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  • Writer's pictureSharon Oatway

4 Reasons Why Customer Surveys Are Challenging ... and 1 Under-Utilized Alternative

We all know how important it is to check-in with our call center customers from time to time to see how we are doing … from their perspective, not ours. However, for some companies, that can be a challenging prospect.

(1) Indirect Relationships. The first barrier is whether or not you can reach out to customers. Some companies provide a product/service via a third party and are simply not permitted to survey the customers they share (e.g. Insurance companies wanting to survey a Broker’s clients). Others have an indirect relationship and no direct access to who uses their product (e.g. Pharmaceutical companies wanting to survey drug users). Or, in the case of prospects who have yet to buy, they don’t always know who those prospects are (e.g. consumers shopping for the best travel deal).

(2) Growing Cost. Conducting ongoing surveys is an increasingly expensive proposition – particularly if you choose to do it via telephone. You want to survey customers as soon after the experience as possible and orchestrating that is not easy. As response rates have plummeted (see ‘survey fatigue’ below) it is becoming more difficult and costly to gather an appropriate sample size in a timely manner. As a result, survey results are rarely available in sufficient quantity at the agent level.

(3) ‘Survey Fatigue’. As more and more companies embrace customer experience and all that it entails, customers are being bombarded with requests across all channels and aspects of their lives for their feedback. People are simply getting tired of it and will often only participate when they really love or hate a company.

(4) Imprecise Feedback. While surveys are good at providing you with an indication of how well you are doing, they are not effective at telling you how to improve things. Though some survey techniques attempt to gain some clarification (e.g. “Why did you rate this product as a 6 out of 10?”), it is very difficult for customers to articulate their needs in ways that companies can act on them. To quote Steve Jobs: “People don't know what they want until you show it to them.”

The other key element to consider is whether or not customers are able to separate their experience with a company and its products/services over the years with how they FEEL about the experience they had today. And so, if you are hoping to get a read on how your contact center agents are performing, results will most likely be skewed.

(5) Intrusive. Personally, I find that requests for surveys via telephone are starting to feel an awful lot like telemarketing. The call inevitably arrives during a busy business day or at an inconvenient time in the evening (obviously because that’s when I’m there!) This is further exasperated when the person hired to conduct the survey doesn’t have a clue about the product/service we are talking about. And so, like many people, if I do complete a telephone survey it’s only because I love or hate a company – not a great ‘random’ sample.

Email surveys are a less expensive option for companies to throw a wider net. In addition, the email version gives customers the option of completing them at their convenience and allows the customers to elaborate, in their own words, about things they feel are important.

I know that I would agree to more surveys if I thought the company requesting my input was going to do something valuable with it. I’m still waiting for someone to reach out to me as a result of something I said in a survey response – just to let me know that they have heard me.

It is clear that, in today’s environment, nothing short of a full-court-press is required to capture the ebbs and flows of customer sentiment on a daily basis. And so with survey costs growing steadily as a result of survey fatigue and a desire to get customer survey results at the agent/employee level, informed companies are turning to their contact center quality monitoring efforts for greater insight.

Best-in-class organizations – leveraging the right contact center quality monitoring technology – take advantage of quality monitoring to capture not only how the agent is performing against predetermined standards, but also how it translates into a good (or not so good) customer experience. It is important that this evaluation is done from the customer’s perspective, which makes it challenging to use internal contact center quality monitoring resources. That being said, it is possible to calibrate results against the external customer feedback you possess and create a reliable proxy.

The following chart compares actual customer experience survey results captured by VereQuest Customer Insight Specialists as part of the contact center quality monitoring effort (blue) with actual customer feedback survey results (grey) over a period of 2 years.

Net Promoter results via surveys and quality assurance

While the two approaches have different scales, when contact center quality monitoring is effectively calibrated with customer surveys, when one goes up or down, so too does the other.

By measuring agent behavior in combination with customers’ experience during the contact center quality monitoring effort you are gaining three key benefits:

  1. Valuable customer insight at a fraction of the cost of a telephone-based survey (to augment your survey sample or when you can’t access the customer directly);

  2. A better understanding of the inter-relationship between what you are asking agents to do (behavioral standards) and how it impacts the customer experience (what does and does not make a difference); and

  3. Greater context about the root cause for the issue provides the insight you need to effectively fix it.

I am not saying you should ditch your customer surveys … in fact the opposite. What I’m saying is that you should use every available avenue you have to learn more about what customers want and how they interact with your organization. Contact center quality monitoring shouldn’t be just about agent performance. It is a valuable resource for customer insight that should be leveraged to its fullest.

For a no-obligation illustration of how to leverage contact center QA to predict Customer Experience results, get in touch!

First published in 2017


Sharon Oatway is President & Chief Experience Officer of VereQuest. Sharon is a Customer Service, Sales, and Marketing professional with more than three decades of hands-on experience elevating the overall customer experience along with multi-channel contact center performance. Sharon and her team at VereQuest have listened to/read and analyzed several million customer interactions for some of North America’s leading brands. As a result, Sharon is a recognized thought-leader in what it takes to build and sustain great customer experiences.

Established in 2002, VereQuest provides organizations with a wide range of customer experience services including a robust contact center quality monitoring offering. Working with businesses throughout North America, VereQuest provides a unique perspective on a complex, ever-changing customer environment.

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