How do we anticipate customer needs without surveying them (which only serves to annoy them)?

by Abraham Venismach

Question from Libby D.

A little background: Libby’s company’s niche is Online Customer Engagement.

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  • Marco Houthuijzen
    December 19, 2017

    Dear Libby,

    In each and every customer contact, the customer will share his expectations and needs if you would only bother to ask (register and follow up on them).

    And I am quite sure that an online customer engagement company as yours is using the Net Promotor Score: don’t focus on the numbers. The comments are WAY more important. In a comment the customer clarifies the score given. This clarification is all about the customer’s expectations and needs. See tools like http://www.hellocustomer.com

    • Libby Dale
      December 29, 2017

      Hi Marco,
      Rather than wait for a customer to tell us how they feel through an NPS score or comment. I’m suggesting that we try to get on the front foot to predict and measure individual customer health so we can take action to address their pain and give them what they need. Our interest is in reducing customer churn. We have so much customer data in our systems, we need to use it more effectively.

  • Pat Porras
    December 19, 2017

    Libby, very good question. My feedback: ETR is the principle (Earn The Right) by creating the valid business reason as to WHY their feedback is important. Hope this helps

  • Marilyn Suttle
    December 19, 2017

    Hi Libby – I love that you want to ensure that surveys don’t annoy your customers. Some ideas:
    – Choose a select group of key customers and invite them to be part of a focus group. Make it rewarding for them to participate and express what’s in it for them – improved service, customized experiences, etc.
    – Look back to see if you can identify and use preference patterns from the past.
    – Strategically place single preference questions along their online experience that you can track.

  • Andy Schulkind
    December 19, 2017

    Dear Libby,

    Listen to the customers needs and concerns during your interactions with them. How do their individual expectations match up with what your company (brand) is promising them? How closely aligned are your processes with your customers expectations? If there is a big gap, discuss solutions with them about closing that gap and delivering on their expectations. Depending on the situation, this can be simple or complex. Collaborate or compromise with them to get better outcomes

  • Shep Hyken
    December 19, 2017

    It’s been said, but worth saying again… and loud: LISTEN! You don’t have to do formal customer surveys to know what customers are thinking. Every time a customer calls for support, the agent can get some idea of how customers feel about the company’s products and services – in real time. Consider asking customers to join a customer advisory board. Include happy customers, prospective customers and past customers. No strings attached from them. Just feedback and suggestions.

    • Libby Dale
      December 29, 2017

      I agree, there is no better way to get an understanding of customer sentiment than sitting in on calls and hearing the customer and measuring the types of calls at the customer level. If we collect stats at the company level, we can’t see how individual customers are faring. Our aim is to measure how individual customers are experiencing our products and services and to preemptively take action when customers are in a poor state of health.

  • Nick Bush
    December 19, 2017

    Customers who volunteer feedback either as complaints or praise will give you a pretty good idea of how well you are doing at responding to their needs. Any conversation with the customer to resolve their complaint is also a great opportunity to listen – which is absolutely key, as other respondents have indicated – and explore their needs further.

  • Tema Frank
    December 19, 2017

    Shep Hyken beat me to it: follow that advice!

    Call people. As long is you don’t sound salesy, you’ll get much more info from a phone call than by email. (Way easier to ignore your email plea.) If you have reason to suspect they may not be happy with you, acknowledge that up front. Something along the lines of “I know we haven’t always offered the level of service our customers have right to expect, and we really want to change that. I’d really value your insight on how we can improve.”

  • Paolo Fabrizio
    December 20, 2017

    Hi Libby, as customers express their needs and feelings during conversations that’s the very moment to collect them. Go beyond NPS which is a good metric but it’s not enough to investigate customer’s real expectations. Therefore I suggest you to add 1 open question at the end of each conversation or interaction (e.g.’which ingredient you’d like us to add to make our product / service delicious?’). If you do it on a regular basis you’ll get timely and useful insights to work on.

  • Moshe Davidow
    December 20, 2017

    I agree with Nick, but would go even farther than that. You need to leverage your complaint department into the customer compass of your organization. You need to solve their problems fast (even if it wasn’t your fault), and then you can get some honest feedback.
    Most questionnaires are quantitative, but what you are looking for is the “Why?”, and for that you need to go qualitative. Most managers are clueless as to how their customers feel about their products /services or their company.

  • Libby Dale
    December 29, 2017

    Great feedback thank-you,

    Lets take this a bit further, surveys should form part of a ‘customer retention health score’ but as our customers, we know an awful lot more about them. We could be monitoring how they use our products (to identify value gaps), what support they have needed, how our operations has (or hasn’t) delivered for them, how they pay (on time or late), their spend trend (growth/decline), their interaction on our self-service website and so much more.

    What do you think?

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