Customer Voice: Asking Less is giving us More

Sarah Beams

July 13, 2017

With the introduction of sites such as TripAdvisor, it is critical for customer voice to be heard by businesses and brands, both in the boardroom and out of it. Development Director – Sarah Beams – explores how asking less is easy with a powerful Text Analytics engine and a fuss-free data integration procedure.

People are sharing their opinions and experiences more than ever

You only need to think about social media or review sites such as TripAdvisor to see people’s growing propensity to share their experiences. As consumers, we’re empowered to give feedback, whether to endorse or to demand better. We expect to have the option to tell brands how they’re doing and seek the opportunity where it’s not forthcoming. Most important is a perception of impact; consumers want to have confidence that a brand is listening to their personal stories and that they will use them to drive a better experience in the future.

It’s increasingly critical to ensure the customer voice is heard in the boardroom to help shape both existing and new products and services: bringing performance metrics and drivers to life with customer stories is hugely impactful. But the process of giving feedback shouldn’t be a chore. After all, turning to Twitter, Facebook or TripAdvisor to grumble publicly is all too easy.

The good news is that technology is increasingly on the side of both the CX researcher and the participant. Innovations in data analytics of unstructured data bring a completely different way to understand and bring to life the data we collect. Ever-more sophisticated data integrations mean we now know vast amounts about a respondent before they even start to answer the first question.

This brings a new opportunity, whereby it doesn’t take as many questions as it used to for us to capture invaluable insight. Asking a carefully selected set of core quantitative questions alongside an integral open-ended feedback opportunity is all it takes if supported by a powerful Text Analytics engine and a fuss-free data integration procedure.

It’s a win-win for both the respondent and the brand

What results is a survey that’s a great experience for the respondent. Through open-ended questions, they get the chance to give their feedback in a fast format that doesn’t restrict them.

They can tell their stories, share their ideas, and talk about what matters to them, rather than having to cajole their feedback into a questionnaire structure that’s been determined by the brand. And they’re in control of how much time they give too – whether they want to write a succinct one-liner or a detailed prose is their choice.

Shorter surveys and unstructured feedback are also beneficial in many ways for the brand; ease encourages more people to get involved, meaning we’re hearing from a broader, more representative sample of their customers than ever before.

At Maru/edr we’ve seen a 10% increase in the proportion of respondents who start these new-style surveys going on to complete them. And this is self-fulfilling because as people become accustomed to shorter surveys, they’ll be more inclined to click through to them in the first place.

Meanwhile, brands can have even more confidence that they’re collecting sufficient data to make the right decisions for their business.

But how do we make the most of unstructured data?

Text Analytics can quantify and track over time the big themes we know about within unstructured customer feedback. But it’s so much more than an automated coding tool, and although this function alone can prove hugely effective, to just use it for this alone represents a huge missed opportunity.

Text Analytics can help to anticipate the next big thing for brands. With the known issues and themes in the data taken care of, we can focus on discovering what comes next and ensure the businesses we work with are on the front-foot rather than playing catch up. The stories customers tell us will evolve over time, especially as some of the more sizable pain points are resolved.

Some of the grumbles that are seen in small volumes today will be the headline themes of tomorrow. We can use Text Analytics to best understand which of these issues brands should pay attention to, working solutions into their strategies and roadmaps now.

A significant benefit for brands is that unstructured data brings choice and control. The survey data effectively becomes a pool of customer voice that can be tapped into whenever necessary. The magic here is that we don’t need to know what question we’re trying to answer when we launch the survey, the questions can come later. Then when someone has a hunch or hypothesis they want to test, we can mine the data accordingly to get our hands on the answers to the questions we never knew we’d have – without delay.

By automatically assigning sentiment to each verbatim comment we can quickly start to paint a picture of where customers go through peaks and troughs throughout the touchpoints of a journey or their end-to-end lifecycle with a brand. This can illuminate where a brand should invest time and resource to enhance the customer experience, and where best practice can be shared across internal teams.

Over time this picture can evolve in response to service enchantments, allowing a brand to gauge the success of initiatives and to begin to quantify ROI.

Shorter surveys unlock agility: we can follow the story the data tells

With reduced survey length, there’s an opportunity to add in a couple of extra questions for short periods of time without risking response volume or quality. This gives brands invaluable access to their customers in the moments that matter. Whether it’s probing deeper into a problematic touchpoint or seeking feedback on a potential solution to the pain points identified by customers, we can follow the story in the data.

This truly elevates on-going VoC programmes from the realm of a tracker that simply identifies a potential problem, to an agile exploratory tool that supports a brand to truly understand what the problem is, and most importantly how a brand might be able to tackle it.

Sarah Beams is an insight specialist at Maru/edr, working with clients to strike the optimum balance between survey length and insight yield. To see how your customer feedback programme can be elevated with Text Analytics and Data Integration connect with Sarah on LinkedIn or email her directly at