Yesterday, I posted the Missing Google Analytics Manual. That was relatively easy to put together since there are so many wonderful resources already written about it. However, as I tried to put together this post, I realized a real gap in the knowledge base available. I’ll be posting this as an ongoing series, that I might turn into a best practices whitepaper.
The “Voice of the Customer” (VOC), can be obtained in many ways: surveys, reviews, customer requests, interviews, focus groups, field reports, etc. In order to find those golden nuggets that can lead to improvement you need to start with the segment of customers that like you the least.
In the first case, those that like you the least are more likely to be biased in their observations; that is, there are of course people who actively dislike your company or products or services, though the stronger they feel so the less likely they will respond to a VOC appeal anyway. Rather, those responding to a VOC appeal would be those who “unlike” you: they’ll be quasi-neutral, perhaps ticked-off at some silly thing you’ve done, a mild dislike at worst. Thus, they will also tend to improve their feelings toward you as soon as you engage in an attempt to listen to them, and you’ve given them a chance to vent. Especially about stuff that you’re blind to. So VOC surveys that are meant to reinforce what you think or feel without some a mechanism for real painful insights into your systems’ flaws tend to not yield much benefit.
Voice of customer programs have picked up in adoption in the last couple of years, especially in the last twelve months with free options like 4Q, Kampyle, and GetSatisfaction. Of course you can also use tools like surveymonkey, zoomerang and others to launch surveys as well. Paid options include Foresee, iPerceptions and Opinion Labs.
Since there are so many tools already available, I am going to ignore issues involving “setup” of a VOC solution, and start instead with an exploration of various invitation-to-participate options.
Option 1: Intercept on Arrival – This approach is meant to engage visitors before they interact with your website and have any set expectations. The way this gets launched is typically by some random sample (although I am still seeing too many sites using this on 100% of their visitors – and that is a bad practice) and it presents an invitation to provide feedback after they finish their experience on the website. This can be felt as intrusive to a segment of your audience, especially repeat visitors if the survey invitation keeps popping up (because the cookies that are set were not found again). 4Q works this way. 4Q’s research has shown an increase in conversion and brand impression by using VOC with this method. It would seem to indicate that a website that is listening to its audience seems to instill greater trust in the brand, or at least it gains more from the listening than it generates in additional irritation from the “in-your-face” interception.
Option 2: Intercept on Action/Behavior – This approach offers survey recipients to engage with a survey based on their previous actions on the website. An example could be launching a survey when someone abandons a shopping cart. These surveys are insightful only towards that limited task and not your audience as a whole, but may provide you with tactical and actionable recommendation on resolving particular task issues encountered. This is can also feel intrusive, and if someone is already dissatisfied with a brand interaction and you pop-up this survey it may feel like rubbing salt into the wound. When it’s done, it has to be implemented with the lightest of touches.
Option 3: Passive – While a passive invitation is non-intrusive to the customer experience, it tends to favor toward those who favor actively providing feedback. Often you will find this as a embedded link, a wdiget in the corner of a page, etc. People who have had a negative experience tend to be the ones who seek out these feedback mechanisms, and are usually used to deal with more tactical issues that occur on the page level. Those who have had positive experiences tend to not leave as much feedback with this method, which causes us to often misunderstand the size and scope of the issue. Response rates tend to be lowest in this format. There’s also a sample bias towards buying modality, insofar as Humanistic personas will make up a larger proportion of this response group as compared to your general audience.
Each of the above options is viable; they are all worthwhile tools for the right job. The important piece to remember is that web analytics is meant to show us the what has happened and VOC is intended to help illuminate why. This is the reason it is important to tie analytics and VOC tools together. Voice of customer is driven by the need to have actual customer feedback woven into your future customer interactions. You can also collect feedback based on what people click and interact with on your website as well (think buttons in a flash demo, filling in a calculator, etc).
The reason we want to collect this information is because we want our customers to have greater satisfaction, an improved experience, and a visit where they achieve what they came to accomplish. The insights provided by VOC should help us in our continuous improvement efforts by helping us align our goals with the customers’ goals and identifying possible friction points.
Voice of the Customer programs are meant to capture the open-ended dialog, because that is where we often see the deeper insights. Like every analytics approach, you gain the most when you can segment by areas that you have already identified as potential weak points through the use of other analytics metrics or usability studies.
In fact, 4Q has just released some segmentation features to their free survey tool and plan on adding additional ones (full disclosure: I am an advisor to iPerceptions, the company behind 4Q). You can also do this by offering a segment-specific survey at a given point in their experience using one of the appraoches outlined earlier in this article observe what possible solutions to the problem may be uncovered.
Next post I’ll cover research design and what kind of questions are best to ask.