Responding to customer survey feedback – why small businesses do it better

This post is about how smaller businesses should respond to survey data, and why we are so much better than larger enterprises. Hurrah for the little guys!  I’m using current and real time information in my role as Chief Customer Officer to highlight best practice.  Like many smaller businesses, we’re a big fan of Surveymonkey, with it’s simple interface, quick turnaround and familiar layout, we’re able to send out frequent and targeted survey to help us understand how we are doing with our customers.

Friday afternoons is when we send out a short survey invite to all customers who interacted with support in the previous 7 days (whether via phone, email, online portal or via Intercom.)  As with many simple surveys, the response time is pretty quick, and we usually have a response rate of around 5-7%.  As previously mentioned, at Workshare, we really value customer feedback, so one of the first to read survey feedback is usually our CEO, Anthony Foy.  This ensures that I’m top of the feedback, and understanding why a customer chose to rate us or comment on us in a particular way.  This is one of the advantages of being a lean and flat-structured SME: customer feedback is noticed (and acted on) right from the top!

Most of our feedback is split between the product the customers purchased and the services around that product (customer support, project management to deploy, professional services.)  In a recent survey I was concerned to see a customer rating us 5 out of 10 on customer support, citing poor quality support.  It would have been very easy for me to berate my head of customer support, telling him that the team must do better.  Instead I prefer to take the time to investigate – look at the customer cases, talk with the team members who interacted with the customer.  Turns out that the support experience was poor for a number of reasons in this case, all of which are under my control to fix:

– poorly worded email after the customer renewed their subscription led to confusion as to how to upgrade: fixed by improving and simplifying the email templates we use

– customer called in to support but the person they spoke too was not confident on handling the renewal query: fixed with the launch of the Workshare Support Academy next week, a modularised training programme that allows us to train a new recruit, or run refresher training sessions on particular topics

– customer expressed a view that they’d rather do their renewal online (just like online banking) as it was quicker and more convenient in the customers opinion – in the process of being fixed with the launch later this year of a completely overhauled self service customer portal

When you break down why the customer was frustrated, only 1 aspect was truly under the control of the front line support person, but the three factors together delivered a poor customer support experience.  Explaining why something went wrong and how you are going to fix it goes a long way to win a customer back.  Speaking regularly with customers who take time to give us feedback reminds me of the need to continually improve our communication with customers.

All in all, it’s a simple thing to thoroughly investigate customer feedback, and it invariably leads to improvement for customers. When your not a huge enterprise business, those changes can be made straight way (another advantage of being a lean SME!)  So whether you’re big or small, when was the last time you thoroughly investigated some feedback your customer gave to you?  Make time in your week to read the feedback, investigate it, talk to the customer and relish the chance to apologise when things went wrong – it’s worth the effort when you can turn things around so quickly & easily!


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