Analytics and conversion testing are incredible tools that can tell you a ton, however, they aren’t great in terms of figuring out why your visitors do what they do. You need to first learn what visitors are thinking before you can hope to come up with a hypothesis to test. It’s not just for the Fortune 500 — every business no matter the size should have a voice of the customer system in place that informs which improvements should be tested.
It’s about going beyond the quantitative data to glean qualitative insights on mindset, language used, problems encountered, hopes, fears, intent, preferences, etc. Many times a single comment by a customer can trigger a change that can have a huge impact on your business — assuming you’re listening and that you act on it. If you aren’t doing any of the below, I guarantee you will get huge value by implementing some of them.
According to Peppers and Rogers some of the top reasons given for using voice of the customer solutions are:
- improving the customer experience
- gauging the overall health of the business
- retaining customers
- driving innovation
- increasing demand
- evaluating specific customer touchpoints
- improving or creating products
- improving marketing effectiveness
You can call it voice of the customer, getting inside your customer’s head or learning what your customers are thinking, feeling and getting frustrated by. It doesn’t have to be sophisticated to have a large impact on your business. Don’t stop at simple “are you satisfied with our survice” or Net Promoter Score surveys as those might tell you IF things are going better/worse but they won’t tell you why.
What’s more useful: finding out that your customer satisfaction score has decreased by 5% or hearing from 10 customers that they were frustrated with a particular aspect of your product?
Below are a whole host of techniques and associated tools that you can implement very quickly and start getting actionable feedback immediately. (I haven’t covered in-person focus groups, direct in-person observation, customer visits, customer advisory boards or actual mind reading because these don’t meet the criteria of being low-c0st. The tools listed are by no means exhaustive but are a good place to start.)
Some things to look out for: treat your customer’s attention with great care. Everyone has received ill-thought out surveys of dozens of questions with lots of info that would be nice to have on the business’ part but which kills completion rates and annoys customers. When asking for your visitor’s time be brutal in cutting out the unnecessary stuff and keep only the solid core of what is absolutely necessary. Get into their shoes and try to provide them value back from incentives like discounts or simply making them feel they are part of the improvement process and that their voice will be heard.
1. Live on-site chat. You don’t always have to be available for live chat to be useful. You can keep it on in the background and engage when you are available. If you’re not available the chat functionality turns into a nice feedback/contact form as well. Tools: Olark, ClickDesk, Velaro, Comm100 Live Chat
2. Call or email individuals and ask for responses at different points. It’s simple, it’s no-cost, it’s powerful — but few people do it. Contacting people individually is a must when first launching a company and doesn’t scale well but should be continued as the company grows. At first you should be attempting to reach EVERY potential, current AND ex customers by email and phone. If your company is larger, you should still contact a subset of customers in different stages of their involvement with your business. This costs nothing but time but can create opportunities for hugely valuable interactions.
3. On-site feedback. These tools bleed into a bunch of categories and each offer a different set of functionality: knowledge base, suggestion box, support desk, feedback form. Awesome for having a persistent presence for collecting feedback and, in some cases, making it public to help the next visitor with similar concerns. Tools: Uservoice, Kampyle, Get Satisfaction, Feedbackify
5. Off-site surveys. Reach out to your customers via email or on your site and ask them to fill out a survey. But be sure you follow survey best practices. Be cognizant of your customer’s time and attention and try to offer them something in return. SurveyMonkey/Wufoo, Popsurvey, Google forms
6. Lightweight usability studies. You can learn a lot from as few as 5 users in a usability study and there are some great, low-cost tools out there to help with remote studies. Tools: Loop11, Usertesting, Silverback
7. Review customer service tickets and talk to your customers service team. Your customer service team talks to your customers every day, take advantage of their knowledge.
8. Talk to your sales team. Same with sales. They are hearing objections and feedback every day from potential and current customers.
9. Provide the ability to submit reviews and feedback. Not just for physical products. Ask users to rate and review their experiences and your products.
10. Analyze your site search. You are tracking site search via analytics, right? Right?! Well, obviously. Then you should check out if there are common searches that would indicate users aren’t able to find something, for example, via normal navigation. Or perhaps they are searching for functionality or a related service that you don’t offer.
11. Ask your followers via Twitter and Facebook. Don’t forget to leverage your company social network assets by simply coming out and asking your followers: what can you do better? what do they love about your service? what would they change?
(Another tool that doesn’t really fit into the above but is something to check out if you run a software-as-a-service business: Intercom which allows you to learn about live users via rich profiles and message both individuals and all active users right in your app.)
In the end the goal is to learn more about current, potential and ex-customers so that you can take action to improve your product, service and marketing.
Don’t just collect information, engage with people, learn and then implement what you’ve learned — preferably via a valid A/B/Multivariate test… but that’s for another post.