You want growth? Your customers' health is more important than your top of funnel.
It sounds counter-intuitive, but it's true. Over half of customers believe their experience is more important than price when making a purchasing decision (Gartner). And according to Harvard Business Review, it’s 25 times more cost-effective for you to retain existing customers than to invest in new ones. That means it's critical to know how your customers are feeling at all points in the customer journey.
This guide will discuss everything you’ll need to know about proactively gathering feedback, so you can determine who your strongest customers are, where your strong and weak points are, and continually improve your overall customer experience.
Customer feedback trends
With access to so much customer data and insights, expectations are at an all-time high. The majority of customers expect companies to fully understand their needs and exceed their expectations. So Customer Success (CS) teams are fully committed to giving the most positive experience possible and exceeding all expectations, right?
Unfortunately, too often CS falls into a reactive state.
And in the early days, CS really was all about putting out customer fires, resolving customer issues and tending to complaints. Now, modern companies are starting to think about customer success in terms of customer growth.
A new genre of CS has emerged: A team fully committed to carving the optimal customer experience from the initial moment of the buyer journey through renewal and beyond. They’re combining all interactions to find the sum of the experience and leveraging customer data and insights to continuously improve it.
So how do you know what your customers are thinking and feeling? You ask them, obviously!
Your customers will provide you with the perspective you’re searching for. Their feedback is a representation of how well you set expectations, your ability to meet them, and the level of trust and confidence they have in the relationship.
In this blog, we'll walk through the five W's of customer feedback (why, who, what, when, and where) and we'll even throw in an H for good measure (how) to learn to better leverage customer feedback in pursuit of topline revenue growth.
Why: Collecting feedback is vital to your business
It’s important to know where you land on the customer expectation spectrum. If you gather a customer health status, you can take action and improve on those in need of more support. Leading companies use automation to set up trigger actions when customers reach a specific health score or parameter you put in place lifts the responsibility off your customer success team.
It isn’t enough to simply react to customer complaints when they arise, or you’ll be left wondering where you went wrong when they sign on with a competitor in a year. You can plan ahead to gather customer feedback at all times in the customer journey to create the best customer experience possible and catch risks before it’s too late.
Who: Gathering feedback from each customer status
All customers are created equal, at least when gathering feedback. Nothing feels better than getting glowing reviews from happy customers, but the most growth occurs when we dig deeper with those experiencing pain. The difficult conversations often lead to more insight than the high fives.
For legacy customers who support your mission and received maximum value, it helps to uncover areas they felt were most influential.
- What do they feel contributed most to their success?
- Why did they initially buy? What was unique about you?
- Were proper expectations set? Were they consistently met at all points in their journey? How were they measured?
For customers experiencing pain or for churned customers, you need to find out what went wrong. (Critically, you need a layer of abstraction between you and churned/unhappy customers or you'll get faulty data. Always conduct these surveys through third parties or anonymously for best results.)
- What drove their decision to evaluate other solutions?
- Why did they initially buy? What was unique about you?
- Where do they feel you didn’t deliver on expectations? Where was the disconnect?
- What do you consider a success and failure?
As you collect feedback regularly, you can begin to analyze patterns in behavior and similarities between responses.
If Customer A, B and C’s satisfaction scores and health scores are correlated, you can ask for feedback to understand the root cause. If they shared negative feedback about your onboarding experience, you can take actionable measures to improve your onboarding.
On the contrary, gathering feedback from your healthy customers will give visibility into your strengths and what to scale across the customer journey.
According to Microsoft, 68% of consumers say it increases their perception of a brand when companies send them proactive customer service notifications. Don’t wait until customers have decided to look elsewhere, and instead plan feedback surveys at specific benchmarks within the customer journey to build trust and catch issues before they arise. All customers can teach you something about your current buyer journey.
What: Types of feedback to request and associated metrics
What information is useful for which aspects of your customer experience?
Depending on the type of feedback you collect, you’ll uncover actionable insights that you can associate with quantitative metrics. For example, understanding overall customer satisfaction score will require different feedback than if you were looking to improve your time to resolution.
Here are a couple types of measurables that correspond with a different feedback type:
Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT): A quick survey (typically one question) to understand customer satisfaction for a specific product/service or interaction with your company. If scores are low in a particular area, you’re able to pinpoint and improve a specific experience instead of analyzing customer health as a whole. CSAT is considered short-term satisfaction.
NPS Score (NPS): Satisfaction surveys sent more regularly around the 1-month, 6-month and 1-year benchmarks to measure willingness to advocate. Rather than pinpointing a specific action, you’re gaining a better understanding of how they feel towards your brand overall. NPS doesn't correlate to churn, but it does to Net Retention, due to a relationship between willingness to advocate and willingness to expand.
Other valuable metrics could include resolution times, monthly recurring revenue (MRR), expansion MRR and customer churn rate, but can be calculated without asking customers how they feel via surveys.
When: Optimal times to collect feedback
How often do you collect feedback and at what times during the customer cycle?
Just as timing is everything in a sales cycle, timing is important when asking for customer feedback. Remaining relevant and timely can dictate the type of feedback your customers will share.
It's best to reach out at moments of high engagement, so understanding when your customers have reached a "moment-of-truth" is critical. Use a preset follow-up email template to remind them to complete it when engagement is still high. But feedback collection can be too early as well as too late; chances of anyone filling out a survey a week after purchasing or interacting with you is slim.
Benchmarks worthy of feedback collection could include kickoff periods, post-training sessions, moments of achievement or improvement, positive metrics reported, customer-related events or monthly check-ins.
Where: Channels for requesting feedback and generating engagement
Which channels are best to interact with customers and request feedback?
Since most customer interactions begin online, you may be missing out on opportunities to meet their needs quickly if you aren’t meeting them there. If you have previous customer data on where they interact with you most, you should meet them on their preferred method of communication.
According to Forrester, 54% of customers use email for customer service, making it the most used digital channel for customer service.
Microsoft also reported that 84% of Americans sent customer service requests over social media and received a response from the company.
So what does this all mean for you?
Create a multi-channel network to interact with customers and gather feedback where they are interacting most. If they prefer email, your surveys should be scheduled using email automation. The easier you make it for your customers to engage and complete feedback, the more likely they’ll do so—and the more customer data you have to make better decisions.
How: Choosing the best collection method
If you’ve determined the best channel on which to engage with your customers, the next question is this: What kind of survey are you actually going to send?
Consider how much work you’re requiring of your customers and how that corresponds with the feedback’s level of importance. If you’re simply asking about a product feature, think about the question type and making it as fast and easy for your customers to complete.
If you’re requiring more thought-provoking responses about their overall experience throughout the past year, open-ended text fields and an overall range or rating scale would be more appropriate than yes or no questions. A notice or email request explaining the survey beforehand can set the right expectations. Consider explaining the importance of the survey and how much time it will typically take to complete.
Consider your channel, survey type, and question type. If you need a quick answer, make the responses quick and easily accessible. If you need responses with depth, prepare your customer’s expectations and allow fields for open-ended answers.
Customers now rate service as more important than price or product itself, so it’s up to us to continually improve the customer experience. A poor one, especially without resolve or proactive communication, can create a domino effect of frustration, distrust, and churn.
Listen to your customers often to understand what they really need and expect. Gathering feedback will be your most trusted report, and allow your customer success team to create a more proactive and positive experience for each new customer.
Click here to learn more about customer feedback and using actionable insights to build a proactive customer experience.