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Are You Interrogating Your Customers?

We’re well-intentioned. Really, we are. We Customer Experience professionals are passionate about customers and want to do everything within our power to improve their experiences. But in our rush to connect with our customers, we may actually be driving them away.

Understanding the customer experience your organization is delivering requires a lot of asking. We have a massive array of tools to delve into the state of our customer experience—from third-party perspectives like market research and mystery shop programs to transactional data that tells us how our customers behave.

The Ballooning Survey

One of the most powerful sources of customer intelligence is their direct feedback. And so we monitor social media, conduct exit interviews, and we survey. We love our surveys! So many lovely numbers that we can crunch, slice, dice, quantify, and measure. And as more groups within our companies discover the treasure trove of information within customer feedback, they want in on the fun. So the surveys get longer, and longer.

Our poor customers have become the victims of our exuberance. Slogging through question after question after question after question, most of which they couldn’t care less about. We have crossed the line—from earnest asker to unapologetic interrogator.

Feedback, a Positive Experience?

How do we balance our need to understand with our need to keep the feedback experience a positive one? Following are a few tips that will help you get even better data, while not just “doing no harm,” but actually improving your customers’ experience:

On Their Own Terms

The phrase “Customer Experience Management” is headed the way of the laserdisc. As a customer myself, I have absolutely no interest in having my experience “managed.” Today’s customers want more authentic relationships with brands, and they want to share their stories—but on their own terms.

Social Listening automates the process of finding and gathering feedback on brand- and location-level social sites, and in online review forums. You can view social feedback on its own or alongside other types of customer stories for a more holistic view. Links to social comments allow you to respond directly to customers.

Comment boxes are another incredibly valuable tool. Inside those four walls, customers tend to share details that give you specifics on exactly why they feel the way they do about their experience, and how you can either fix a problem or reinforce what’s working. In verbatim comments, customers also prioritize what’s most important to them, giving you the insights you need to focus on the areas with the most impact.

Actively Listen

While comment boxes are great, sometimes customers need a little nudge to get going—and keep talking. Active listening tools can transform a comment into a conversation, where you’re subtly letting your customers know that you’re listening. A familiar strength meter lets them know that you’d like to hear a little bit more. Follow-up questions based on their personal stories keep the Q&A focused and relevant to what they want to tell you.

Let Them Know

Customers want to know three things when they take the time to give feedback:

  • That you heard them
  • That you are going to act on what they said
  • That the insights they shared will make a difference.

While few brands take these final steps, they are critical in building a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship between you and your customers. Today’s customers aren’t simply more demanding, they want to know that the time they spend makes a difference. Letting them know that you’ve heard them, and allowing them to peek behind the curtain at how you’re using their feedback to make positive changes, shows that you value them as human beings and as partners in an ongoing relationship.

End the Interrogation

It’s not okay to assault your customers during the feedback experience—even when you really, really, really want to know. It’s not nice, and it’s not necessary. With the right philosophy and tools, you can harness the important moment in your relationships with your customers to bring them closer—and get great data to crunch as well.

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