By understanding how your customers behave and how they feel about your business, you can better serve their needs in a way that suits them.

According to consumer research, poor customer service costs U.S. businesses $41 billion each year. Consequently, it comes as no surprise that developing a stronger customer experience (CX) program is a top strategic priority for many brands. A recent study affirmed that 89% of companies plan to compete primarily on customer experience as of 2022.

To improve customer service, brands need to benchmark current customer experience performance. Collecting customer feedback is a vital tool in this important analysis, but CX practitioners can no longer rely on outmoded feedback approaches in a world where multiple priorities compete for customers’ attention. They need valid techniques to maximize survey response rates and gather actionable insight from customers.

As companies strive to capture meaningful customer responses, they need to know the three keys to gathering high-quality

CX feedback:

1. Select the right CX feedback collection approaches

2. Implement proven feedback collection and analysis methodologies

3. Innovate like a CX leader

With a smart approach to collecting feedback, brands can deepen their understanding of their customer base and deliver the experiences customers expect and deserve.

Select the Right CX Feedback Collection Approaches

While the customer base is different for every CX program, one thing is certain: today’s CX leaders know how to select feedback collection channels to reach the most customers. These customer-savvy companies gain higher response rates, more actionable data, and opportunities to design a CX that bolsters brand loyalty.

Before investing in a feedback collection strategy, however, it is important to understand the most common channels for gathering customer feedback. Today, the top three feedback collection alternatives are:

1. Web and email

2. Short messaging service (SMS)

3. Interactive voice response (IVR)

  • Web-based and email feedback gathering – A cost-effective means to gather feedback, web-based and email surveys are easy to set up and    administer. However, this feedback-gathering method yields lower response rates than SMS and IVR. This is due, in part, to multiple emails competing for attention in crowded inboxes and the need to navigate through several steps to provide feedback.
  • SMS – Widely used in Australia, India, the U.K., and other countries, gathering customer feedback via SMS messaging is gaining traction in the U.S., especially among younger demographics. There are two primary methods of SMS feedback gathering: 1. “Back and forth” model: this approach features an initial call-to-action SMS message with additional questions if customers respond; 2. Web-based survey model: this approach features an SMS message linked to a smart-phone-friendly web survey.
  • IVR – An automated telephony application for collecting customer feedback, IVR applications use professionally recorded voice prompts to guide customers through surveys about a recent interaction. IVR systems can contact customers immediately after an interaction to offer an opportunity to provide feedback, and record customer input directly to the IVR application.

Implement Proven Feedback Collection and Analysis Techniques

Adopting the right feedback collection strategy is step one for brands seeking higher response rates. Designing an effective feedback methodology is the next critical element in gathering high quality CX data.

Capture Feedback Soon After Interactions

To gain meaningful customer input, companies must seek customer feedback soon after an interaction. While delivering surveys within 24 hours is acceptable, more rapid outreach is always preferable. Since the most valuable feedback often taps into customers’ pure emotions about an interaction, sending surveys quickly enables CX programs to reach customers while those feelings are still fresh in their minds. As the time between the interaction and feedback opportunity lengthens, customers are more apt to have shifted perspectives or forgotten key details about the transaction.

Use Short Surveys to Maximize Responses

Although companies may find it tempting to construct surveys that meet the needs of many internal groups, this approach usually leads to longer surveys and lower response rates. Many people do not have an interest in answering in-depth questions about a brand or interaction. Instead, people are likely to respond to surveys when they have had a memorable experience—whether positive or negative. They want to get to the point quickly, voice their opinion, and move on to something else. Long surveys can cause frustration for customers and risk turning a positive experience into a negative one.

Collect Qualitative and Quantitative Feedback

Closed-ended survey questions, such as multiple choice or number scale forms, can provide high-level snapshots of customer experience trends. However, these question types also force-fit customer perceptions into a narrow range of responses, which may not accurately reflect their true impressions. For a more balanced approach, CX programs should incorporate open-ended questions into every survey to collect free-form customer verbatims. This approach taps into customers’ true perceptions and reveals hidden themes that may not be apparent through quantitative survey approaches.

Link Survey Data to Employee Performance

In the past, companies often relied on aggregate customer satisfaction data to assess their CX performance. Today’s CX leaders take a much more granular approach to CX analysis. Leading CX solutions tie customer feedback directly to the employee who delivered the most recent interaction. With this approach, managers can quickly identify which frontline employees deliver quality interactions—and which employees need more coaching.

Assess and Refine Survey Approaches

As companies evolve and respond to competitive factors and market demands, they also need to refine their feedback-gathering approach. Even if a specific survey is garnering a reasonable response rate, it may not be asking the right questions to maintain a true understanding of customer sentiment.

Over time, CX owners should examine each question to understand if they have taken recent action based on feedback collected. If not, this is a good indication that the question may no longer be relevant. In addition, customer demographics should be assessed periodically to ensure that the optimal feedback-gathering method is being used. Planning for periodic survey review and refinement ensures CX programs keep pace with dynamic customer needs.

Innovate Like a CX Leader

Feedback-gathering approaches and technologies have seen rapid change in recent years. Software platforms are able to contact customers more quickly after an interaction, and the calls to action across all collection mediums are more configurable and better engage end customers. New mediums like SMS and mobile phone-enabled web surveys are expanding the reach of feedback collection around the world.

In addition to new software features, there are several innovative trends driving improvements in gathering feedback from customers.

Multi-Method Feedback Collection

Most CX programs have traditionally leveraged one method, such as web/email, for engaging customers for feedback. However, this traditional approach is unlikely to be effective in the future when customers expect to be contacted how, when, and where they prefer.

For example, customers are likely to engage with a brand across multiple channels during a single transaction. A customer may research an item online, order it online, receive SMS or email updates on order fulfillment status, and go to a brick-and-mortar location to pick up the purchase. CX programs must mirror this multi-method communication approach in their outreach to customers. An integrated feedback-collection approach that can easily leverage all available contact methods (e.g., web, IVR, SMS, and social media) is more likely to engage all customer types, collect useful feedback for a CX program, and serve a variety of other needs:

  • Customers can be contacted based on their stated preference, thereby increasing the likelihood they will engage and respond
  • Feedback gathering can be dynamic, based on available customer contact information, thereby increasing the pool of possible respondents
  • Companies can have a more sophisticated process for gathering feedback that is not limited to one or two feedback-gathering options
Contact Aligned to Customer Preferences

For the best results, CX practitioners should seek to understand customer preferences and deliver surveys via customers’ preferred channels. By using a short, preference-gathering survey early on in the customer relationship, companies can determine if the customer welcomes contact via SMS, IVR, or web/email. By aligning survey contact with customer preference, CX programs can demonstrate that they listen to and value customer input to create positive impressions and drive higher response rates for their CX practice.

Making the Most of Critical Data

In today’s competitive landscape, providing exceptional customer experiences distinguishes leaders from laggards. Brands need a feedback-gathering approach that empowers rapid collection of customer insights after every interaction.

Depending on the dynamics of your customer base, you may opt for a single channel—either IVR, SMS, or web/email feedback gathering. While this works for some companies, you may need multi-method feedback gathering for broader reach and enhanced customer input. And whatever feedback collection approach you choose today may need to evolve in the near future as customers’ expectations rise and their opportunities for interactions with your brand multiply.