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What's Your Ideal Voice of the Customer Approach?

4 minute read
Ken Peterson avatar
Customer surveys are great, but are you asking the right questions at the right time?

Rhetorical questions. We get them all the time. They usually seek some sort of answer based off of generalized opinions, usually those of the person asking the question.

One that sticks out for me is, “Why would anyone live there?” Pick any place, and you will find solid arguments about why people live there (weather, scenery, job availability, close to family, etc.). But usually there is something very personal about the decision. And if the person asking the question doesn’t espouse those same feelings, they simply can’t understand why someone would live ... there.

What's the End Game of Determining Customer Churn?

Every day, consumers, customers and clients make choices in the same way. Why would a customer choose a store location that is farther away from their home with higher prices? Why would a consumer pick the name brand over a private label or generic version?

All good questions. Often, if asked, someone will try to rationalize their decision(s), but usually it comes down to intangibles. The store that is farther away just “feels” cleaner. The private label brand didn’t have an eye-catching label. They support local business versus national chains. And so on. 

When we look at all the surveys we field and all the data we collect, these types of reasons are unlikely to show up. I see it all the time. A client will hear about a reason for churn, then they will try to formulate an attribute question that adequately measures that perception. Yet it never really ends up capturing that customer “mood”; rather it just lengthens the survey and becomes yet another reporting metric that gets lost in the mix. 

We try in so many ways to put a number against an opinion, feeling or inclination. Even in adding that seemingly harmless “one more question” never really gets at what we are trying to accomplish. That goal should be put in place surrounding any CX management software — which is usually summarized as “we want to retain customers and find what drives them to our competition so we can fix that.”

Related Article: Understanding the 'Why' Behind Customer Churn

Surveys Should Be Beginning of the Customer Journey

Early on in my days in customer experience, the goal of closed-loop customer experience management was to find those reasons; they just needed to have a low overall score, then it was the role of the customer experience manager to understand the reason for that score.

Learning Opportunities

Despite the mass surveying of the population, those of us within the industry forget that our predefined list of attributes does not necessarily represent the entire consideration set of our customers and that attribute analytics will bubble up some themes, but not necessarily define the cause. My score of a seven might be very different from your perception of a seven.

Instead of asking each customer to participate in more surveys, and longer surveys, you need to determine how to push the right survey at the right time. It is not a simple router with an overriding resting period; rather, you need an engine that is designed to flexibly get feedback where it is most needed. Instead of adding “more sample size” to a particular touchpoint, we should all take more time to listen to customers.

Related Article: The Most Important Customer Survey Question

Pushing Out the Right Customer Surveys at Right Time

One of our clients is a leading homebuilder. They have chosen to receive every survey response, not just the low ratings. They, in turn, are responsible for a discussion with each of their respective customers so they can understand things that went well in a bad move-in experience and those that could even be improved during a good experience. All ideas that could just be filtered out as an average now instead become a source for taking action even where there was no “number.”

What I like best about their approach is that the survey data is not seen as the end of the journey — but rather as the beginning to even greater awareness on not only that customer’s experience, but also as a way to make the next customer’s experience even better.

About the author

Ken Peterson

Ken Peterson, President of CX at QuestionPro, has over two decades of experience in the marketing research, retail, technology, hospitality and transportation industries with a recent focus on financially linked business insights, SaaS deployments and CX consultation. This ties in with his long history of P&L responsibility and detailed understanding of improving business operations.