by Tom Taber, Managing Director, VOC
Imagine the following scenario: your company recently conducted a customer satisfaction survey. The process involved much consideration and thoughtful planning for execution. Now the interviews are complete and the results have been reported. There was some positive feedback, but issues were uncovered as well. You want to address the concerns, but you fear the organization will simply move on to other priorities. You’d like a detailed plan explaining where to go from here.
This is a frequent pattern in our practice with clients. Many companies head into a customer survey initiative as though they were scheduling a checkup with a doctor: they head into it with confidence, hoping to confirm nothing is wrong. After the results are in — assuming nothing appears critically wrong — other matters take priority. It’s a common mistake that overlooks the potential advantage to be gained by going the extra step to properly follow up on the survey.
Let’s step back and examine the reason for conducting the customer survey in the first place: improving customer relations leads to business growth and revenue gains. It is a proven cause and effect. Companies that have successfully raised their satisfaction ratings and Net Promoter Scores (NPS) have increased customer loyalty and accelerated growth. Whether you’re best in your class or failing miserably, improvement should always be the goal. A good survey initiative should include a plan for your business, identifying the issues which must be addressed to achieve greater commercial success in the future. You need a concrete and detailed plan — steps to take you from where you are to where you need to be.
From our experience working with clients, we’d like to offer six proven tips to maximize the impact of a VOC customer survey.
1. Say thank you!
Customers appreciate being asked for their feedback. They value it even more if you take the time to thank them personally — and tell them what you’re doing to improve service based on their comments. The best approach is to meet with your customers to discuss their feedback. They’ll be impressed that you care so much.
2. Share the results
Customer feedback can be an effective tool to drive your employees. It’s crucial that your staff members know how your customers rate your business. Spreading the news — good or bad — delivers a powerful message, whether you’re reinforcing good behavior or highlighting needed improvements.
Let everyone know what success looks like. Share customer comments that exemplify your company at its best, when your staff has exceeded expectations.
Conversely, share examples where your team had dropped the ball and discuss how customers reacted. You should even consider sharing direct quotes with your employees. This is an illuminating approach that’s always successful.
3. Take action
Once the results are in, decide which areas need your attention, prioritize them, and then craft a written plan to respond. Be thoughtful in selecting areas that need attention. Don’t pick pet projects or those that neatly align with current initiatives. Choose issues raised by the largest number of customers. Select matters that contribute to the underlying cause for some customers to give your company anything other than a “promoter” rating (using the NPS parlance).
Less is more in this case. Do’t try to solve everything. Pick three or four top complaint areas and work those issues diligently. Define a plan of attack. Outline the steps that will be taken to address the issues. Clarify who’s accountable and the deadlines to accomplish key tasks. Define your plan, write it down, and then act on it.
4. Internalize the top improvement areas
The key improvement areas uncovered in your survey results must become core to the senior team’s operating agenda. Your team must monitor the action plan periodically otherwise it will be forgotten. Use monthly staff meetings and quarterly business reviews as a forum to monitor and drive progress.
5. Don’t overdo it!
Clients are often tempted to interview again after a few months to check on progress. Be thoughtful when deciding timing for a follow-up survey. Make sure that changes have been implemented and customers have felt the impact. Interviewing too frequently can annoy customers, particularly if they feel you haven’t evolved since the last survey. A reasonable timeline is 12 months for struggling companies and 12–24 months for companies that are performing well with their customer base.
6. Track your progress and reassess
Instead of conducting a follow-up survey six months later, consider an internal progress audit with your sales and management teams. Ask whether customers’ issues have been addressed. Have your staff grade progress and focus on the areas where you need to work harder. Employees know what’s going on and can predict customer feedback. By focusing the audit on the actions taken to fix things, you reinforce continuous improvement — the goal of the effort.
Maximizing the ROI — it’s all in the follow-up
Effective VOC initiatives focus on the follow-up work, not the research. The real work should begin when you collect your research results, not when you start planning your next customer survey. Challenge yourself to define what you’re going to do differently, and then hold yourself accountable to deliver. The results — a happier customer base, increased loyalty, and more business gains — will justify the effort many times over.