Customer feedback programs are extremely useful, but also come with challenges. In fact, there has been a lot of talk around the fact that in many cases, it’s difficult to get customers to provide feedback on traditional survey and response rates have decreased over the last several years. However, there ARE still customers who are willing to provide their feedback to you. To balance the challenge of decreased response rates and less traditional feedback, many brands are turning to social listening to help get the information needed.
Does this simply mean asking customers for feedback via the brand’s social sites? In some cases, possibly, but turning to social listening is more about listening to what customers are saying all over the internet, not just on brand pages, to enhance what they’re seeing in traditional feedback programs.
How can this help? There are many ways in which feedback programs and the data collected can be enhanced, offering a more in-depth view of consumer perception and satisfaction. The four main reasons to turn to social listening to obtain feedback include:
- Collecting more feedback data in general
- Using social listening data to refine feedback surveys
- Taking the data found in survey results and find corroborating/deeper insight on those themes
- Use the data as a launching point for more in-depth social media research.
It’s Where The Unstructured Volume of Data Is
The first point is simple: people share more online via their own social sites and forums than they provide directly to a brand whether it’s through a feedback survey or even on a brand’s social sites. Statistics range from feedback response rates between 5-15% and customers who talk directly on brand social sites (vs talking on their “own” pages) at less than 10%. So, they may not be talking directly about brands, products, services, and their experiences, but they ARE talking. Social listening can capture that additional conversation and turn it into measurable data.
It’s not only a matter of people not responding as frequently to traditional feedback surveys; unfortunately, attention spans are at an all-time low, so feedback surveys do have to be specific and targeted, keeping in mind that too many questions (or questions that go too deep) can be a detriment to the overall program. So, even with a feedback program with great response rates, complementing with social data is beneficial.
A final consideration is that some dissatisfied customers will not complete a survey to let a company know that they were not happy and will not be returning; however, you can bet the farm that the chances of them posting something online to friends and family about their dissatisfaction are pretty strong. So, social listening is giving brands that goldmine of feedback they’ve always wanted – unhappy customers who won’t tell them and won’t return, and the company would never know why, before now…
By saying there is a lot more feedback worthy content on social, it does not mean that feedback surveys are not effective. While response rates are traditionally lower and it can be challenging to encourage participation, it is an effective method of getting feedback from a group of customers who are willing to do so. These are customers who may fill out a survey, but not talk about their customer experience on social. By offering traditional and collecting social, more content can be collected from a wide array of customers.
Setting up a regular listening program and collecting conversations surrounding your brand will pull in a wealth of online conversations. From there, most platforms will offer analytical data and methods to drill down to capture the conversations that will best drive initiatives. When done right, the data can be quantified and included within your traditional feedback program analysis.
To go one step further, feedback data can be coupled with social data to look at trends and potential correlations that may not be seen with other metrics. Whether it’s done manually or through a software provider who can accomplish data layering, this can be invaluable information.
An example comes from Talkwalker, a social listening platform. The company offers the ability to import key metrics into the social listening data to give a great overall picture of what might be happening. In one instance, layering data from a feedback program based on a question surrounding overall satisfaction and overall online sentiment can show a trend between the two – as scores from the feedback surveys increase or decrease, how is the social sentiment trending? Correlating data can signal an issue if trending downward or send the good news that things are going well.
The chart below comes from a Talkwalker case study that shows the variance in customer retention rates vs social sentiment – notice that it shows a correlation between retention rate and increase in negative social conversation:
What if You’re Asking the Wrong Questions?
Since feedback from customers through traditional surveys can be difficult at best, brands need to make the most of it. Making sure the right questions are asked to get the most useful data is important; if you’ve always asked the same questions because that’s what’s always been done or the question set seem to be “standard” for your industry, you may be missing out on some key data.
Using social listening can help understand customers in a more honest, unstructured setting; many customers, especially those who are not responding to feedback surveys, are likely to share their thoughts and experience with friends and family on social media sites. While this gives a general overview, digging deeper can identify issues or themes that may be affecting sales, foot traffic, or lack of interest in specific products/services that you are not aware of. Once uncovered and identified as a potential barrier to the customer experience, the feedback survey can be revised to ask for targeted feedback specific to the issues identified in social media conversations.
Here’ an example: a brand focused its feedback questions on the standard service items – “Were you satisfied with the overall experience?” and “Was your order correct?” and similar, more general questions. Comments could be left if the customer decided to share, but very few did.
The company noted that their scores were pretty strong across the board related to time and geography, and they were pleased with the results. The company had recently launched social listening. They were shocked when they ran the first analysis and found there was a subset of negative conversations. In looking closer, they learned that customers were dissatisfied with a new line of menu items that were recently rolled out. The company didn’t change their feedback survey to incorporate this major change, so they didn’t know what they didn’t know.
By seeing this trend in social, they wanted to learn more from their customers. They were able to change out their feedback questions to ask more menu focused questions and offered more options for qualitative responses to better understand what was happening. They were also able to find ways to communicate with these consumers on social to create a very loose, informal focus group of sorts.
Feedback Data Is Just the Tip of the Iceberg….
On the flip side, there may be results from the feedback program that are either confusing or seemingly random – there may appear to be a slight uptick in customer service issues reported, but not enough to cause concern. This may leave brands wondering if this is the tip of the iceberg and a bigger issue is looming, or it’s just a random dip in results.
In working with this example, it is fairly easy to see how to incorporate social listening to investigate quickly and efficiently.
Look at the feedback results on a granular level: first, take a look at the results related to customer service. Does it seem that it’s one location or territory where customers are less satisfied? If the survey asks for day and time of the visit, can it be narrowed down in this way? Or, does there seem to be no rhyme or reason to the trend? Take that information as a starting point and turn to social listening.
The social media research should begin by collecting conversation about the brand from folks who are posting from the general area where this group of stores is located. Location based social media listening can help identify others who may (or may not) be sharing the same negative experience. Find out what customers who are talking about your brand in this area are saying online – are they posting the same experience? Are there other reasons that they are not satisfied with the service received?
After honing in on the results, the company was able to identify that negatively driven social conversations were identified only across a group of stores in one state. So far, so good….it seems like this may be a localized issue, at least based on this initial feedback. So, what is the common thread? Is it a high rate of turnover in these locations, or could it signal a need for additional training at the district level? Is staffing an issue? By drilling down and having conversations with managers and staff based on findings, pain points can be further identified and resolved fairly quickly.
Look deeper in demographics: I spoke with a banking client once who realized that some feedback scores were coming in lower than the company liked to see – as they weren’t sure where the disconnect was, they turned to social conversations. By drilling down further, they learned that the one dissatisfied group was consumers between the ages of 20 and 30 – the customers outside of this age group talked very positively about the bank; it was this specific age group where the company saw social conversations revolving around dissatisfaction with the customer service received.
By looking closer at the conversations coming from this age group, the bank was able to deploy focused feedback surveys to customers in this age group and, between the two methodologies learned that these consumers did not feel heard and did not believe that the bank products and services had their needs in mind. Because they could not ask for demographics on the feedback survey due to that attention span/focus challenge & need to keep surveys short, they could not have known that this is where the problem with satisfaction stemmed from.
A Starting Point For Market Research
Lastly, what is found in feedback data can be used as a launching point for further research, and starting with social media research is a great way to accomplish this quickly and efficiently. There are a couple of use case studies that stand out as great ways to marry the two methodologies:
Use feedback data to learn more about staff and customers: A client we worked with a few years was heavily vested in measuring the customer experience. They used the results from their programs, which included mystery shopping, employee feedback, and customer feedback, to develop a new company wide training program. After implementing this program and finding success, the next initiative focused on learning what makes stores (and staff) “tick.” To accomplish this, the marketing team monitoring overall performance across sales, foot traffic, and their mystery shopping and feedback programs to identify the top and bottom five locations based on this information. From there, they wanted to learn more about what traits/factors were consistent in making the great stores great and the not so great stores, well, not so great.
Turning to social media listening, the team was able to focus their research on customers talking about the company within the geographies where the top and bottom performers were located and collected social conversations to try to identify traits and aspects for each. From there, the team was able to extrapolate their findings and devise a program for training and mentoring that helped bring up sales, morale, and overall satisfaction across the lower performing stores.
Product popularity: a restaurant chain was testing new menu items, and rolled out new products to gauge popularity. They used feedback to determine, in part, which products stayed and which were on the chopping block. Some time had passed and the menu was firmed up. The company found that some items were more popular in certain regions, so they only offered some menu offerings in some regions.
A few months later, the company noticed that some customers asked them to bring back a menu item that was not available in their state. They reported, via feedback survey, that they were able to order this item when traveling, but really wished they could order it at home. The volume of this sentiment wasn’t astronomical, but it was something to look at. To determine if this was, in fact, an item that needed to return to this state, the company turned to social listening. By focusing on social conversations in that state, they were able to decide if there was enough popularity to in fact return that product to the menu.
Enhanced competitive positioning: in the banking example earlier, the company was able to learn and improve the experience and product line for the age demographic that felt unheard. In doing this, they positioned themselves in a positive way. However, they decided to take it even a step further, wondering what their competitors were doing to court this age group. By expanding their research on this topic outside of their own brand, and looking at industry wide social conversations, they were able to see that this was a generalized issue with banking in this age demographic and had the information needed to position themselves as a leader in the industry and solidify business and long lasting relationships with this demographic.
Whether you’re satisfied or not with the volume of responses from your customer feedback program, incorporating social media conversations can be invaluable and give brands deeper insight and an understanding of the customers they serve. Both feedback surveys and unstructured social listening play an important role and complement each other well. The content is out there for the taking; it’s just a matter of understanding what’s available and how to make the most of that content.