Finding out the unknown unknowns in your customer feedback

Finding out the unknown unknowns from your customer feedback

Traditionally, when collecting customer feedback, companies ask a series of questions that aim to elicit answers on commonly-cited problems or issues that have already been identified. For example, ‘Was the waiting period satisfactory?’ or ‘Was the call centre representative you spoke to helpful?’

However, as we at Feedback Ferret have often pointed out, prescriptive questions will only ever provide you with feedback on the questions you ask. That’s not to say this won’t be valuable, but it won’t give you the full picture either. And it won’t tell you the things you don’t know or haven’t thought to ask.

In the past, asking questions that asked for longer verbatim answers were problematic, because of the resource required to collect, analyse and report on the data. With contextual analysis technology, this is no longer an issue. It really doesn’t matter how much customer feedback you collect any more – a good text analysis engine will be able to analyse the data and discover meaningful trends and topics.

Donald Rumsfeld

So how can you encourage open-ended feedback that delivers valuable customer insight? You know, those unknown unknowns.

Here are our top tips:

Don’t ask leading questions
The answers you receive will depend very much on the questions you ask. So avoid asking questions that seem to be searching for specific answers. For example rather than ‘Was the waiting period satisfactory’, asking ‘How did you find the waiting period?’ is likely to yield some surprising and useful insights based on your customers’ individual experience.

Avoid asking the question ‘What should we improve?’
This question often results in ambiguous verbatim answers (“speedy checkouts” really means that the checkouts were slow. Whilst Feedback Ferret can cope with this type of inverse-positive answer when taking the ‘improve’ question into account, it isn’t a particularly helpful approach). More importantly, such a question seems to acknowledge to customers that you know things aren’t great and that there are things that could be improved.
If you make the question suitably open-ended, for example, after a simple rating question or NPS score, ask “Why did you score us in that way?”, you will get all the comments and context that you need from customers. They will tell you the things that are important to them.

Don’t ask yes/no questions
If the answer to a question is a yes or a no, this is unlikely to be of much use to you or provide detailed insights. The next question you’ll want to ask is ‘why’ or ‘what is the reason for your answer’. Only by asking ‘why’ do you really find out what the experience is actually like for your customers.

It really doesn’t matter how much customer feedback you collect any more – a good text analysis engine will be able to analyse the data and discover meaningful trends and topics.

For more information, please see our White Paper on The Benefits of Short, Open-Ended Surveys

By Sonia Sparkes, Sales Operations Manager