Things didn't go exactly as planned when we gave three retail businesses a customer feedback system to test for a customer service software buyers' guide . The goal was to see how the features worked in a real-life setting. However, we discovered that testing customer service software in a real-life setting involves more than simply installing and using. It requires a certain amount of planning, and there were several key issues we realized we should have addressed before beginning to test.
From our experience came three important lessons, here's a look at what those lessons were and what they taught us about how CIOs and other technology buyers should go about evaluating customer feedback systems.
Lesson No. 1: Consider What New Processes or Cultural Shift Is Needed
One of the biggest problems encountered with our experiment was simply not receiving enough data to properly evaluate the service. The issue wasn't so much a failure in technology as it was in implementation.
Customer feedback software comes in many forms, from surveys to community forums. This particular service collected data through text messages. The participating retailers—a bicycle chain, one homemade ice cream shop, and two Dallas-based burger joints—hung signs and placed table tents in their stores that invited customers to send feedback to a phone number.
When customers texted that number, their message would automatically be sent to an online dashboard where managers could respond, analyze sentiment, and track customer feedback over time. From April 6-May 6, our participants received only five messages.
After the experiment, several employees and managers for each of the stores were interviewed. A few reported customers asking about the signs, but it was clear they did not have a process in place for using the service.
"It sounds like there was no investment by people on the floor. If the culture isn't built in such a way that these people know they are the first line of defense for customer feedback, that wasn't going to change just by having the service available," says Robi Ganguly, co-founder and CEO for Apptentive, a feedback tool for iPhone application developers.
"They have to be trained to know that the company values customer feedback and it's their responsibility to proactively ask for it."
Creating the appropriate procedures and culture for leveraging customer feedback isn't exclusive to the in-store experience. Buyers should also think about specifically where online they would place customer feedback forms, surveys or other requests for action as well as how these might be worded. Feedback and online help desk software maker UserVoice said, for example, one of their best-performing prompts asks, "How can we make this more awesome?"
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