When it comes to market research and customer experience (CX) surveys, it's not how much data you can collect but what's done with the data which adds value to your business and organization. Don't forget, it's all about the "Customer" in your "Customer Experience" survey efforts, not the data.
The value and impact of market research lie in the action taken, not the results. Results only matter if the business can take action and make specific improvements based on the CX market research.
Market research and reports are not meant to sit on a shelf. Unfortunately, far too many reports gather dust only to be opened again when it comes time to conduct a Wave II, Wave III, or Wave IX of a longitudinal research project.
Sad isn't it?
As a market researcher who maybe spent 40 or 80+ hours on the report which fills a binder nicely (might I add), it's sad to think that it will just sit there. On a shelf. For the next 2 to 3 years.
However, I blame this more on the market research firm than the client. As a market research company, it's our job to maximize value and create digestible action items from the data.
Market research value is not measured by the number of pages in the report but rather the ways it makes an impact on improving the customer experience, how it impacts the bottom-line, and ways it saves business money through more efficient operations.
Pay for action, not data.
Where the real estate industry uses the slogan: Location. Location. Location.
Customer experience could use Action. Action. Action.
A chart or graph does not create action. A summary of a key finding does not create urgency.
For example, which of these CX survey findings is more actionable?
Scenario 1: A CX market research firm collects 825 completed surveys from customers. Approximately 75% of customers want the "ease of ordering products" improved.
Key finding right? Actionable though? Not without some heavy and additional context.
Scenario 2: A CX market research firm identifies 23 customers who would like to place an order but they've had several issues logging into the sales portal over the past 30 days. The CX firm passes these survey contacts to the customer support department. The customer support department logs these issues with IT and collects the order by phone resulting in 23 additional orders placed that day totaling a lift of $82,500 in sales. Then the following week the sales team sends an email out to customers explaining the fixes and what changes to expect in the coming weeks on the portal.
Key finding? Yes, the data shows a theme of login issues with customers.
Actionable? You bet. The CX research not only uncovered issues with the portal but was able to capture 23 additional sales orders by using the survey as a reach-out and trigger to invoke immediate follow-up. It also let all customers know that a prior issue has been addressed and fixed.
What is a Closed Loop Survey Process?
When someone talks about a closed loop survey process as part of VoC or CX, they mean the process of following up, communicating, or exchanging information with customers after the survey is completed. Far too often are surveys sent and no communication happens afterward.
What you are saying to a customer is, "You were willing to take 5 minutes to respond to our survey but we do not have the time to share any of the results of changes we'll make based on your feedback."
Doesn't really resonate as a great customer experience right?
A closed-loop survey process ensures Step 2 takes place after Step 1 (completing the survey) is over.
Let's dive in...
What are the Types of Closed Loop Survey Processes?
There are several variations of a closed loop survey process as taught by MaritzCX University.
Each focus on a different outcome. Each are equally as valuable as the next. All for different reasons.
Type 1: Tactical Closed Loops
This is the example I shared earlier. It's hard to argue that tactical 1-on-1 follow-ups do not create immediate value. At the same time, these types of tactical follow-up require a lot of organization and time. From managing the cases to managing follow-ups (often multiple) ones, it can be a time sucker.
The example here is the customer support team member(s) follow-up 1-on-1 with each customer who reported an issue or problem with an order. The impact is immediate resolution and a jump in incremental sales.
Type 2: Action Planning Closed Loops
The idea behind the action planning closed loop system is to develop a guide of best practices derived from the survey analysis and themes. The example here would be the customer service management team creating an action plan of 3 or 4 items to address with the customer service team at training meetings on a monthly basis.
The action plan might include some tips about how to handle angry customers, how to process a sales order more smoothly, or how to script a close to a phone call. All of these were uncovered as part of the CX market research as improvement areas. By enacting this action plan, it will address some of the key frustration points mentioned by customers.
It's the in-between on the tactical and strategic closed loop processes.
Type 3: Strategic Closed Loops
This is the closed loop survey process at the highest level. This could include monthly emails, quarterly newsletters, or blog posts talking about CX improvements made by your business.
Perhaps you share a few case studies or customer examples of how you used feedback to make improvements. Or how you took the CX survey data and made changes within your organization to improve the CX.
Whatever the case may be, this strategic closed loop process highlights your successes as a customer-centric organization. It pins you as a thought-leader and one who wants to drive better customer experience.
"The most successful companies do not view research as research. They view research as an integral part of operations, marketing, and day-to-day customer relationship management. Data is everywhere and it drives all decisions and actions."
Questions to Ask Yourself
Before you jump on the CX closed loop surveying train, let's take care of a few questions you might be asking yourself first. A closed loop survey is a well-structured and laid out process which takes you from Step A to Step F (or Step A to Step Z if needed).
What are the metrics which will trigger your closed loop process?
This is the first step you'll want to determine after (or even before) your CX survey script is written. What metrics or questions will trigger an "event" with the event being the start of the closed loop process and opening of a customer follow-up case.
Option 1: NPS
Some of our clients use a net promoter score (NPS). A specific filter is built into the survey so when a customer rates an organization as a 0 to 6 on the 0 to 10 scale of likelihood to recommend, the case is flagged and teams are notified.
Some sophisticated survey platforms actually spark emails to be sent to management teams, sales representatives, or other leaders so they can all view the responses and reasons for the low score. But be careful with this, you'll want a process in place before doing this.
More on that in a bit.
Too often the closed loop process focuses on the negative responses but doesn't forget about the positives.
Don't believe me? On your next poor customer experience, if you get a survey, be honest and rate the experience as extremely poor. Explain why.
If the company is customer-centric you'll be sure to receive a phone call or email follow-up asking to discuss further or an effort to try and make the experience better for you.
However, when is the last time you rated something excellent and received that same follow-up call or email? It's almost unheard of right? Someone going out of their way to email you to talk to you more about how much you love their company.
A true customer-centric culture doesn't take happy and loyal customers for granted. They cement them as loyal fans and continually poor fresh cement at their feet through follow-up. The customers become completely immersed in your customer experience.
In the cases of NPS these would be your 9 and 10 ratings on the 0 to 10 scale. Sometimes a quick follow-up conversation here can gather some more context and insight beyond the online surveys to truly understand drivers to loyalty.
On top of that, the simple reach-out and thank you further drives their satisfaction and loyalty even higher with your business. Remember, NPS schooling teaches us these promoters are the ones out in your community promoting your brand. Go above and beyond with them so they continually want to.
Option 2: CES
With the number of orders and e-commerce online, the ease of the ordering process is paramount to the customer experience. Customers want to go online, place an order, submit it, get confirmation, and wait for a delivery. Anything in your CX ordering process that makes it more complicated than that will likely result in lost sales.
Customer effort score or CES measures how easy it is to conduct business with your organization. This typically uses a 5-point scale. Many clients include an open-ended question after the CES to gain clarity on reasons for high satisfaction and low satisfaction. This context helps in the closed loop process.
Here you can trigger survey cases with scores of 3 or lower or 2 or lower. These respondents are flagged and placed into the closed loop system for follow-up.
As a customer-centric organization, you want to create an ordering system that was a low likelihood to annoy and frustrate a customer.
A poor customer effort score (CES) indicates larger issues in your CX.
Option 3: CSAT
This is the basic customer satisfaction question using a 5-point, 7-point, or 10-point scale. If you ask NPS in your survey (which aims to understand the customer relationship) you may want your CSAT question to focus on the most recent order or the last product or service experience.
This helps the CSAT data be more granular and it differentiates itself from loyalty metrics like NPS.
In these situations, you can flag cases that offer a rating of lower than 5 or any variation of scoring you'd like. Similar to the point made about high NPS scores, don't forget about those who rate CSAT high either. You may want to include follow-up to these customers as well.
Option 4: LTS
LTS or likelihood to switch is a popular metric for closed loop CX surveys. In addition to NPS, this measures the loyalty and relationship to your business or organization.
A high likelihood to switch to a competitor is a very blunt and strong indicator your customer relationship could be nearing an end.
What better way to try and rectify that than by a follow-up call or email? Those who have a high likelihood to switch will likely do so in the next 12 months unless significant barriers to change exist in your vertical.
Either way, you have nothing to lose using this metric as part of your closed loop survey process.
Here is some more information on market research metrics your company should be tracking.
When it comes to a customer who is on the way out the door, it's better to know before that door shuts and to see what (if anything) you can do before they leave.
Option 5: Just Ask
This may be one of the most basic (but underused) closed loop questions for CX surveys. In this scenario, you simply ask the customer "Would you like a follow-up from Company ABC for any reason?" If they select yes, you can ask a follow-up question to filter down the request to sales, billing, customer service, etc.
Seems almost too easy right?
It's tremendously valuable. Not a single survey project comes through our system where at least 1 customer does not ask for a follow-up with our client. It's more like 5% and sometimes 10% of respondents who request a follow-up.
This question gives your business the opportunity to answer a customer question, clarify specifications on a new product, or handle a billing issue. All of which may have gone unnoticed if not for the survey.
Some survey systems can pass this data directly to the appropriate teams. Other market research companies can send the business these customer requests daily.
Either way, the action is now being taken.
What are the steps involved in CX surveys?
As a business, you can either decide to manage the CX process in-house or hire a third-party market research company or CX company to help manage it for you. Launching a full CX program takes a lot of time and effort. If it's not created right, it takes a long time to rework.
This is why many companies opt to work with a consulting company on CX.
Either way, you will need access to a survey platform to help you manage the surveys.
Working with a consultant does offer many benefits. They've likely built these CX programs before and are aware of mishaps and issues which have occurred with other clients. Many of which can be prevented with your company.
CX is not just 1 survey. It's a program to measure the entire customer experience.
The process involves journey mapping, developing customer touchpoints, and then understanding priority touchpoints to use surveys to collect feedback.
Surveys are drafted, designed, and tested online. This is where your consultant will work on the goals and trigger points for the closed loop follow-up.
Once the survey is fielded, clients are provided online links and dashboards to access the data. Trigger questions that require a follow-up can be automated through emails to specific personnel.
Another option is for the manager of CX within your company to log in daily and download specific cases that require follow-up.
A final option is to have your market research consultant email you a list of cases that required closed loop follow-up each day.
The key takeaway here is action needs to be taken and a plan needs to be in place. The last thing you want your CX program to do is to collect data and feedback with no action being taken.
The data sits there. The frustrated customers sit there. The outcome usually does not end well.
Who will handle follow-up of each requests?
To our previous point, your closed loop process needs to have structure. This structure includes a case manager or someone that is responsible for follow-up on each trigger.
This could be one person that funnels requests to appropriate team members. Or the survey platform or team can funnel responses to separate departments.
For example, billing questions are sent to the Director of Finance. Customer service questions are sent to the on-shift Customer Service Team Leader. Product questions are sent to the Product Portfolio Manager. So on.
Too many cooks in the kitchen = no cooks in the kitchen.
If you have too many cooks in the kitchen, no one seasons the sauce because they think other cooks will take care of it for them. The key is to put 1 and only 1 person in charge of a case at each time.
This could mean they handle the closed loop follow-up themselves or they assign ownership of the case to a new individual.
When and how should you follow-up?
This is dependent on the type of closed loop process.
Tactical should be immediate (within 24 to 48 hours) while strategic can wait a few weeks or months. The general rule is the quicker, the better. The sooner a customer can see you are taking action on his or her feedback, the better.
"Get value out of the research the day after you go into the field. No lie, if we make a call the next day we may have just saved a customer."
- Derek Bildfell, CEO of Customer Contact
How to follow-up is dependent on your organization's rules, policies, and customer behavior. If 90% of your customers place orders through email, a phone call or text message might seem out of place. Similar to if 90% of your orders are placed by phone, an email to a customer to close the loop may not be opened or read.
This is a process you'll need to layout and determine when developing your closed loop system in addition to identifying the person who will manage the follow-up.
A closed loop survey process ensures action is taken from survey results. It creates a higher level of value and ROI in your market research efforts than just collecting feedback and creating recommendations that often take months, if not years to implement.
Although some of these recommendations cover marketing, operations, and strategy, arguably none will have a larger impact on the customer experience than tactical follow-up from closed loop communications.
The closed loop survey process addresses problems 1-on-1 and they address problems immediately. They can save a customer. They can even increase sales on a day-to-day basis.
Not to diminish the value of global recommendations but the impact of major changes to an operational or marketing strategy is not as immediate as a 1-on-1 with a customer.
Is strategy development and recommendations more efficient on a global scale? Absolutely.
Can a strategic plan make more of a long-term and major impact on a business? Definitely.
In addition to the value, a closed loop CX process brings to your business and customer, taking action on survey results has a snowball effect. Following up and showing customers you take action based on their feedback helps with response rate on the next survey, and the next survey, and the next survey.
It's hard to argue with the immediate return of 1-on-1 customer follow-up to handle direct and specific issues through a tactical closed loop CX survey.
Besides, the customer(s) may be long gone when those recommendations finally get implemented or if the market research report sits on a shelf gathering dust.
Drive Research is a customer experience (CX) market research company in Syracuse, NY. We are certified and experienced in Voice of Customer (VoC) and CX market research having staff who has worked on both the client and provider side of market research.
We understand your market research needs.
We understand your industry.
We can deliver the answers you need from those who matter most.
Contact us at 315-303-2040 or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.