these types of contacts. If, however, your company has relatively fewer transactions, and you have the resources available, it’s likely a better experience for the customer to deal directly with a company representative.
- Whatever method you choose, you’ll want to develop a contact script to ensure a consistent and professional exchange with your customer. Additionally, if you’re following up by phone, you’ll also want to provide the callers with a brief primer on how to probe customers in order to assure that you’re capturing the “real” reason for their dissatisfaction.
- Conclude the follow-up by offering a proposed solution for the customer. While it’s possible an individual may not be satisfied with any reasonable solution you offer, generally most customers respond positively to: 1) your proactive contact; and 2) your offering a potential solution to their dissatisfaction.
Step 3 - Identify Dissatisfaction Trends
- Using both your aggregate Satisfaction / Importance report, and your respondent level feedback, isolate those questions or aspects of your transaction where the dissatisfaction can be traced back several weeks or months. These are areas of systematic underperformance that likely require your immediate attention.
Step 4 - Address the Most Important Underperforming Trends
- Focusing on these trends is important because resolving the underlying root cause problem may require considerable staff time and collaboration. While the outcome of such an exercise may include the redesign of a process or product, the payoff in terms of customer satisfaction and operational efficiency is well worth the effort.
- In almost any organization, regardless of size, you’ll find that most customer facing transactions involve numerous stakeholders from throughout the company. Some of these staff are in direct customer-facing roles, while others are behind the scenes but still play a critical role in delivering the transaction or product.
- You’ll want to convene these stakeholders and, likely over the course of several meetings, closely examine your process or product with an eye towards isolating those items that are the contributing to, or are the direct source of, your customers’ dissatisfaction.
- When your team is satisfied that they’ve arrived at a potential solution, proceed with the design and implementation. Depending on the complexity of the solution, this may take several weeks or months, so in the meantime, continue monitoring your survey results to confirm that this item continues to be a source of customer dissatisfaction.
Step 5 - Implement the Proposed Solution and Monitor the Survey Results
- After putting the proposed solution in place, check the appropriate survey question over the course of the next few weeks and ask...are the ratings / comments improving, staying the same, or continuing on a negative trend?
- Sustained improvements in your survey metrics indicate that you’ve likely addressed the root cause of your customers‘ dissatisfaction. You should now continue to see an upward positive trend in your survey as well as potential improvements in the relevant part of your company’s operations.
- Survey results that do not improve, or deteriorate, indicate that the changes you implemented to your process or product have not addressed source of customer dissatisfaction. When this happens, resist the temptation to continue tinkering with the design of the process or product. Instead, consider expanding your customer feedback beyond your transaction survey. You may, for example, want to talk with customers individually or in small groups and pose more probing questions that you may not be able to do in a conventional survey. It’s likely that these personal discussions will uncover the root cause of what’s upsetting your customers.