Head of Enterprise Sales, Northern Europe at Qualtrics Qualtrics
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Three ways CX professionals are failing to close the loop with customers

14th Aug 2018
Customer feedback loop

Why are so many businesses failing to address their customers’ feedback?

Smart businesses are always on the lookout for ways to ensure their customers are satisfied, engaged and loyal. Data plays a critical role, but as technology advances it’s a struggle to keep up with the increasingly vast amounts of information available.

According to research from Qualtrics, 35% of UK marketers now have more customer data than they can effectively analyse, making it impossible to know which data should – and shouldn’t – be acted upon.

Faced with this information overload, customer experience (CX) professionals are finding it ever-more difficult to respond quickly and directly to customer feedback; to ‘close the loop’ between critical comments and positive action.

When it comes to acting upon such feedback, there can be no time for delay. The only thing more damaging than a customer who has received a bad experience, is a customer who has reported a bad experience and still been ignored. As such, it’s vital that brands take a proactive approach and close the feedback loop as quickly and clearly as possible.

So why are so many businesses still failing to address their customers’ feedback? Here are three common mistakes and reasons why an increasingly data-driven approach can help – rather than hinder – the development of exceptional customer experiences.

1. No understanding of the reasons behind customer decisions

Understanding behaviour is the holy grail of building a great customer experience. As it stands however, most businesses use data solely to monitor what their customers are doing rather than attempting to understand why they are doing it.

When faced with a piece of customer feedback, marketers and CX professionals may be inclined to act on it immediately – seemingly attempting to close the loop as quickly as possible. Without adequate context however, this rapid response won’t necessarily solve the underlying problem; in some cases, it can even make the issue worse.

Steve Jobs once famously said that "it’s not the consumer’s job to know what they want". Customers are great at telling you what’s broken, but they can’t always tell you why it’s broken or how to fix it. To uncover these insights, businesses must dig deeper into the data, identifying patterns and trends that can provide the real reasons for customer dissatisfaction.

Most businesses use data solely to monitor what their customers are doing rather than attempting to understand why they are doing it.

As an example, consider the US airline JetBlue. Flights from one particular airport were receiving consistently negative comments and low Net Promoter Scores (NPS). For some companies, the knee-jerk reaction would be to launch a major CX initiative, increase spending on customer service or to throw discounts and vouchers at customers to appease them.

Instead, the CX team at JetBlue took the time to really analyse the available data, digging down until they could pinpoint complaints to one specific airport gate. They found that the vast majority of customer complaints came down to a single broken speaker, making it difficult for customers to hear what the gate agent was saying.

Simply by fixing this speaker, JetBlue shifted its customer experience scores. In short, the brand focused on the why rather than the what, and successfully closed the customer feedback loop.

2. Not appreciating the importance of employees

Far too often, companies are overlooking their most reliable and most direct link to customers: their own employees.

Customer service staff spend an enormous amount of time and energy on the front line, helping them to gain a unique perspective on the experiences and issues that consumers face every single day, dealing with everyone from the most ardent fans to vocal detractors.

By actively seeking employee input on improvements, product developments and initiatives, brands can add a new layer to their customer insights data and solve many of the everyday complaints and niggles that the management team would not otherwise be aware of.

As one example, automotive brand Volkswagen centralised all of its employee and customer feedback in the same experience management system. This allowed the brand to see that the ten dealers in Volkswagen’s Australian network with the greatest employee retention and advocacy also had the greatest proportion of customer promoters. Using this data Volkswagen Group Australia was able to analyse and replicate the successes of this branch at dealerships across the country.

Far too often, companies are overlooking their most reliable and most direct link to customers: their own employees.

At the same time, by incorporating employee feedback into their CX strategy, businesses can start to build a more holistic approach. If both employees and customers are flagging the same issues, then CX professionals can be sure that those issues are top of the priority list.

This not only makes it easier to identify potential experience gaps, but is also an effective way to ensure that employees are acting upon feedback ‘at the frontline’, helping to further shorten the time it takes to close the loop.

3. The squeaky wheel should not always get the grease  

Most businesses actively reassure their customers that ‘everyone is equal’ or getting the same level of service, whether they are large, small, brand-new or long-standing customers.

When it comes to closing the customer loop, however, this approach isn’t always the most effective. Solving issues for the customers who appear the most angry or vocal may seem like the most urgent task, but prioritising customers by value to the company is much more important and serves a more sustainable business model.

Before making decisions, businesses should consider how they are going to treat a one-off shopper sending angry tweets about a bad experience vs a loyal, established customer with a monthly subscription threatening to go elsewhere.

There’s a balance in service relative to consumer value that must be addressed. Should your company invest time and resources into a customer who is unlikely to return, or should it invest time into a person who has proven to be loyal and will likely continue to be loyal if their email is replied to quickly?

The key takeaway is looking at customer value. Every company should determine the metrics that are most profitable to their organisation, then arrange customers by use case, size and lifetime value for future reference. Once the top clients are identified, smart companies can use this data to focus on the most important issues, instead of the most obvious ones.


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