3 Fireworks No One Wants to See in Customer Surveys (But We're Optimists)

firework customer surveyWe all love positive results right? The proverbial pat on the back. However, this is not always the case with market research as firms like ours are paid to be objective, not supportive. Therefore when we work with clients on their Voice of Customer (VoC) surveys or customer satisfaction surveys, we try not to pass an opinion.

Regardless of positive or negative feedback, the role of a market research firm is to categorize the data, develop themes, provide insight, and make recommendations. This is the deliverable whether you score a A+ or F on your company's customer survey.

Even if the results come back negative, the silver lining is there's lots of room for improvement. Where you may have wondered what customers like and dislike in the past, now you have fact-based and evidence-based data to support an action plan.

Over the years, we've seen everything in market research. From overwhelming positive feedback to harsh and constructive criticism of a business. Both sides offer areas of improvement and action items (yes, even the A+ firms have weaknesses).

Although it's always much easier delivering a presentation to a board when results are at least somewhat positive, that's not our job. Our job is to collect unbiased, objective, and uninfluenced data for our clients. Our market research firm becomes an extension of your customers. We become their voice. Their voice may be positive, or negative.

Not all fireworks are pretty. Case in point, the following 3 market research findings.

Nonetheless, in honor of the July 4 holiday, here are 3 fireworks we never like to light in our customer surveys. However, much like a firework, once lit they bring attention. In business, attention to a frustration point or problem area is a good thing. It ultimately drives change within an organization for the better.

And here we go...

Firework 1: Negative or Poor NPS

One of the most common metrics and KPIs measured among businesses is net promoter score (NPS). It is based on a simple 0 to 10 scale of likelihood to recommend. Those who rate your company 9 or 10 are grouped into promoters, those who rate you 7 or 8 are grouped in passives, and those who rate you 0 to 6 are grouped into detractors.

The percentage of detractors are subtracted from the percentage of promoters to arrive at a NPS rating which can range from -100 to +100. The average NPS over the past 12 months collected from all companies and all industries in our software is about a +40. One would naturally think the average NPS would be 0 but it's not the case. Zero is just the median.

So when when the first survey completes start rolling in we naturally gravitate immediately to the NPS score. NPS score is a quick way to examine the pulse of a company brand.

When the initial survey completes start rolling in and we want to check NPS.

The fireworks go off when the NPS is extremely low or (gulp)...negative. No one wants to see an NPS of -5, -20 or -30. This means there are more detractors among your customers than promoters. The translation is there are more customers actively detracting from your brand and bad mouthing your company than recommending it to friends and colleagues.

This is not a recipe for sustainable success. When you see an NPS in the negative, it points to a need for immediate change.

The Bright Side: Although some companies may know their customer satisfaction is low, NPS helps assign a measurable value to it where it can be compared with other companies and industry peers. All NPS ratings come with an open-ended which adds context to the poor scores which can be categorized and themed. You can then understand what is driving low NPS and create strategies and action plans to improve it.

Better to know exactly what's causing it than wonder. Now you have a benchmark score to compare yourself against 6 or 12 months from now to see how your changes have impacted the customer experience (CX).

Firework 2: Poor Employee Performance

Not all outcomes of a Voice of Employee (VoE) or employee survey can be positive. In many cases c-level staff or HR looks to commission an employee survey to understand what their employees love and what they want to see improved. Improving the customer experience (CX) starts with your in-house employees.

We recommend tying together Voice of Customer (VoC) and VoE efforts so insights can be carried over to one another. In our VoC surveys we often inquire about customer satisfaction with several roles and departments within an organization (sales, customer support, etc.) So when data is seeded the results of each individual survey case can be tied specifically to a rep the customer dealt with.

By virtue of this, sometimes we find specific employees who score well below average and far lower than their peers.

The Bright Side: Now that you have this data, you can begin to understand how your top departments and employees excel and what customers like about their customer service. The same can be said about under-performing employees.

The data for each individual case can be taken back to the HR and management team so pinpointed and specific training programs can be developed which address improvement areas. Without this objective and data directly from the customer, it often becomes a "he said, she said" type evaluation.

With measurable and factual data, you now have everything you need to drive performance of your employees. It changes the conversation from "Tom, I think you need to do a better job of answering customer questions" to "Tom, 85% of the customers you dealt with in the past 30 days stated they were unhappy with your ability to answer their questions".

Which of those is more powerful and actionable?

Firework 3: Customers Picking Up Anchor

Another metric and KPI we like to measure in our VoC surveys is likelihood to switch (LTS). This helps a company understand how likely the customer is to churn and move to a competitor in the next 6 months or 12 months.

As a result, nearly all of our VoC surveys come back with at least a few customers who say "I'm heading out soon. See ya." Similar to NPS, these LTS questions are typically accompanied by an open-end to add context to the situation. This feedback ranges from price to service.

The Bright Side: First off, without conducting the customer survey, you would have no way of knowing this information. Some of the customers with a high LTS often shock our clients. When reading the open-end they'll say things like, "they never said anything about that. When I talked to them 2 weeks ago, everything was fine."

This is part of the "Messy Roommate Bias" we discussed in a prior blog post here.

Now that you know, the management and sales team can create a custom strategy to save and keep those customers who may have gone elsewhere. If they are likely to switch, you have nothing to lose at this point. If not for the survey, you may not have known until after they had left and at that point it would be too late.

Again, this turns negative into potential positives.

Before your customers take off through the door, a well-timed transactional or loyalty survey can uncover those pain points. This gives your company an opportunity to react and address these concerns before they have both feet out the door.

The Grand Finale

Although the readout and presentation is much easier to deliver when all the results are positive, it's not always the case. Even our A+ clients with high NPS ratings have areas of weaknesses. Market research uncovers these pain points from customers and ties them together with insights and strategies to make improvements.

Market research puts you in the know. Regardless of the results, you will have measurable, reliable, and actionable data at your finger tips to prioritize and drive change at your organization.

One could argue the surveys which offer the least favorable feedback become the most valuable.

Drive Research is a market research firm in Buffalo, NY. Our market research services extend across Upstate New York and the country. Interested in a receiving a quote on your next market research project? Contact us at [email protected] or call us at 315-303-2040.

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