I may be dating myself here, but does anyone else remember sitting in a conference room surrounded by sets of data tables and analyses so you could then manually pull numbers, read through all the comments, and manually populate reports? And after all of that, you still had to manually tweak those reports for each audience! It took days to complete a report. And when I look back on all that, I couldn’t be more grateful for customer feedback management platforms (also known as CFM platforms).
Boy, how times have changed! Customer experience (CX) technology has taken what used to be a days-long process and condensed it to minutes. However, there are two areas the technology hasn’t mastered (yet):
- How to service itself
- How to tell a story with feedback.
Yes, customer feedback management platforms are very good about providing both a high-level snapshot of feedback and a convenient way to drill down into that feedback, but an online dashboard can only take an organization so far. CX professionals need to know what to do with their feedback, tell a story with that feedback, and be able to adapt their approach to the customer experience as their business and the market evolve. And their ability to do that is directly impacted by the CFM vendor they partner with.
How to Choose a Customer Feedback Management Platform
Selecting a CFM platform partner should be about more than just price, “sexy” graphics, branding, etc. In our experience, businesses start the process by distinguishing which of two primary approaches to supporting a CFM platform work best for their business:
1) Full-service where the company that provides the platform manages all aspects of the technology (programming, analysis, change management, etc.,) or
2) Self-service where a person or persons within the purchasing organization are responsible for all aspects of the ongoing technology usage.
Of course, there is also a hybrid combination of the two that might be the best fit, but determining which structure is best for your organization depends on the answer to a few key questions.
- What resources and expertise do you have in-house? Creating a best-in-class CX program requires expertise in dashboard and questionnaire design, governance to ensure alignment across programs, a structure that reduces the possibility of customers being over-surveyed, analytics, etc. Many organizations will have one or maybe two areas where they have some expertise, but very few have all the resources and expertise to successfully and smoothly execute a broad CX program.
- What do you want your team to focus on? Would you prefer that your team take the time to learn the new software and then manage dashboards and program surveys? Or would you prefer they are focused on helping drive change within the organization? Sure, the former will reduce the fee paid to your CX technology partner, but how does that fee compare to the salary you are paying your employee for what might be a better use of their time?
- How will you manage complex changes or requests? Every company will have unique branding, compliance, ADA, and other needs, and while there are many ways to accommodate these more customized requests, looking critically at how your organization has historically handled them will help inform how you may want to structure the support for your program. So, will you set aside hours in advance for support from the technology partner or will you prefer to use change orders when technology requests come up? The former may be a little more money upfront, but the latter will require getting contract teams involved for each and every request, and could create perceptions of ‘nickel and diming.’
- What is your plan to keep your team current on technology? Your platform partner’s specialists work with the technology every day and are aware of the system’s nuances. And while most CX platform providers offer some type of training, there is always a learning curve for new users that may require more hands-on assistance, especially if the team doesn’t use the technology regularly. Likewise, if you dedicate one person to be your expert, what will your plan be if that person leaves the organization or takes on a new role? When these situations arise, you’ll need to reach out to your technology partner for help, but they will be unaware of what’s been built, which will require additional time to become familiarized.
Each organization will answer these questions differently, but one thing that we have seen repeatedly is the need to set aside some ongoing service support hours with your CFM partner from the beginning of the relationship. If you wait til after the program has started and certain aspects of the program have already been built, you’ll need to spend additional time to bring your partner up to speed. If they are there from the beginning, however, not only will they be able to assist more quickly, but they can also coach your team on the best practices for building a more insightful program in the most efficient way. Initially, having no service hours may seem ideal for your calendar, but in the long run, it can be less efficient, create staff frustration, and end up costing more money in the long term.
Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all solution that will apply to every organization but, on the brightside, there is a customer feedback management solution that will work for every organization, as long as you consider the above questions. Although, I suppose we could go back to manually pulling all the information—I’ll be waiting for you in the conference room!