The evolution of customer feedback and how to keep up

Lee Evans
Chief Executive Office and Co-Founder
SurveyMe
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The first major milestone for customer experience can be traced back to the year of the telephone in 1876. Improving the means of communication, the ability to better serve and engage with one another became an infinite journey that remains extremely prominent in today’s business economy. From the creation of call centers in the 1960s to the start of email surveys, businesses have continued to work towards improving their methods of collecting the customer feedback that would allow them to enhance their products and improve internal operations.

Prior to today’s digital age, however, was the popular little white card one would receive along with their check at the end of a dining experience. In hopes of collecting point of experience feedback, the expectation became for customers to provide their commentary immediately after completing their meal. Additionally, someone, usually the business owner, had to go through and manually read every single one of those comment cards. After reading every comment card, that individual would then have to draw their own conclusion. A process like this could take days and be subjected to human error. Not to mention, some adults can have quite dreadful and illegible handwriting.

Luckily, the development and increased availability of office computers brought along the digital spreadsheet. The development of digital spreadsheets allowed businesses to enter the survey responses into one massive document, which made immense amounts of information easily digestible and the analytics less subjective. It meant that business owners could see trends and common issues significantly easier, but the problem remained the need to enter information manually and, as mentioned, people’s handwriting can leave much to be desired.

It wasn’t until 20 years ago that web-based email surveys were introduced as an enhanced means of capturing customers’ attention. These type of surveys allowed data to be captured straight from the user and accurately inputted and saved for analysis. Reaching customers by email was a dream come true for the customer satisfaction industry and the small business owner. For a short time, it was also a novelty for anyone with an email address. As time passed and these emailed surveys became the norm, response rates began decreasing because of user apathy. Business decision-makers also realized that results may not be as accurate as they hoped because the length of time between the customer experience and survey response reduced the level of objectiveness. Thus, the usefulness of the response was decreased as well.

When deploying email surveys, it is extremely common for customers to receive them in their inbox but not respond until several days after their experience with a business. By the time the customer gets around to filling out the survey, the experience isn’t as fresh in their memory. The only memories they may have left are only the most positive or negative ones, which can skew the results and provide inaccurate analysis. That is when social media came along and the concept of real-time feedback was altered once again.

The concept of real-time feedback and immediacy, plus the very public nature of social media, forced the survey industry to wake up and innovate to create new means of reaching their client base. The new social media technology was adopted specifically because of its ability to close the time gap between experience and survey participation. The only thing about open-source, real-time feedback methods like social media is the uncertainty of the feedback’s origin, leaving it to whoever displays the ‘loudest’ comments. This also means businesses cannot connect the dots between the feedback given and the customer demographic. Instead, companies have come to consider it a damage limitation exercise (i.e. they realize the reach of the person giving (negative) feedback and quickly resolve it financially in order to remove the said feedback). So, that in turn, has become a lucrative mini-industry in its own right for people with a wide reach and sphere of influence on social media to positively or negatively comment on a product.

The same is true for review websites. Businesses are often found paying rewards for a negative review to be removed or for positive ‘likes’. None of this does business decision-makers any good in terms of what really matters – understanding what the marginal difference is for their existing customers’ experience.

Fortunately, the mobile interface has developed a way for customers to engage and provide the proper feedback at the point of experience seamlessly. Leveraging mobile technology allows for more accurate responses since the experience is organic and fresh in the customer’s mind. As the times change, so must the approaches businesses take. Today, it is easier than ever to capture customers thanks to mobile technology. Thus, it is also easier than ever to create and deploy simple, yet outstandingly effective surveys. Improving the customer experience is a challenge that is not dwindling anytime soon, so knowing how to objectively listen to your customers and collect the most accurate feedback is crucial in order to keep up in today’s business environment, no matter of size.

About Lee Evans

Lee Evans_SurveyMe

Lee Evan’s entrepreneurial activities consult on corporate deal making, using his experiences to launch his latest venture, SurveyMe, which has grown to incorporate businesses in more than 140 countries. By empowering businesses integrating real-time customer feedback, Lee proves his commitment to returning power to consumers and assisting organizations in the pursuit of their own small business success.

Throughout all of Lee Evan’s career, he has sought out entrepreneurial activities and honed his skills as a savvy businessman to consult on corporate deal making, ultimately using his experiences to launch his latest venture, SurveyMe, in May of 2014. From its humble beginning of a spare-bedroom startup, SurveyMe has since grown to incorporate businesses in more than 130 countries. Lee’s vision for SurveyMe was born out of his own success, listening to his customers as he developed Bear Factory Ireland, later acquired by Build-a-Bear Inc., into plush retailer with $4.5 million in sales within 18 months. By empowering businesses with a means of integrating real-time customer feedback, Lee proves his commitment to returning power to consumers and assisting organizations in the pursuit of their own small business success.

Prior to SurveyMe, Lee worked at Grant Thornton where he advised on corporate mergers and acquisitions worth more than $232 million as well as working mergers and acquisitions for Glanbia PLC in Ireland, the world’s largest multinational dairy company. While studying for his MBA in retail from The University of Stirling, Lee worked for Cisco Systems managing a team of 12 across 78 emerging market countries in Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa.

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