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5 Keys to Turn Customer Surveys into Action and Results: Key #1

Key #1: Let customers talk! (Ask open-ended survey questions)  

Companies know that customer feedback matters. 

There are more cost-effective (sometimes even free!) services than ever to solicit that feedback. However, too many businesses struggle to turn this feedback into action.

In other words, they collect valuable data — then do nothing with it.

At Thematic, we interview dozens of companies each month who collect feedback from their customers — both those who succeed and those who struggle.

In these interviews, a clear pattern emerged: A 5-step process that helps companies increase profits using customer feedback.

Each step contains a key way to analyze feedback and make more informed decisions. 

In this blog series, we’ll go over each of these 5 keys. Let’s start with Key #1: Let your customers talk!

Create opportunities for open-ended feedback

If you want to hear what your customers have to say, you need to give them a platform to share candid feedback in their own words.

NPS scores have their time and place, but surveys shouldn’t feel like taxes.

Go beyond the numbers by including open-ended questions in addition to numerical ratings. 

For example, a bus company might ask customers the rate their overall experience on a scale of 1-10 — but what does that really tell them about the experience?

Asking for open-ended feedback allows customers to get specific about opportunities for improvement.

Asking a customer to rate their seat might give you a quantitative result, but an open-ended survey will yield more valuable feedback, like “not enough seats.”

Shortening a customer feedback survey from endless yes/no or rating questions to just a few open-ended questions can increase survey completion rates and give you more actionable insights.

Plus, Thematic Intelligence can analyze the open-ended responses to identify themes and help you make better data-driven decisions.

Two quick case studies

To see how this first key works in practice, let’s look at two companies: a large corporation and a startup.

At first, both companies restricted how much open-ended feedback their customers could give.

Here’s how they changed their strategies — and drove much-needed change and growth for their brands. 

The first company, a large, well-established corporation, saw its bottom line begin to suffer. The executives couldn’t have been further removed from the customers’ ideas and opinions.

The company did survey its customers, but used only close-ended questions.

As a result, the surveys only confirmed things they already knew.

When a new person joined the team, she made sure that every customer has a chance to give feedback in their own words — and be heard.

Suddenly, the team found new insights: The customers had ideas that were new to everyone, including the executives.

The second company, a startup, gained many happy customers over their first few years in business. They saw high customer loyalty and satisfaction, but growth had stalled.

The startup’s original customer feedback survey asked their customers to rate them and answer: “How satisfied are you?” Why?”.

Customers left rave reviews, which was encouraging, but they didn’t give the company any insights on how to grow the business.

Our team at Thematic recommended they change the question to: “What can we do better?”

Giving customers the chance to talk (and listening to them!) immediately yielded more valuable feedback.

The startup discovered insights into new markets and how to grow faster in those markets. 

Open ended surveys are no good if you don’t understand the responses!

When you let your customers talk — and listen to what they have to say — you can access new insights into your business and ideas for growth.

Ask open-ended questions and pay attention to how customers respond; hearing from them in their own words can provide invaluable opportunities and ideas.  

Unfortunately, if you’re collecting large volumes of customer feedback, this can quickly become difficult to manage.

In the tsunami of data, valuable insights get washed away as open-ended responses are already time-consuming to manually analyze at small volumes. 

This is why companies are looking beyond the limitations of manual analysis or legacy text analytics platforms and exploring approaches like Thematic Intelligence that combine advanced AI with human feedback.

In our next post in our 5 Keys series on turning customer surveys into action and results, we’ll delve deeper into the importance of being able to understand feedback at scale, so that you can make more informed decisions.

Make sure to subscribe to our mailing list and we’ll notify you when we launch the next post!

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