Turn Feedback Into Interaction

The word on the street these days is that customer engagement is 2013’s buzzword. Every CMO wants to increase engagement to drive retention.  A large part of the customer engagement process is gathering consumer insights and translating those insights into real and meaningful business decisions.

While it’s possible to build engagement when gathering insights, it’s also incredibly easy to break engagement down and have customers running for the hills if the process is done wrong.

In the past decade, free and fast online research tools have enabled every corner of the organization to design surveys and be customer facing. As such, the customer relationship is in the hands of more people within an organization than ever before.  But many customers are tired of being bombarded with everything from customer satisfaction surveys to polls. A New York Times article published last year noted that consumer patience may be fraying under the onslaught.  Journalist William Grimes says the constant nagging to take online surveys has led to survey fatigue and declining response rates.

One-off surveys rarely help to build the customer relationship, or nurture customer loyalty. An organization gets quick feedback but the customer is left empty handed if they aren’t told why the question is being asked, what’s learned from it, or what decisions were made as a result. This black box effect is one of the biggest frustrations people have with participating in research.

Aside from the obvious problem of user disengagement due to annoyance, there are accuracy and validity issues with one-off surveys.

  • First, you don’t know what you don’t know. Designing good questions to ask is both an art and a science. If you don’t ask the right questions, you’re not going to get the right answers. Not everyone knows how to ask the right questions. Bad design and sampling lead to inaccurate and low-quality data.
  • Second, the public often expects to get compensation for participating in an online survey. Are they going to give you the straight goods when you don’t really know who they are and when they can make a bit of money doing surveys? A good online survey should be a conversation tool and should involve a value exchange between the company and customer that is not financial.
  • Finally, response rates have decreased because consumers are tired of being asked to participate in yet another customer satisfaction survey. It’s worth noting a major pain point for consumers is that they’re forced to share the same information over and over again—information that thanks to today’s advanced analytics should already be known. It’s important to continue the customer conversation; to showcase that user feedback matters. People are more willing to be part of a conversation that’s being listened to by key stakeholders.

If you want to do something right, you can’t put in half the effort. Though ad hoc projects aren’t entirely ineffective, organizations should rethink how to manage the insight gathering process, keeping customer engagement and data quality in mind.

One clear solution to improve customer engagement in the feedback gathering process is to close the feedback loop. How about actively engaging people in the insight gathering process? Explain what you’re doing, tell consumers what is in it for them, and ask for their help.

Many consumers want to have a relationship with a brand they love where they get special VIP treatment in exchange for their feedback. This is an area where brands need to do some catching up. The conversation is already happening online. Creating a private environment to deepen the relationship and enrich the conversation through an ongoing community is an obvious next step for organizations looking to build consumer trust and engagement, and gather more reliable insights.

The result is open and honest feedback from your customers. Those who are closest to a brand are frequently the most critical of ideas because they have a vested interest in the business decisions soon to be made. These customers then become more than survey respondents, but rather, lifelong trusted brand advisors.  

Ellie Hutton is vice president of Vision Critical University

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