Being ignored is a capital insult to most people. Therefore, ignoring customers by routinely failing to follow through on their precious survey feedback is a — nay, the — cardinal sin of market research. So the real question is, how do customers know that their feedback has been heard?
How can companies communicate to customers, especially to those who actually took the survey, that their responses and comments are not only being acknowledged, but consciously addressed? Let's take a look at how to follow through the right way.
Say what you want about Amazon, but it has consistently upheld its reputation of top-level customer service. Amazon has a quick customer survey after every interaction with customer service, beginning with a straightforward question about whether or not the issue was resolved.
The agent is then rated through a simple 1 to 5-star system, and if the issue has not been resolved, the customer is asked if they would like to speak to or chat with someone else to help resolve the problem. In less than five minutes, the customer already feels that their feedback mattered.
While it’s not exactly a survey per se, another good example of a company listening to customers is when Tesla CEO Elon Musk responded directly to a customer’s tweet. The customer took the time to Tweet (similar to people who’d fill out a survey) about a steering wheel adjustment, and Musk said that it was a good idea and they would implement the adjustment with the next software update. Boom, issue solved.
So what steps should companies take to make customers feel that their survey comments are heard?
At the most basic level, companies need to have a customer-centric culture to begin with. Find ways to get the whole company invested into what customers are saying about them. Customer-centric brands not only ask customers to fill out surveys, but they already have committees and teams in place beforehand to sort and sift through survey responses and deliver recommendations based on the feedback they receive.
Customer-centric companies will also by default make sure that the surveys themselves are straightforward and easy to fill out, making it easier to receive and process data. That way, companies take less time to translate feedback into tangible results customers can feel.
Say a customer for a hotel submits a survey saying that the food was disappointing or the service was lacking. The most effective response would be to try to get in touch with the customer and not only apologize, but offer to make things right. The same thing goes for stores or vendors, for example, that offer immediate refunds or replacements when a customer submits feedback about a problem with an order or item.
More than just resolving the issue at hand, taking decisive action can often result in what is called a “service recovery paradox”, where a customer becomes more loyal to a brand after an unpleasant experience because the company made things right.
It's not just for big companies...even rockstars can benefit from this mentality. James Dodkins had a great story about this exact phenomenon when he joined us for the Voices of CX Podcast. It involved a guitar-spinning trick going terribly wrong, and how he fixed the experience in the experience. You can listen here (or skip to 10:20 for the story).
It’s always important for brands to get that message across that they are doing something with the customer feedback they’re getting. For example, companies can reach out to certain survey respondents, seeking more details about a rating they gave the brand or if they would like to provide additional suggestions for improvement.
Companies can also send out mass emails to survey respondents thanking them for their input and detailing any planned or implemented changes as a result of feedback received. Brands can also create ads or social media campaigns showing how exactly they are responding to customer feedback. Sometimes that confirmation is all they really need.
Simply put, following up with customers and making sure that they know that their feedback matters and is being heard is good practice for strengthening customer retention and building commitment to the brand. In the case of follow-up questions with respondents, it allows the company to collect more of the information it needs. Providing feedback on customer-driven changes encourages further feedback (and thus more customer data) down the road.
Closing the loop with survey respondents sends the message that you and your brand see customers as people, and provides opportunities for you to collect valuable business insights and create deeper and more meaningful customer relationships.