The right way to use your customer survey data

Whether you are running hugely complex outsourced customer surveys, or light touch online short questionnaires, the real challenge for most of us is understanding what the survey data is telling us and making use of it wisely to drive a more positive customer experience. Most survey data is made up of qualitative and quantitative data, so let’s take a look at how you could be leveraging each type of data.

Qualitative Data

The numbers never lie – the results are a real reflection on how well your products and services are working for those who pay you.  It’s tempting to ask an ever growing number of questions, but who is using the information gathered for each question and how are you communicating your actions to the respondents and wider customer audience? Starting at the top, a simple numerical dashboard of customer satisfaction (short term view), customer effort (easy to do business with) & net promoter (relationship) score data gives your executive a great overall snapshot.  What changes have you introduced that may have impacted the numbers (new product released, price increase, launch in a new market sector, etc.)  The numbers below this, around detailed questions encourage not just your customer facing teams, but your product teams to seek out and analyse the data pertinent to them. At Workshare, having launched a new model for licensing our software, qualitative customer feedback data helped us understand the effectiveness of the new licensing model, but more importantly, allowed us to understand where we needed to make changes.  As a result, we changed the communications (at purchase and renewals), simplified a number of backend processes and introduced an additional element to the licensing model for enterprise customers.  We could then track the positive impact of the changes through subsequent customer feedback data.

Quantitive Data

For customer experience practitioners, the words customers use to describe their experience are golden, but it’s not always so easy to get the rest of the business reading the actual words customers share.  Various research suggests that unhappy customers tend to use between 5x to 9x more words than those who are happy – a customer “rant” may not make happy reading, but it does give you actionable data!  Once again, starting with executive buy in is key.  At Workshare, the CEO is the first to digest the customer feedback comments, which encourages the whole executive team to do the same.  It’s often very easy to see trends, and human nature dictates that once you start reading, you want to understand the customer’s whole story.  For customer facing & product teams, it’s not just a score, but a description of the experience, what went well and what didn’t, so treating quantitive data separately to qualitative data is really important.  It should be the primary source of discussion at your “Voice of the Customer” or “What the Customer Said” meetings, provided as a pre-read, so the meeting purpose is to agree actions, such as “yes, we’ll make that change to our product”, “OK, we’ll investigate that matter further”, “no, that is not our product direction so we’ll communicate more clearly going forward.”  The words of the customer are more powerful than any other data source (apart from perhaps sales figures), but they do often need to be interpreted. For example, “I tried to log on to your product and it wouldn’t work” could be as a result of a failed internet connection on the customer’s side. Avoiding knee jerk reactions to feedback in favour of investigating further is the best approach.  Given that the customer took the time to type up their experience, there’s a good chance your customer facing or product teams could chat with them, so picking up the phone to hear more is a great next step.

At Workshare, we follow up with every customer who had a negative experience (fix the issue), but also with those who raved about us (delighted customers give references), so there are many uses of survey data to help you in your quest to create customer fans. If you look again at your latest survey results, what your customers are saying?


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