March 22, 2012 | The XM Blog

How to Measure Voice of Customer


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Every so often, questions bubble up about the best way to measure the voice of customer. Pre-internet methods are less than ideal: phone surveys during dinner, mystery shoppers, long and arduous focus groups in return for a rubbery chicken dinner and a few stale cookies.

The rising popularity of the internet provided a new avenue for getting voice of customer insights that was faster and more efficient for all involved—quicker and less invasive for consumers; cheaper for companies; and with the potential for a lot more data collection.

But abuses have become rampant, which can at times make it feel hard for our clients who are legitimately looking to improve their customers’ experience. They need to understand it in order to improve it.

Measuring the customer experience is obviously a pretty complex topic, and surveys are just the tip of the iceberg. Surveys are one tool you can use—they are not the end goal.

That said, here are a few ideas on how to harness the power of the online survey. We call them the 5 R’s

  • Be Respectful. Make sure your survey comes at a suitable time, not at a critical or distracting point in their online experience. Make sure your surveys are an appropriate length—our research indicates that if customers know they’re sharing their opinions for a good cause, on a website they will give you 3 to 3 ½ minutes of their time. The time it takes them to complete a survey is far more important than the number of questions you ask them.  And don’t ask them for a bunch of personally identifiable information (PII), especially if you are going to use it to market to them. Always let them opt out and decide not to take your survey. It should be simple and obvious to click yes or no and either share their opinions or not. If they decline, don’t ask them again for a few months.
  • Be Relevant: Ask them about THEM, ask about their experience.  Ask questions that make sense. Don’t assume every visitor to a sports website is male and give them a market research survey about quintuple-blade razors. Worse yet, don’t ask age and gender of site visitors and then give a 43-year old male a survey about handbags.
  • Be Real: Don’t trick your customers. Don’t tell them you want their opinion in order to improve their experience if you’re really looking to upsell them or get their feedback on an advertiser. Don’t try to mislead them about the length of the survey or the usage of the data.
  • Be Results-Oriented: If you’re going to take your customers’ time by asking for their opinions on your business, make sure you know what to do with it. Make sure you use voice of customer analytics that actually allow you to improve your business.  Here is where short surveys can really let you down.  Your customers are complex; we aren’t going to be able to gather insights in order to tack action with a couple of questions.  Where can you add value to your business and to your consumers is when you use the customer intelligence you are gathering to take action and improve the experience for the consumer.  That’s a win for the consumer (and you).
  • Be Random. It has to be random to be representative. While the idea of opt-in feedback sounds nice because people can choose if they want to give you their opinions, you only get the squeaky wheels—the people who love you and the people who hate you. You have to randomly intercept customers during their experience to get actionable intelligence. You’re still giving them an option to share their thoughts or not—they can always decline the survey.

While most of our own clients survey in this manner; some do break fundamental rules. Some intercept their customers at the wrong time, some insist on presenting surveys that are too long, some try to mislead customers about the nature of their surveys.

But when they follow these rules, our clients find that anywhere from 5-25% of customers complete their surveys—rates that are impressive and fly in the face of any popular notions about survey fatigue or customer annoyance.

When done well, online surveys are an easy way to ask your customers their opinions with far less interruption and time than focus groups, telemarketers, or other methods from the old days.

But surveys are only a tool—a fine and precise x-acto knife when used correctly; a clumsy and ineffective rusty butter knife when used incorrectly. A business can be transformed through customer experience analytics if the data is accurate and actionable, and you have to get a good tool to get good data.

Surveys are not the end goal; they are a means to an end.

The end is better business and you can get there by leveraging customer experience analytics in managing forward.

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About the Author

As a pioneer in customer experience analytics, Verint delivers superior technology and proven methodology to connect the customer experience to the bottom line. The result is better business for companies and a better experience for consumers.

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