Customer Feedback Management

Years ago, I took a job as an interviewer because I thought it would be interesting to talk to different people to find out what they thought on a variety of topics. I soon realized that people were not so eager to share impressions and give us their thoughts on products, events, etc. Some of the survey’s topics were not very pleasant, (e.g., writing a will and testament and preparing for unpleasant events like disability and death) and I understood quickly why people would get angry if we called while they were eating or sleeping.

Still, most people simply refused to talk to us, without any specific reason. It reminded me of voting: many people are not satisfied with politicians, but when they have the chance to make their voices heard by voting, they simply don’t do it. While voting is not something that you can do very often, giving feedback about products and services can be done at anytime—even when you don’t want to, because the interviewers will call you.

Surveys can be more or less successful—depending on the way they are created and conducted. The following characteristics will have an influence on the quality of the feedback:

Intrusive: All unrequested attempts to get feedback are considered intrusive (e.g., phone calls, pop-up windows when visiting a Web site, etc.) and people feel abused and are not willing to cooperate. The non-intrusive ways to get feedback (e.g., Web forms or toll free phone numbers) are more likely to be used by people. The problem with using surveys is that the companies conducting them need to have a certain number of responses in a limited time frame and cannot afford to wait for people to voluntarily use non-intrusive tools. In conclusion, it is much more efficient to use intrusive tools, which while bothering people will ultimately get the desired results.

Relevant: For surveys, if it’s not relevant, it’s useless. For example, when creating a survey for a company that repairs windshields, only people having or using a car will be interviewed. The responses of the interviewees who had problems with their windshield will be really relevant for the survey. And finally, detailed descriptions of what happened, how it was repaired and by whom will provide proper information, which can be then used to improve the way the company deals with its customers.

Constructive: All surveys are constructive in some way. The results are usually used to increase the quality of the products or services provided, and to improve the image of a company or its customers’ experiences with that company. From the point of view of the person being interviewed, it can also be constructive, since it gives her or him the impression that the company cares and is ready to listen. This helps in creating or maintaining a relationship between the customer and the company.

Length: Even the most pleasant things can become annoying or irritating if they take too long. For surveys, it’s essential to get right to the point and get it completed as soon as possible. A customer leaving right in the middle of the survey is worse than a refusal to take the survey because the time spent with that customer is wasted and the information cannot be used at all. Also, people will not be very happy when a “short five minute survey” takes 15 minutes or more—and will probably think twice before answering one the next time.

Surveys are conducted either by specialized companies who can do it for you, or by a department or team within your company. If you decided to do it internally, the software solution you are looking for is called enterprise feedback management (EFM).

EFM Software

While customer relationship management (CRM) solutions can offer customer feedback functionality, EFM products are built to centrally manage surveys. Here are some of the advantages that EFM software or functionality within a CRM product can bring to companies:

1.    Effective survey management includes creating, editing, deploying, and reusing surveys. Templates can be used to easily build new surveys on different topics such as demographics, age groups, etc.
2.    Increases customer loyalty by understanding customers’ experiences and addressing their needs in a timely and efficient manner.
3.    Improves products and services using the information gathered through surveys by communicating the conclusions of the surveys to the manufacturing management team, which will take the appropriate measures to increase quality.
4.    Valuable reporting and analytics allows companies to track customer behavior, store performance, quality of the products, and services provided, as well as changes in trends or buying habits.
5.    Proactive and dynamic feedback defines and implements ongoing customer feedback at different stages of the buying process (first contact, quote, sales, after sales, etc.).
6.    Efficient multi-channel communication environment allows companies to track responses from customers, no matter what the source is (e.g., e-mail, phone, fax, Web form, etc.)
7.    Easy panel management allows companies to recruit people for surveys, manage contact information, and even enable communication between panelists. Customized portals and targeted segments of panelists can be created, depending on your needs and their profiles.

The EFM market is very fragmented, with many companies offering feedback management solutions. The product is available in both on-premise and hosted versions. Some of the vendors that offer these solutions are: Allegiance (who recently acquired Inquisite), SPSS (recently acquired by IBM), Qualtrics, and SurveyGizmo. Others call it customer feedback management (Confirmit, IdeaScope) and some even offer panel management software (VerticalPanel, Voxco Panel Manager).

Technology Evaluation Centers’ (TEC) CRM Evaluation Center allows comparison between different products from a feedback management perspective. Compare CRM products to see who offers the most comprehensive customer service portal and e-mail response functionality.
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