Stop Pestering: 5 Ways to Gauge Customer Feedback Without Being Overwhelming

Voice of the Customer
Customer Experience
Tapping into voice of the customer feedback is an essential step in understanding customers' needs and then aligning engagement strategies, products, and services around the data. Here are five ways to gauge customer feedback

Tapping into voice of the customer feedback is an essential step in understanding customers' needs and then aligning engagement strategies, products, and services around the data.

A 1to1 Media reader Robert Graham asked this question in response to Cynthia Clark's recent blog which highlighted the four essential steps to acting on customer feedback. He asked, "Is there any consideration for how to balance the need for customer feedback with tapping that resource too much? I know I am frequently blitzed with requests for feedback before I've even had a meaningful experience."

The best answer I can offer is the frequency with which companies conduct surveys depends on the frequency with which they interact with their customers.

Rob Siefker, director of the Customer Loyalty Team at Zappos, told me last week that he surveys customers when they call the contact center, but not every time. The company has implemented a formula of delivering surveys based on volume of purchases and number of times they contact the company.

I'd add that there are various other ways to gauge the voice of the customer that can be carried out without overwhelming and annoying them.

1. Ask frontline employees what's going on.
These employees are speaking to your customers on a daily basis and are aware of what's causing frustrations or creating issues. Appointing frontline employees for proactive data collection too helps to diagnose problems and get to root cause faster.
Siefker said while Zappos is great at listening to customer feedback, it's also proactive in collecting the voice of the employees. Through ongoing one-on-one meetings and employee surveys, he said, "We talk about all the kinds of things going on at the company--both customer facing and employee facing--and find ways to talk about issues and improve upon things."

2. Analyze what they're saying via speech and text analytics

In order to maximize customer satisfaction, it's important for organizations to be able to identify when customers become frustrated, angry, or satisfied, and discover the root causes of these emotions.

Unfortunately, it can be difficult to detect customer emotions as well as what prompted them in a systematic way. Many companies are adopting speech and text analytics as ways to uncover and understand these hidden emotions.

Rosetta Stone, for example, uses text mining capabilities to analyze customer sentiment, as well as opinions expressed in surveys and information about competitors. The company wanted to understand why certain customers go online to share their success and excitement of our products versus why customers go online to share their disappointment.

Comments are categorized by whether they're positive or negative, if the comments are about Rosetta Stone or a competitor, and how they connect contextually with other comments.

3. Create and leverage communities of brand advocates
Building brand advocacy should not only focus on nurturing relationships; it should also center on tapping into this valuable resource to detect issues and determine solutions for improvement.

Fiskars wanted to stimulate more spontaneous discussion of its products among the significant and diverse online and offline communities of crafting enthusiasts.

To that end, the company created a community site,, to have a direct channel of communication with its customers and play a more active role in the online conversations they were already having. The site also helped in the company's quest to find four enthusiasts of both the crafting arts and Fiskars to act as brand ambassadors and facilitate discussion about the company. The selected customers are paid contractors, charged with keeping the Fiskateers site interesting, informative, and engaging in online discussions about crafting, as well as holding instructional seminars in their local territories. They're expected to spend 20 hours a week on Fiskateer activity.

4. Follow customers on social media
Millions of conversations are happening every day online about your brand, and listening to them sets up the understanding by providing context.
Best Western, the recent Gold winner in the 2013 Gartner & 1to1 Media CRM Excellence awards, has implemented a social listening strategy to monitor and acknowledge customer feedback via social chatter and reviews. It aims to solve any issues via a transparent platform - Tripadvisor.

The hotel chain enables its managers of its 4,200 locations worldwide to respond to customer concerns and reviews while keeping a consistent brand voice. The dashboard solution provides hotel managers with the ability to reply to customer feedback right from within the program. Each hotel has the opportunity to observe the social chatter for Best Western hotels in general, as well as collect targeted feedback that pertains to their location specifically. Notifications appear in real time, allowing these managers to care for issues publicly and swiftly. Even further, hotel managers can customize their dashboards to display the social chatter for their competitors far and wide.

5. Leave the office
Millard "Mickey" Drexler, the 69-year-old CEO of JCrew who is often credited with the retailer's rapid rise in the 90s, is known for making routine visits (about five per week) to stores, and he also regularly visits offices and distribution centers, making an effort to meet every new employee. During his store visits, he often approaches customers to ask their opinions on their shopping experiences or the products. He often personally responds to customer emails and phone calls. As one colleague said in a Wall Street Journal article, "He knows what consumers want, he surrounds himself with smart people and, above all, he's close to the product."