I upgraded my iPhone a few weeks ago (not by choice – the phone took a dunk). Right on cue, by the time I got home, a follow up survey from the mother-ship was sent to me asking me about my experience. At the time the survey was sent, I was very happy with the transition to the new phone (I upgraded from my clunky 1st generation iPhone). All my info was restored from backup without a hitch by someone in the store, and thus I gave a glowing survey response.
Treat Your Customer Like a God
Apple is extremely interested in our purchasing experiences. I know this because after a previous shopping experience gone awry, a store manager called me within the hour to follow up (based on my negative response to the same survey). I felt like a god being treated with such respect! The manager was actually interested in what I had to say!
Being Treated Like Dirt
Well everything was good until I checked my voice mail and I realized all my saved messages were gone! I was of course furious! How could this obvious oversight be tolerated!? After calling technical support and hitting the genius bar, I soon realized that my previous god-like status was now reduced to another belligerent, babbling customer. That survey I completed awhile back was now inaccurate! I wanted a call from the store manager, but there was no way I was going to get it now. Where the F$#& is that survey you sent me just hours ago!!!???
Now I was pretty much being treated like dirt. My opinion had zero, or probably negative currency. If Apple didn’t want to hear from me, if nothing more, I wanted to be heard by other customers so the same fate didn’t happen to them! Of course I gave up fighting pretty quickly and moved on: how could I expect a huge company to care about my tiny issue?
Timing is everything
All organizations struggle with this problem: how to turn these fleeting moments of valuable feedback into useful suggestions that translate to ROI? Now that time has passed, I could care less about the issue – I’ve moved on. I’m not going to bother spending any time trying to get through the store’s management.
When something goes wrong for your customer, when would you want to contact them?
A) Beforehand. That is kinda pointless right? How can your customers have any useful feedback until they’ve actually used the product or service? (ie, “…everything ok? Oh you haven’t used it yet? Well great!”) You’ll most likely have low quality of data but high quantity.
B) Right Away. Well this is ideal. But how do you make a connection with the customer right when that happens? Most firms fail at this, and in their defense, it isn’t exactly easy. Using action alerts, you can set up triggers to be notified of a survey response based on keywords. However, this doesn’t solve the problem of when to sent the survey invite to the respondent.
C) Afterwords. This is where most firms fall into. Feedback collection happens at a pre-determined interval that the firm can only guess is most optimal (ie, 3 hours after purchase, etc). Again the problem persists: how can I ensure that the feedback I’m getting occurs at that passionate moment when my customer cares the most about articulating quality feedback?
Its all pretty much a crap-shoot. There could be whole swathes of customers absolutely furious with your product or service, but they would have no way of being heard.
Real Time Feedback with IdeaScale
The solution to this problem is real time feedback. Create an IdeaScale community for your customers and let them know you’re listening in real time, all the time. When you touch base with your customers, before, during, or after a problem, remind them you’re listening by directing them to your community. Let groups form around issues or suggestions, and let those impassioned groups edit and revise the solution. Most importantly, communicate directly with those groups to show them you’ve solved the problem and turn customers into advocates!
(Since my problem was phone related, I’m happy to see that the Palm Developers have already started collecting ideas for the Palm Pre.)