How often should you collect customer feedback? This question is raised more and more often, especially now, in the “era of customer feedback”.
In practice, many corporations survey all their customer base 1-4 times a year, bring the results to top management and then forget about it for the next 3-12 months till the next survey. They do this for many reasons, which are often very valid: they don’t want to trouble their customers too often, they need an annual customer metric to follow and utilize in target setting and bonuses. Sometimes they have a long history of doing surveys and they want to continue that to keep the results comparable. Certainly, they cannot start sending long customer surveys out too often. But does this approach make sense? In most cases it doesn’t.
Very often, scheduling customer surveys like that leads to dissatisfied customers and slow improvement cycles. Instead of improving the life of your customers (which is why you started collecting feedback in the first place) you end up generating more frustrations and unhappiness.
The key is timing.
In the era of internet and social media the expected response time has shrunk dramatically. Some experts say that you should be able to reply your customer within 5 minutes, others say within 24 hours. As a general rule, customers expect businesses to respond to their emails within an hour and three-quarters of online customers expect help within five minutes. Indeed, the faster you reply - the better. Yet at the same time, a fast but meaningless reply would be rather harmful than beneficial.
Now, as we’re on the same page, why exactly should you find a different timing of collecting customer feedback than doing it quarterly or annually?
1. Right time, right place
In order to understand what your customers experience, you need to understand the customers themselves and their unique circumstances. For starters, a safe bet is sending a feedback survey for a product after 30 days of use or within a day after you provided a service. Without question, the number is a simple benchmark and a common practice, but in real life you should adapt the timing to your customer cycles.
Asking for customer feedback in the right time and via the right channel will not only boost your response and accuracy rates (here’re few extra ideas of how you can improve the response rates), but also will help you to understand what’s going on in the different customer touchpoints and in the different segments of the customer experience. Naturally, long surveys won’t work here. It might also make sense to limit, how many survey invites does a single customer receive per year. But generally, it does make sense to adjust your process to your customer’s lifecycle (e.g. when they feel relevant to provide you with some feedback) than vice versa (e.g. when your annual strategy cycle would benefit from some fresh customer data).
2. No time gaps - address issues right away
Very often, companies that collect customer feedback a few times a year in massive volumes start analyzing the feedback gradually. First, they collect feedback for a month, then they analyze that feedback (that’ll be another month), then they bring it to the top management… The problem here is that if there’s something urgent/simple to fix, it might take months to acknowledge and act. By that time, unhappy customers would have already found a new supplier.
Receiving feedback immediately after a product release is often essential for the life of that product. If you are able to adjust your new product to the wishes of the customers and fix what is not working in time, it could easily save you millions in the long run. At the same time, you shouldn’t drop everything to adjust your product to every single customer suggestion (customer wish list is endless, but your resources aren't). Use text analytics (find out more about text analytics here) in order to prioritize and decide on improvements in timely manner.
3. Close the loop
Another crucial point is that a long customer feedback cycle will most likely damage your response rates. Think of it: you just made a visit to the hairdressers that went absolutely wrong: the hairdresser was late for 1 hour; the assistant was rude and the haircut was not what you expected. Then you came home, submitted a complaint… and haven’t heard from the salon for the next 6 months. After 6 months, you receive a simple “we’re sorry, but you’re welcome anytime again”. Does it make sense? It does not for a customer nor for the business. The customer received bad treatment and would likely never come back to this particular hairdresser’s. Or even worse, they would already leave a 1-star review on Google. In today’s world, one online review could kill the whole business.
According to Albrecht and Zemke at Service America: “Of the customers who register a complaint, between 54 and 70% will buy again if their complaint is resolved. The ﬁgure goes up to a staggering 95% if the customer feels the complaint was resolved quickly.”
If you wouldn’t allow this happen to your hairdresser’s, then why would you allow this happen with your software, electricity, hospital or a manufacturing company?
What is real-time customer feedback?
Real-time feedback means that you ask for feedback when your customer is most likely to provide it to you and utilize it immediately. If it requires immediate action, you act. If it is something that is only relevant as part of a bigger picture, you take it into account when analyzing the results. A modern customer feedback software like Lumoa could help you to automate and prioritize customer feedback as it comes in real time. Keep in mind that it’s equally important to address it on both individual level and a on company-level.
By addressing the feedback individually, if necessary, you respond to the customer directly helping to solve the issue. The Carey School of Business found that if the business said sorry on top of actually solving the problem and compensating for the problem, the customer satisfaction increased to 74% (if the compensation was provided without apology, the satisfaction was 37%).
At the same time, you might be getting a lot of positive and negative customer feedback, but how can you understand what is important? For that you have to analyze customer feedback on a larger scale. That helps you not only to understand your business’ weak and strong points, but also to prioritize and act on them.
Setting up real-time customer feedback process is not only about collecting and answering the feedback, but also about understanding the targets and seeing the bigger picture. This step-by-step guide will take you through the details of setting up your own system.
Ability to address customer feedback in real time is an essential part of retention strategy. Asking customer feedback is an ideal opportunity to build stronger relationships with your customers.