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Which is most valuable: Good customer data or great customer surveys?

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Both data and surveys are crucial components of a successful customer experience programme. But, as Jim Tincher explains, one of these should lead the other. 

19th Apr 2022
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I had a call recently with a client who reached out to Heart of the Customer with a business problem they were trying to tackle.

Despite a portal update that was well received internally, an unexpectedly high number of customers continued to call their contact centre to resolve issues.

“I really don’t get it,” she shared with me. “The answers to all of their questions are right there. They could solve it in 20 seconds on the portal, whereas a phone call takes minutes just to authenticate them. Not to mention that it costs us a ton more!”

Surveys tell only part of the story

She wanted us to talk with their customers to find out why they were calling the contact centre, and of course, provide direction on how to fix that. That’s clearly a best practice – build your portal updates around customer needs.

But before we could begin, there were some questions I needed to ask her to gain a fuller understanding of the actual issue:

  1. Of those callers, how many tried to log in to the portal first?
  2. Of those who tried to log in to the portal, how many were successful and how many had password issues?
  3. Of those who successfully logged in, how much time did they spend on the portal before calling the contact centre?

When we interviewed CX leaders in 2020, one of the big surprises was how Change Makers – those select few programmes that can show business impact for what they do – can answer these questions, whereas most other programmes can’t.

Customers give you feedback every day through their behaviour.

But being able to answer these questions is critical. It’s what lets you know who you need to talk to in order to resolve the issue. Is it those who’ve never tried the portal? Those who tried but ran into issues? Or those who had no problem logging in but couldn’t find answers their questions?

She didn’t have this data.

All she had were survey results showing customers dissatisfied with their experience. That’s hardly enough to point toward a solution.

The answers to the above questions are what help you isolate where you need to focus your attention:

  1. If most of the callers never tried the portal, then you’re likely dealing with an Awareness issue – the first step in the ADKAR change management model. To solve this issue, focus on telling callers about the portal and invest time to show them how to log in. Create communications to show customers how it’s faster and easier (creating Desire) to solve their problems through the portal.
  2. If a high percentage of callers had issues logging in, then obviously that’s where you need to focus. In my last corporate CX job, this was our biggest issue – but it wasn’t something the teams focused on. Because they logged in every day and they never had an issue!
  3. If most of the callers logged in first, but couldn’t resolve their issue after spending a few minutes looking for a solution, you need a very different approach – likely restructuring the content to make navigation more intuitive.

Data points you in the right direction

These are three very different solutions to three very different problems. And each requires some level of investment to implement. Without good data, more likely than not, you’re going to waste time and money fixing a problem that doesn’t exist. At the same time, you’ll continue to suffer losses (through higher costs or reduced revenue) by leaving the actual problem unaddressed.

But there’s no need to throw darts in the dark.

While qualitative interviews would help, even 30 interviews wouldn’t be enough to know which of these situations is the root cause of the problem. (Though those interviews will still be critical to understanding why the issue is impacting customers and how to address it.)

In this case, as with so many other CX problems, data is what illuminates the darkness.

Customers give you feedback every day through their behaviour.

The question is: Are you listening?

This article adapted from a piece that originally appeared on the Heart of the Customer blog

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