By Sunil Thomas, Co-Founder and Executive Chairman of CleverTap
Many experts will tell you that there’s an art to collecting customer feedback. You need to be asking the right questions, at the right time, with the right stakeholders.
The reality is, even that formula isn’t enough. Of course, some customer feedback is better than none. But, there’s a gap between what’s true and what people will tell you. To really hear what your customers are saying, you need to fundamentally change how you’re asking.
The Pitfalls of Asking Consumers Their Thoughts
Asking customers what they think about your product and experience sounds like a great idea. There’s just one challenge. Will people be upfront about what they truly think?
Take Net Promoter Scores (NPS) for example. Does asking, “Would you recommend this to a friend?” yield accurate results or are people just giving you the answer they think you want to hear? Worse, do they not care to respond at all and simply click the easiest, first-available option?
Harvard Business Review reports here that only half of the people who say they would recommend a firm actually do so — showing a disconnect between the data consumers provide and the actions they actually take. And, there is no correlation between NPS score and likelihood of future purchase, as discussed here in Forbes.
That’s because NPS scores do not provide any real insight into the issues and pain points customers have. It’s a vanity metric that CEOs use to pat themselves on the back, thinking things are sailing along just fine. NPS is a numerical rating at a single point in time. It says nothing of how a customer really feels about your brand and the state of your relationship with that customer. In fact, recent research reveals that the most valuable insights you may glean from NPS are those who aren’t answering. The customers who don’t provide a score are the most likely to churn.
Clearly, some methods of customer feedback, like NPS, are lacking in substance. But, the timing of many methods is imperfect as well. It’s typical to ask consumers about their opinion and experience directly after it happens but, is that really the best time? Will they be honest then? Have they had enough time to really digest their experience and put it into words?
Consider Uber, who requests ratings when you get out of the car. This offers immediate feedback but at perhaps the most inconvenient time for their customers. If users rate their ride as less than a perfect 5 stars, Uber requires them to explain why. Many people may just go back and choose a 5 so they can be done with it, rather than figuring out why they feel the driver deserves a 4 or 3 star — even though those lower ratings provide important feedback.
Asking at the right time is key. Ask too soon or too much and consumers get turned off. On the iPhone, users can even turn off the ability to get app rating requests, permanently cutting you off from the ability to get their important feedback (which also helps influence App Store rankings).
Show, Not Tell: A New Way of Gathering Feedback
With all the inconsistencies of traditional feedback gathering, it’s no wonder sites like Yelp encourage customers to write updates to their reviews. So, what are brands to do? Instead of asking customers to tell you how they feel, listen to what they are showing you. Activity is strong feedback. You can’t make up activity in your app or on your site. What consumers show you is more honest.
It’s how you assess this activity that makes the difference. If a customer drops off your app, you have to consider why. It might not be that they don’t like the app, product or service. Rather, it may be that the experience itself was just not built for the right audience.
CleverTap research found that the three of the four top reasons people uninstall mobile apps are because they no longer use the app, it has too much advertising, or it sends too many notifications. Meanwhile, research reported in Forbes finds that apps that get uninstalled are more likely to require people to fill out lengthy forms to use the app, repeatedly ask for ratings, send too many notifications and collect unnecessary data.
These are all things brands have control over but they need to solicit feedback in non-intrusive ways so they can avoid worsening the customer experience. Instead of surveying them the moment they open the app, for example, app brands can find the optimal time to collect feedback based on an individual user’s engagement metrics. A person may be more happy to provide feedback after they’ve enjoyed a positive engagement, like a new achievement or badge. Brands can also improve engagement and thereby gather more behavioral feedback, by optimizing the send-time of notification requests for each app user.
If you see a consumer “window shopping,” is it really worth trying to get them back? You can assess previous behaviors to determine next best actions. Combining what you know about your customers with what their actions are telling you can help brands determine what to do next or ask. The best thing about activity as feedback is that it is real-time and honest, giving you a concentrated, in-the-moment view of your customer.
The Future of Listening to Customer Feedback
It’s time companies switch from the old way of doing things — asking for feedback — and start gathering feedback through their customers’ behavior. This method both lessens the burden on the customers, enabling a more positive experience, while providing more accurate insights for the brand. Stay continually engaged with your customers. Create behavioral markers that indicate where you need to put in more effort to improve their experience. Only this way can you truly anticipate, rather than merely respond to, their needs.
About the Author
Sunil Thomas is the co-founder and Executive Chairman of CleverTap and based in San Francisco. In his role he is focused on scaling innovation and strategic direction for CleverTap, to steer it to achieve its ambitious strategy and execute on its vision to help brands build valuable, long-term relationships with their customers. Prior to assuming the role of Executive Chairman, he was the CEO of CleverTap.