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PHOTO: Donald Edgar

Nothing is more important than gathering, interpreting and reacting to customer feedback.

According to Gartner, more than 80 percent of companies depend upon the quality of the customer experience (CX) they offer to serve as their primary competitive strategy. 

Of course, only your customers can tell you if your company is delivering a quality experience. But translating customer feedback into actions that improve CX involves more than conducting a simple two-sided conversation. It requires a structured approach to gathering and processing customer feedback.

First Things First: Gathering Useful Feedback

Your customers can speak to you in many different ways. Here are among the most popular and effective means of gathering customer feedback:

  • Post-visit surveys. Think back to a time when you were particularly pleased or disappointed as a customer. When would have been the best time to solicit feedback from you about that experience? Right afterward, of course, while the details and the emotions were still fresh in your mind. That’s why post-visit surveys rank high as an effective voice of the customer (VoC) tool.
  • A/B testing. “Which is better: Number 1, or Number 2?” You probably heard that question at least dozen times during your last visit to an optometrist. And for good reason. Continual testing between two versions of something — or almost anything — is an effective means of finding the best version of that thing. A/B testing is a great way to determine customer preferences.
  • Customer satisfaction ratings. What’s the best way to find out how well you’re doing with your customers? Just ask. Customer satisfaction surveys typically focus upon a specific experience, often asking the customer to rate the quality of that experience according to a scale, e.g. 1 to 10. It’s quick and easy for the customer, and it can provide tremendous insights into the quality of the experience you’re providing.
  • App reviews. For software applications, soliciting customer reviews can be a highly effective form of gathering VoC feedback. (When did you last download an app without checking out at least some of the customer reviews?) This approach to gathering VoC feedback can provide a level of detail that few other forms of feedback can rival.
  • Customer service logs. What sorts of problems have been plaguing your customers? The logs that your support team keeps should tell that tale. Studying service logs can provide a twofold benefit: You can find ways to enhance your product offering and spot problems that stem from poor communication. (“What we have here is a failure to communicate!”) Sometimes just a simple list of answers to frequently asked questions or an instruction manual tweak can eliminate significant sources of customer frustration.
  • VoC studies. Customer-focused studies can provide lots of data that can be useful in better serving your customers. These studies, often used during the product development stage, are especially helpful in creating an enhanced understanding of the customers’ wants or needs that the product is designed to fulfill.

The feedback you gather from customers will fall into one of two categories: quantitative or qualitative. Quantitative data provides precise, factual, numbers-based feedback while qualitative data is more subjective in nature — both in the gathering of the data (the responses likely involve words rather than numbers) and in the interpreting of the data.

Related Articles: Drawing a Line Between VoC, Customer Experience and Customer Analytics

Customer Feedback Is in Hand — Now What?

No matter what methodology you used to gather your customer feedback, the next step is to morph that raw data into actionable insights. Begin by collating the feedback into specific categories. Categories commonly include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • Functionality and features.
  • Bugs.
  • Usability issues.
  • New functionality requests.
  • User education flaws.

Collating and categorizing the data helps you identify the business department that should receive the data.

The next step, logically, is to ensure that the data is delivered to the appropriate team and, more specifically, to the appropriate people within the team. This is critically important. Failure to get the customer feedback into the right hands — those able, ready and willing to take action — will eliminate any possibility of fixing problems.

Once the data has been delivered to the appropriate people, a core team (often just one or two) should be assigned the task of sorting and processing the data. This team’s job is to triage and prioritize issues as appropriate, ensuring that the most urgent problems are tackled first. That team may also determine that some of the data should be subject to additional analysis or design and will parcel out those items accordingly.

The above process should result in a list of action items. At this point, one final sorting task remains: determining whether each item belongs in the backlog or on the road map. Bugs go in the backlog, and product changes or enhancements belong on the road map. Usability issues can go either way. Quick and easy changes should be logged as bugs. Issues that have more of a global impact on the product should go on the road map.

Related Article: Not Another @#$&! Survey ...

The Voice of the Customer Is as Good as Gold

The insights you gather through customer feedback are invaluable. That’s why so many companies spend money to gather customer feedback. Harvard Business Review has reported that the top 5 percent of the best-performing companies have developed an enhanced understanding of the human experience delivered by their technology.

But the gathering of customer feedback isn’t enough. That raw data, just like a lump of mined ore, offers only potential value. It’s the refinement of the data that, done correctly, transforms it into good-as-gold, actionable insights.