The 1980s appears to be the decade of anthems for Australia. "Down Under" by Men At Work is arguably the most iconic, especially internationally. Not least of all the ‘80s anthems was John Farnham's smash hit "You're The Voice" from the album Whispering Jack. I reckon I hear that song about five times every weekend as the young and the restless enjoy their nights out together on the Brisbane River, belting out the lyrics to the chorus: "You're the voice, try and understand it/Make a noise and make it clear/Oh-wo-wo-wo, oh-wo-wo-wo!"

shutterstock_116233960It's kind of fitting that since my arrival in Australia a few months ago, many of the service providers (mobile, energy, banks, government) I've signed up with have sent me a never-ending stream of customer surveys by phone, email and text. “You're the voice! How was your experience opening the account? How was your experience with sharing your experience? It's been one week since we asked you about your experience – how is your experience now?”

It was a little repetitive and a tad annoying, but I would rather be given the opportunity to share than not. I am a customer with a voice, and clearly, some companies believe that listening to their customers’ voices is important to retaining them as customers, improving their service, and helping people like me to advocate their services to other potential customers. Any contact with the customer is a form of marketing. Customer surveys are a great excuse to contact customers and potential buyers.

These companies trying to hear my voice loud and clear have it right. In these times when customers demand information now, we customers do much of our buying research either on-line or through friends (Facebook anyone?). A friend recommending a product or service has a lot of weight in the services I evaluate and eventually purchase. I play neatly into the idea behind the Net Promoter Score (NPS). If you're a company who likes to differentiate on customer service, you need to measure your NPS.

Measuring NPS is one thing, but how do you know what to change to improve it? You need a few more levels of customer feedback. What did we do well? What could we do better? What is one thing you would like us to change? Any piece of information is gold.

But if you ask the question, the customer has an expectation of what you’ll do with the answers. Capturing customer feedback but then not acknowledging, responding or following up with the customer can turn would-be advocates into adversaries. Hell hath no fury like an angry customer who takes the time to share the feedback but receives no follow-up acknowledgement or action.

In the provision of products or services, many things can and will go wrong, regardless of fault. The minimum we can do is show intent to listen and, ideally, intent to make good. People are more likely to accept an honest mistake if there is a genuine attempt to make good. After all, as John Farnham's anthem famously says, "we're all someone's daughter, we're someone's son."

The biggest challenge many businesses face is response rates to surveys. It is not uncommon to achieve response rates below 1 percent. At that rate, you won’t get the volume of responses to make safe, meaningful conclusions. Even with the best of intentions, if you achieve such low response rates, you're swinging in the dark because the sample you’re trying to use to draw conclusions is too small and may not be representative of the majority of your customers. The corporate division of Barclays Bank – a Clicktools customer –achieved a 25 percent response rate. That’s a volume of data that provides the basis for real change to benefit the customer – and it’s a volume of response that makes follow-up and responsiveness to customers’ expressed desires absolutely vital.

So, to belabor the ‘80s Australian references, isn’t it time to admit that, when it comes to customer feedback, you’d really prefer that your customers provide you with "What You Need" to deliver great customer experiences?

To learn more about how to capture your customers’ voices in a loud, clear and actionable way, visit the Clicktools website

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