By Rick Danos
In today’s challenging business environment, measuring and monitoring customer satisfaction and loyalty is one of the most discussed topics – from the boardroom to the call center. Businesses want to know whether their customers are happy with their products and services and if they will purchase again. If they have had a negative experience, a company wants to know the reasons. With today’s emerging technologies, enterprises might overlook one of the most effective, customer-friendly, and cost-conscious forms of gauging customer satisfaction: just ask them.
With a few simple questions within a strategic window of time, automated surveys (any survey delivered in an automated fashion via voice, SMS/text messaging, or email) empower businesses to quickly understand what their customers think of them and the quality of their customer service. And, if necessary, it allows them to take immediate action based on the feedback.
Industry experts believe that investing in technology to gather feedback and improve service before customers broadcast their frustrations to the world is vital, especially in the era of social networking. Now more than ever, customers are able to quickly voice opinions about their experiences with virtually any entity or business in an instant.
Research suggests that consumers put great trust in their social networks. A 2010 survey by eConsultancy showed that products that were highly rated by purchasers increase the likelihood of others purchasing the product by 55 percent. A similar eMarketer survey revealed that half of the respondents said they considered information shared on their social networks when making a decision; the percentage is even higher among users ages eighteen to twenty-four, at 65 percent.
By proactively seeking feedback from their customers, businesses are attempting to put themselves in the best possible position to gain insight into any customer service shortcomings before they are made aware of them publically for all to see. Because surveys are a clear part of any business’ customer service strategy, DMG Consulting predicts that automated survey and feedback technologies will represent the largest area of contact center-related investments for enterprises over the next three years.
With little investment, enterprises can leverage automated surveys to determine everything from how well a service was performed to whether or not a customer was happy with the level of interaction with a call center agent, retail store, website, or even a visit to their doctor’s office. Regardless of the industry, enterprises can realize five key business benefits to automated survey technologies:
Key Benefit #1: Automated Surveys Are Proactive: Waiting to react to customer feedback until it is communicated via public channels can cost a business time and money, not to mention possibly skewing its public reputation. By using automated surveys to ask for customer feedback, a business can proactively identify how they will address issues ahead of time and assist in turning possible customer experience or customer service weak points into positive competitive differentiators.
By knowing that a customer is dissatisfied within close proximity of a negative interaction, businesses also have much more of an opportunity to retain that customer. If a customer provides a “poor rating” to specific questions in an automated survey, for example, a business may choose to automatically connect that person with a call center agent to immediately address their concerns. By quickly knowing how the customer feels, decision makers have an opportunity to minimize a poor customer experience – possibly even turning it into an overall positive customer experience that will be shared with other current or prospective customers.
Key Benefit #2: Automated Surveys Are Immediate: From an inbound perspective, leading survey technologies can help companies take it one step further by immediately asking a customer after their call if their issue was resolved, if their call center representative was courteous and helpful, and whether they would call again.
If a customer is not happy with the level of service they have received, the company instantly knows it and can take action to improve that customers’ satisfaction. This can be accomplished in a number of ways, from offering discounts or promotions to retain a customer after a poor interaction to helping individual CSRs and their managers better address and analyze call center interactions in order to implement appropriate measures to guarantee continuous improvement. Similarly, a company may use outbound automated surveys to better understand an interaction soon after it has occurred.
Consider a cable provider with thousands of installations and visits to customers’ homes. When a technician has successfully installed a new service, it is important to know that the customer is happy. After a technician has completed the service call, the cable provider can automatically initiate an outbound survey to that customer. The provider can find out immediately if the customer has had a pleasant experience and is satisfied with the services that were performed before that customer alerts their social network.
Key Benefit #3: Automated Surveys Are Consistent, Nimble, and Scalable: Consistency and neutrality are the cornerstones of collecting good data. Automated survey technologies preserve consistency and neutrality for every customer interaction. They ensure that the customer feedback is unbiased, impartial, and error-free, which leads to smarter and more informed decision-making.
In some cases, customers would prefer to answer automated survey questions over those from a live call center agent, particularly when giving negative feedback. Automated surveys provide a risk-free way for customers to give open and honest yet confidential feedback. In addition, automated surveys can scale rapidly to meet the needs of a particular promotion or business goal without engaging the call center staff.
Businesses can rely on automated survey technologies to perform multiple functions within an organization at any time. This frees up call center agents and other staff to address mission-critical customer needs, while preserving the ability to rapidly address changing business goals.
Key Benefit #4: Automated Surveys Are Cost-Effective: Businesses can extract further value from a survey solution by using a hosted provider. With hosted solutions, businesses pay based on how much they use the survey technologies at any given time versus incurring the costs of buying and maintaining in-house equipment or having live agents handle this critical part of your business.
In addition to lowering costs and increasing agent productivity, businesses that use automated surveys can adjust questions on the fly based on earlier customer responses. This goes beyond discovering what happened to finding out why it happened. Live agents can do this as well, but only after training and with practice.
Key Benefit #5: Automated Surveys Are Actionable: Automated survey solutions can graphically illustrate customer survey feedback so that decision makers can identify and address issues quickly. This enables an understanding of what type of feedback is being generated from a particular survey at any time and what action is appropriate.
In addition, many companies use negative feedback from automated surveys to immediately reach out to a customer. For some businesses, that means calling the customer directly for more feedback and offering an apology, possibly with discounts or complimentary products or services, which will hopefully restore loyalty and foster a long-term, profitable relationship. For others, it might mean immediately rescheduling another technician to address an unsuccessful installation or technical problems. Some service providers use call center feedback to help CSRs and technicians more effectively hone their skills in order to prevent future negative customer feedback.
What’s Next for Automated Surveys? Automated survey technologies are evolving at a rapid pace to help businesses address emerging needs. For example, survey solution providers are incorporating analytics capabilities into the automated survey technologies to better help enterprises predict which customers are more or less likely to be satisfied and which retention strategies might be most effective.
In addition, industry observers predict that automated survey technologies will become more common for all business segments, not just those with customer-facing roles. In a recent survey of its client base, DMG Consulting found that 75 percent of businesses surveyed reported sharing customer feedback with other areas of their organization with the goal of delivering an enhanced customer experience.
Forrester Research’s annual surveys on the customer experience echo this trend. In its recent survey of 141 executives across many industries, 90 percent of businesses think customer experience is very important to their companies, and 80 percent are trying to use it as an area of differentiation.
It is imperative for businesses to quickly understand what may have gone wrong with a particular customer’s experience and to know when it went right – and why. Using automated surveys is the key.
Rick Danos is the director of product management for CSG International’s interactive messaging group, which specializes in delivering automated and interactive customer communication solutions via Interactive Voice Response (IVR), SMS, email, and Web services. Danos has over fifteen years of experience working with large-scale telecommunications providers and dot-com companies.
[From Connection Magazine – April 2012]