A recent study from OFCOM revealed the culture change in how we communicate with each other. Amongst friends and family groups SMS is today the primary channel of communication followed by face-to-face, calls via a mobile phone and social networking sites. This means, if you are implementing or currently run a Voice of the Customer (VoC) programme to gain insight in to your customer experiences, then to you need be sure you are aligning your feedback mechanisms with these channel preferences, if you want to give your organisation the best chance of success.
When you are evaluating which channel (or channels) of communication to use for your feedback programme the key considerations are whether it will deliver the level of response, the necessary speed of response and the quality of usable insight, that will enable you to make the right decisions at the right time, in order to have the desired impact. Of course, the final factor is the cost to implement and run a feedback programme using your channel of choice. So, with this in mind let’s take a close look at the pros and cons of the main channels in use today for soliciting customer feedback.
Given the popularity of SMS (worldwide an estimated 8.5 trillion messages were sent in 2012) it is no surprise that this is an excellent way to garner feedback from customers, with response rates usually in the region of 25% - 50%. Not only are the response rates high but the speed of return is often seconds and minutes after the request is sent (feedback needs to be current if it is to be usable). The quality of verbatim is also high, with comments tending to be short and to the point. It is also a hugely cost-effective method of gaining customer insight.
Response rates to email surveys are also in the double digits but typically not as high as SMS. The quality of verbatim is very strong, with customers more inclined to go in to greater depth and reveal more about their experience, detailing things they liked, things they didn’t and volunteering areas that could be improved. The trade-off in the use of email is the speed of response which can run usually in to hours or days after the request has been sent. However, as with SMS this is another relatively low cost way to gain real customer insight.
Post call IVR surveys are most commonly used after a customer has spoken with an agent in the contact centre. Whilst it can deliver super quick response times (seconds after the call has taken place) the levels of response hover in single digits and quality lags behind that of SMS and email. This is mainly due to the lack of ability to offer the customer the opportunity to provide verbatim feedback (due to the nature of the systems being used). For those organisations that do have this facility there is usually little or no interrogation of these comments.
Finally, the one of the oldest ways to collect feedback is calling the customer and speaking to them. There are a number of very good reasons most organisations are no longer choosing to gather feedback in this way. Not only is it very high cost due to the resources needed to manage it, but it also doesn’t deliver the response rates, in fact it is the weakest of the four we have looked at. Perhaps surprisingly the quality of the feedback tends to be weak and the speed of response can run into days or weeks.
So what does the future hold for feedback?
The limitations of post call IVR and person-to-person surveys are certainly beginning to show and with SMS and email demonstrating such compelling response, speed and quality scores, as well as being the two lower cost options, it is not surprising that their usage is in the ascendance. However, how these channels are being used is evolving. With over one billion smartphones in use today, global tablet sales to surpass PC sales by 2017 and internet usage set to exceed desktop usage by this time next year, engaging with customers via these devices is key.
At a recent event I was initially surprised to learn that in 2010 the level of online banking activity was at 69% but by 2012 this had dropped to 61%. However, during this same time mobile banking activity had more than doubled from 10% to 22%. Our friends, family and customers want to use their mobile devices, so it stands to reason that if an organisation wants to achieve the optimum quantity of quality feedback responses, then they need to be engaging in this way.
In fact, 21% of customers choose to complete email survey web-forms via their mobile device and this figure is getting higher, and increasingly feedback mechanisms are being tightly integrated within existing and new mobile applications in areas such as travel, retail and banking. The rise in popularity in messaging technologies is also an area to watch in the coming years. The immediacy with which we all now like to communicate, our willingness to share information and experiences, along with and the technology that enables us to do so, means that for the organisations who proactively engage with their customers the rewards are there to be had.
Lee Mostari is head of customer transformation at NICE Systems.