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Effective customer surveys help contact centers drive CX

As companies try to figure out who will run customer experience initiatives, contact centers make a strong case for the customer support team, using the right technology.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- As customer experience improvement as a business tactic evolves, companies struggle to determine who should own the process. Customer service teams staffing the contact center control one crucial element: effective customer surveys that capture detailed customer sentiment data.

In many companies, chief marketing officers head up CX, because CMOs control the look and feel of branding and attract customers in the first place. In others, an emerging model features an independent team reporting to the CEO that unify marketing, sales and customer service, each of whom interact with customers and contribute to CX.

Here at ICMI Contact Center Expo, customer service leaders made a strong case for owning CX, as they are the ones remediating customer problems and also collecting data -- the most powerful tool for CX improvement -- in effective customer surveys.

"There is some sort of power play for experience," said Dan Moross, director of customer experience at Moo.com, an online business card vendor.

Moross said he sees marketers "owning" customer experience at some companies, but the contact center deserves a leadership role, too.

"It doesn't matter who wins. But marketing's agenda with the customer experience is not just 'how do we improve the customer experience,' but they think about how it will deliver money," he said. "I care about our customers because, altruistically, I think it's the right thing to do, and I have confidence that it will [bring] in the money."

Voice of the customer data drives CX

I care about our customers because, altruistically, I think it's the right thing to do.
Dan MorossDirector of customer experience, Moo.com

Improving customer experience also involves allocating resources to the right cases and understanding which actions actually create better customer interactions, said Andrew Gilliam, help desk consultant for Western Kentucky University's IT service desk. He encouraged contact center leaders to contribute to customer experience improvement through effective customer surveys.

"I don't think you have to be a data scientist to have very tactical and actionable transactional surveys," Gilliam said. "There is a big, big difference between having a transactional survey that you want to make a difference right now versus a benchmarking survey -- the purpose of that is different."

His department uses Qualtrics to collect detailed data for customer service improvement, and early last year remade its voice of the customer program.

By inviting students, faculty and staff to fill out surveys after every interaction, making effective customer surveys fast but also data-rich and targeting specific experience metrics, his department improved response rate to about 7% and generated almost four times more responses than before, Gilliam said.

Gilliam provides demonstrations of his department's surveys, as well as tips and best practices for peers who want to appropriate his methods.

Getting the right data key to CX improvement

Many marketing surveys use the one-to-five Likert Scale to gauge customer feelings about time to problem resolution, agent professionalism and other aspects of an experience.

"The averages we got out of that aren't very helpful or actionable for us," Gilliam said during a conference educational session on creating effective customer surveys. Collecting vague or general opinions doesn't lead to concrete improvement actions or measurable metrics, he added.

Instead, collecting as many granular data points as the customer is willing to reveal and then putting them together for analysis shows the path to improving customer experience.

Picture of ICMI contact center expo exhibit floor
At ICMI contact center expo, attendees wondered how to insert themselves into the customer experience improvement discussion.

In Gilliam's case, that means whether the customer was faculty member, staff or student, and comparing that with which cases cause the worst sentiment on which channels. That helped his department zoom in on which vectors of customer experience needed the most attention, first.

All this might sound like negative reinforcement.

To counter that, Gilliam echoed another big theme from many ICMI keynoters and session speakers: When agents receive positive feedback, it can energize them to keep doing their job well.

Gilliam's department posts positive comments customers leave on free-form survey fields on the wall each month. Agents look forward to the day they're posted and pester him to get them up when he's a few days late.

Gilliam also discouraged tying compensation, rewards and punishments to surveys. That can alienate front-line customer service agents and even prevent the collection of effective customer survey feedback.

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