Over my marketing career of nearly 30 years, I have personally been involved with dozens of customer satisfaction programs for companies of all sizes. I've noticed that many small and midsize enterprise (SME) firms end up grossly overpaying for customer feedback programs that are bloated and ineffective. The problem with these programs, aside from excessive cost, is that they don't link to business operations or marketing activities. But we have a better approach.
A Bazooka for Mosquitos?
The programs I'm talking about seem to follow a pattern. A software company, such as an enterprise platform for transactional data, has a division or a strategic partner involved in collecting customer feedback. That company is brought in as the solution provider. Then, that company “over specs” programs for the company around the transactional layer, but fails to realize that the number of customers is far less than the number of transactions. The company also provides shiny dashboards and visualizations, but these cost far too much and most companies simply don't need them – especially those that are spreadsheet based. The result is that SME's grossly overpay for customer feedback programs when much simpler tools will do.
A Star Is Not Born
Additionally, I advise companies not to rely heavily on website reviews (i.e., star ratings), because these are always self-selected, can be manipulated, and are often fraudulent. If your company is involved in selling consumer products, there is some validity in monitoring these reviews (e.g., those on big box retailer web sites like Amazon or Best Buy), but they are just one of many data points that companies should be analyzing. Please do not run customer insights or product improvement programs using biased data like this!
Two Tools (You May Already Have)
Unfortunately, the systems that are typically implemented at SME's are bloated, expensive, and not actionable. If you are serious about customer feedback, retention, and continuous improvement, a more systematic approach is needed, typically surveys that are triggered by a transaction or some other event. With a little creativity, you can implement a very effective and cost-efficient customer feedback system using two basic tools: SurveyMonkey and Zapier.
SurveyMonkey has been around for over 20 years, is a decent value, and is perfectly adequate for a majority of survey research needs – and is particularly good for customer feedback programs. The real benefit of using SurveyMonkey is a hidden integration with Zapier, a company that makes its living by building APIs that connect different platforms together using trigger events. A trigger event is some action that is taken on one platform that results in an event on another platform. In this case, our trigger event will be the submission of a survey by a customer.
Create a Connection
The first thing that must be done is to create a connection between the SurveyMonkey survey (e.g., your customer satisfaction study) and a resulting event on another platform. Once that connection is made, all of the questions in your survey become available to trigger events on other platforms. So, for example, if you have a satisfaction question, a product quality question, or attributes that deal with any aspect of the marketing mix, any of these can be used to trigger an event on another platform. Any response you choose can create a push notification to different people within your company.
Define a Trigger Event
The simplest and most effective connection that I have used with clients is to connect the submission of a survey (and the specific answers given by respondents) to the generation of an email from Zapier. And it works amazingly well. For example, if a customer rates "product quality" low, a feedback email can go directly to product development or R&D. If another customer makes a comment that they "could not find the product" at their local grocery store, that comment can go directly to sales. These are the insights that you just can’t get from online reviews or star ratings. But they are extremely important for continuously improving your products and business processes.
Why Pay More?
We have successfully used this very simple, very effective model dozens of time. We have saved our clients lots of money by using just these two tools. In one recent case we reduced research spending from $100K+ per year to just $15K. This approach works especially well with midsize firms that truly need new insights to grow to the next level.
Might this approach work at your company?
To learn more about inexpensive ways to gather customer feedback, please. For more information about our services and feedback programs like the one described above, please visit the Surveys & Forecasts, LLC website or get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SurveyMonkey and Zapier are trademarks of their respective companies.