Customer Experience News & Trends

The pros and cons of 5 top customer feedback tools

Surveying customers is a given in business. But few companies get feedback that’s truly useful. This guide can help you make the most of surveying.

Getting feedback is an increasingly important piece of the customer experience. Without it, companies can’t adjust to changing needs, eliminate quiet problems or capitalize on well-received initiatives.

But it comes at a risk: Some customer feedback is authentic. Some feedback only scratches the surface. And some is misguided.

Differentiating what’s useful and what’s not can be a challenge. And the differences can vary from industry to industry, company to company and survey to survey.

What will help in getting useful feedback is regularly using a variety of survey methods and understanding the benefits and drawbacks of each, according to Ana Brant, a renowned customer experience expert who heads the global guest experience at the Dorchester Collection. Brant’s also a guest contributor for the Harvard Business Review.

Here’s what to consider:

1. Opinion surveys

Email, Survey Monkey and website surveys have made opinion surveys a quick fix to the lesser-used and historically low-response written surveys. They allow you to cover a broad range of subjects and reach a large audience. At the same time, there’s flexibility to cover a narrow, current subject for fast feedback.

Pro: It’s the easiest way to get feedback and a proven customer-engagement tool. They’re easy to deploy in electronic formats, and as long as they aren’t too long, customers are increasingly willing to finish them. If you know exactly what you need answered, you can tailor to get scientifically accurate results.

Con: Opinion surveys are the easiest feedback tool to misinterpret. The data can be manipulated easily to fit any agenda. Plus, because opinion surveys don’t dig deeply into what customers really feel, it can cause a company to spend a lot of time and resources fixing one isolated problem and miss a serious trend.

2. Social media feedback

You can track Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to gauge what customers think of your performance. It can be an informal effort — comparing positive and negative posts. Or you can deploy social media tracking software to dig deeper.

Pro: Social media posts are chocked full of praise and criticism, so you’ll see a nice variety of feedback. Plus, it’s a tool that can help you compare your performance to competitors’. For instance, a hotel brand can see on Instagram what impresses guests — perhaps a well-presented meal or high-end robe and slippers — whether it was at their property or a competitor’s.

Con: Social media is grounds for extreme customers. The haters will hate excessively. The lovers might gush far more than the average customer.

3. Reviews

Customers rely on what other customers who’ve posted on review sites say more than ever. Customers will tell you exactly what they think without your prompting. And you can sometimes see customers feed off each other, creating a virtual focus group.

Pro: Review sites — or space you give customers to review your products and services on your own site — can help you identify gaps in what you think is important to customers and what they find important. In surveys, you form the conversation. On review sites, they can bring your blind spots to the surface. They give you an opportunity to view customers from an outsider’s perspective and decide if and when to get involved in the feedback.

Con: Much like social media, review sites can bring out the best and worst customers, whose opinions might be extreme. You’ll have to observe for some time before you can start to differentiate true issues and praise from what’s inauthentic.

4. Mystery shoppers

These third-party shoppers play the role of customer, testing your systems, products and experiences. They put people and processes to the test.

Pro: Mystery shopping is a reliable, objective tool to evaluate processes and compliance to your set of standards, or government/industry guidelines.

Con: It’s a checklist. Mystery shoppers can evaluate short-term efficiency, but they won’t be a valuable tool for evaluating long-term quality — unless you keep sending them back to you over and over again. Their one-time shopping can’t give a picture of the full customer experience.

5. Observations

You can watch customers in action, using your products or experiencing your services. You can also pull them together in focus groups to get face-to-face feedback and observe them interacting with your company and people.

Pro: Customers often say one thing and do another. This allows you to witness what they actually do. For instance, when Brant and her team watched customers in a hotel lobby, it became obvious customers were being forced to work with two employees to do something just one employee should’ve handled. Customers never complained about the two steps, but observing it helped Brant and her team make the experience better going forward.

Con: It’s time-consuming and can be costly.

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