Using Telephone Surveys to Drive Higher & Better Quality Responses to Customer Service Surveys

Using Telephone Surveys

Surveys have always been crucial when it comes to determining the next steps any company must take to improve its customer service experience. By tapping customers for their honest perspectives, brands open themselves to information that would otherwise remain unknown.

Yet while collecting actionable information in real time drives improvements throughout the organization, the processes behind gathering such data have shifted in recent years. Online surveys have gained prominence, as such methods cost less and are easier to deploy.  Online surveys typically are used to measure customer satisfaction with specific service incidents, such as the handling of trouble tickets.  Multiple choice responses allow customers to comment on such things as first-call resolution (yes or no and how many contacts were needed), the agent’s knowledge and helpful attitude, etc.  Transaction surveys are not meant to evaluate customer loyalty, just the degree of satisfaction with the handling of a specific recent service incident experience.

Particularly in B2B markets, telephone surveys offer invaluable insights and significantly increase survey responses to achieve statistically valid sample size.  As we know, valid sample size is the key component in all survey research.  Also, research shows that telephone responses provide a higher quality response in measuring the customer experience and allows capturing detailed information from key customer contacts (e.g., decision maker, recommender) on critical failures.  This invaluable information can trigger action alerts used to initiate the appropriate corrective action to address key customer issues from the key customer contacts.

In addition, telephone surveys allow a company to insert that personal, human touch that online surveys lack.  Such an approach enhances customer loyalty, as respondents feel they’re part of the process and that their input can effect change. Online surveys do tend to offer open-ended opportunities for feedback, but telephone surveys enable customer service representatives to speak directly with customers so they may gain thorough insight into the reasoning behind the responses as well as the loyalty based on the customer’s overall relationship with the company.  While such data may ultimately be difficult to quantify, it’s this qualitative information that’s necessary to get to the heart of what might be plaguing the brand in question.

Companies must identify their market research objectives carefully before they can determine the ideal channel that will help them achieve their goals. For those looking for responses that go beyond the multiple choice styling of the average online survey, phone surveys are likely to deliver those precise results—but only if the company proceeds with caution. While telephone surveys embolden customers to speak up, such methods must be strategic and succinct.

Researchers must develop hard-hitting questions that maximize value in the shortest amount of time. In today’s busy world, few have the time or desire to spend 20 minutes talking to anyone without adequate notice. The questions, therefore, must allow both representative and customer to get down to business relatively quickly. Prioritizing time in any and all customer interactions, survey or not, demonstrates how deeply the company values its customers, for time has become currency in its own right.

Once the brand has chosen its sample, representatives will conduct the interviews to gather data. The information collected will then be analyzed in an effort to assess the primary pain points driving customer frustration and the overall highlights sustaining customer loyalty.

To further increase survey response rates, companies might also benefit from incentivizing customers to complete the initial online survey. For instance, a company might offer discounts upon survey completion to gain basic feedback. This will allow the company to ease customers into the idea of connecting via telephone. Regardless of channel, however, all companies must reward customers with a consistently superior service experience. By demonstrating that they’ve listened to their base, leaders can bolster brand loyalty and advance their bottom line simultaneously so everyone wins.

Always remember, it’s customers, not products and services, that are the source of all revenue and profits.  Follow these recommendations to drive higher and better responses to customer service surveys and you’ll strengthen your efforts in customer acquisition, retention, growth and even win-back.

4 Requirements for Linking CX to ROI

Linking CX and ROI

Eighty-one percent of consumers are willing to pay for a better experience, according to the Capgemini’s study “The Disconnected Customer.” Yet, customers don’t feel that companies are delivering high quality customer experience (CX), and one in five consumers stopped purchasing from a company after a poor experience, Capgemini’s research found.

In our own ERDM learnings from more than 16,000 hours of VoC research interviews, consumers were emphatic that short-term sales-focused tactics were irritating, brand damaging, and undermined loyalty. As empowered consumers, they expected engagement oriented communications and experiences.

Here is a representative quote from the research: “You marketers don’t understand that personalized engagement post-sale is valuable for the customer and… forges strong ties with your company that serve as a ‘grace account’ upon which to draw when there is the almost-certain problem or outreach from competition.”

Chris Hull, Chief Merchandising Officer at the iconic American luxury lifestyle brand Shinola, puts it this way, “Consumers are looking for meaningful experiences that differentiate one brand from another. One way we do this is by designing our stores to engage the five senses:

  • Sight – see team members build bicycles or do personalized embossing;
  • Sound – a warm welcome and vinyl playing on our Runwell Turntable;
  • Touch – well-crafted products, such as watches and leather bags;
  • Taste – a complimentary bottle of Shinola Cola;
  • Smell – the smell from our Shinola candles lit throughout the store.

This is all part of conveying our distinctive handcrafted products and has resulted in higher engagement, satisfaction, and conversion rates.”

With this in mind, here are four factors that will help you link CX to improved ROI:

1. CX strategies must align with consumer demands

Too often sales strategies are spray painted to look like CX strategies. However, customers are smart and know the difference between sales pitches posing as engagement and true CX. They resent when marketers think that customers are too naïve to know the difference.

According to Nike Chief Executive Mark Parke in comments about CX strategy development, “The important thing to point out is that changes are being driven by the consumer…. They want it fast, easy, and [they want] personal service.” Nike has implemented measures to drive personalization and has seen sales improvements in a landscape where so many other retailers and brands are failing.

2. Accurate data is essential for driving CX initiatives

As Jim Conning, managing director at Royal Mail Data Services so aptly puts it, data accuracy is non-negotiable for ROI: “CMOs and marketing directors all understand the importance of accurate customer data, but I’m not sure that more inexperienced members of the team understand the increased ROI of more accurate data.”  The company’s research indicated that 34% of marketers fail to fully understand the financial impact of poor quality data; 70% of the 300 companies surveyed admit to having incomplete or out-of-date customer data; and 6% of annual revenue is being lost through poor quality data.

An important, related finding from ERDM’s VoC research: B2B and B2C customers want to shape their own customer experience by providing trusted brands with deep business and personal information in exchange for meaningful, relationship-building experiences.

  1. ROI also requires CX-focused content

Irrelevant content hurts your brand, so stop sending spray-and-pray blasts!

This quote from our VoC research is a blunt reminder. “When I receive generic emails, it’s obvious that you do not care enough to understand my individual needs. Instead, you are trying distill my complex needs into simple generalities to make your email blast easier for you…and useless to me!”

Consider this from a Salsify Study: “If you provide superior content, and a competitive price, you have the opportunity to both close the sale and build long-term consumer loyalty.” The study found that…

  • 88% of consumers say that product content is extremely or very important to their purchase decision
  • Price matters, but it’s product content that gets consumers to buy
  1. Establish CX-oriented metrics and compensate accordingly

New and additional metrics are required to track and compensate for CX-oriented behaviors. Too many companies fail to change metrics to reflect their CX strategies and still compensate based on legacy “sell ‘em and forget ‘em” models.

In this blog post , Michael Klein, director of industry strategy for the Adobe Marketing Cloud, presents some effective soltuions that brands can implement to select the optimal CX metrics. One, from Epsilon’s Rob Cantave, especially stood out: “CRM data helps us understand what current customers are interested in seeing. Combining that with our third-party data lets us better understand what clusters of customers have in common. We present that information to the automated models and have them test and ultimately identify the product, categories, or content most likely to be of interest to returning customers and brand new unknown users who’ve been seen elsewhere in our network.”

Linking CX to ROI is a complex, multiphased, and corporate-wide pursuit. Remember:

  • CX requires company-wide consistency and communication so employees understand and are trained on the goals and behaviors they need to demonstrate every single day.
  • It also requires an omnichannel, data-driven strategy that’s based on meeting the requirements consumers indicate are important—to them. CX is useless without a consumer-focused approach because it will be observed as sales-y and meaningless.
  • Similarly, irrelevant content is perceived as demonstrating that a brand does not care about developing long-term customer relationships.

To achieve maximum ROI, companies need to rethink how they view CX and build impactful and sustainable strategies to satisfy customer needs over the customer lifecycle.



Ernan RomanAbout the Author
Ernan Roman (@ernanroman) is president of ERDM Corp., leaders in conducting VoC research for major brands. His latest book is Voice of the Customer Marketing. He was inducted into the DMA Marketing Hall of Fame, named by the Online Marketing Institute as one of the “2014 Top 40 Digital Luminaries,” and named by Crain’s BtoB magazine as one of the “100 most influential people in business marketing.”

Weaving CEM Into the Fabric of an Organization

CEM and Employee Engagement

The overall objective of any customer experience management (CEM) strategy is to evolve your organization’s DNA to the point where it is entirely customer driven. That’s not going to happen without a robust change management program.

CEMDNA Change Management is one approach to transitioning individuals, teams, and organizations from a current state where customer experience is not a primary focus to a desired, future state where the customer is central to all decision making. The approach involves implementing organizational processes designed to encourage stakeholders to accept and embrace customer centricity in their business environment. These include:

Management coaching: Senior business leaders can’t just expect managers to suddenly manage differently because of a decree of customer centricity. Managers need to be trained on how to implement CEM within their team, as well as on any related skills. What the training will entail should be based on your CEM strategy and the specific objectives of any related CEM programs.

Benchmarking: Use best practices examples from your existing customer interactions to showcase your preferred future state. This will demonstrate to employees that customer centricity not only is possible, but also is an established, successful approach that savvy employees are already using.

Measurement: Set performance metrics, such as financial results and operational efficiencies, to guide the change efforts. Also create and track goals for leadership commitment and the effectiveness of internal communications related to the CEM change management efforts.

Process tracking: It’s essential to monitor the progress of your CEM change management efforts. This will allow you to see where you’re succeeding, as well as where you’re stalling. In case of the latter, you’ll be able to quickly uncover the cause of the situation and resolve it to allow for continued forward momentum.

Team coaching: Consider external coaching on the job and soft skills needed for customer centricity to be a part of your organizational DNA. But just as important, ensure that managers are trained well enough to provide initial and continued coaching on the skills most important to the CEM transformation and to ongoing customer centricity.

 CEMDNA change management is part of the Act phase—along with corrective action and employee engagement—and one of the 12 of the components that comprise the CEMDNA Playbook Strategy.

Tying Employee Performance to Customer Satisfaction

Tying Employee Engagement to Customer Satisfaction

When looking at how companies measure employee performance, one thing is clear: There’s wide variation across industries in terms of how well businesses are incorporating customer satisfaction into the mix. Generally, companies do a poor job of linking performance to satisfaction. Although we have seen improvements recently, many companies still struggle to enhance the processes linking performance to satisfaction.

One of the key factors required to link satisfaction to employee performance is having sound methods to collect the satisfaction data. Companies that have poor satisfaction measurement methods have trouble linking the results to performance because there’s either not enough data or the data is suspect. Without a reliable foundation of results, employees will resist efforts to link their performance to satisfaction.

Those companies that are successfully tying satisfaction to performance are able to do so because they have clear goals and processes, as well as quality data. Consider the following approaches for improving your satisfaction and performance management processes:

Collect enough data to support evaluating individuals or teams. If there is not enough data to measure individuals, then setting goals and measuring performance at the team level is a viable and sometimes preferable alternative.

Set measurable goals for satisfaction, rather than “soft” targets based on perception. Having weak references to customer satisfaction in a performance review does not focus employees on delivering higher levels of service.

Ensure that customer satisfaction is a heavily weighted component of performance evaluations. The weighting should have a direct impact on compensation for the employees. If possible, put a bonus program in place to reward the staff achieving the desired satisfaction results.

Tie performance objectives to employee-controllable elements, as well as overall satisfaction. These include knowledge and expertise, professionalism, quality of solution, timeliness of status updates, and other factors in an employee’s control.

Regularly review satisfaction results with the staff and include them on performance scorecards or other productivity reports. This will ensure that employees are aware of customers’ satisfaction with their current performance and enable them to focus on areas that need improving.

Following these simple suggestions will have a positive impact on your overall customer satisfaction program and drive the staff towards delivering improved results on a consistent basis. Programs such as the Service Capability & Performance (SCP) Standards can help drive improvements in this area and will help set specific measurable targets for customer satisfaction.

About the Author
Greg Coleman is a principal partner and vice president of Strategic Programs for Service Strategies Corp. He has more than 25 years of experience in the high-technology service and support field. Greg has worked with leading technology services organizations to develop and deploy global standards for service excellence and has assessed the performance of hundreds of service organizations worldwide. You can reach Greg at

Treating Employees as an Asset

Employee Engagement

Do you consider the quality and performance of your employees as a major business asset? You should. Indeed, many firms list “our people” as their biggest competitive differentiator.

It’s also true that payroll, benefits, and other direct costs linked to employees are the number one expense item for most organizations. This includes the cost of replacing employees, which is similar to the cost of acquiring new customers.

Add to all this the fact that employees are the ones who interact most frequently with your external stakeholders, and it becomes obvious that happy, satisfied employees breed satisfied, loyal customers, suppliers, business partners, and shareholders.

Even so, most organizations lack a formal, structured employee engagement program to engage, reward, and retain employees for delivering outstanding customer service or to educate them on strengthening their CEM knowledge and skills.

Employee engagement means understanding, measuring, and improving the emotional relationship between employees and their work. It’s about more than employee satisfaction; it relates to measuring and improving items that will directly affect business outcomes. According to Gallup, companies with more engaged employees outperformed the earnings-per-share of their competitors by 18%.

Employee engagement is typically not wholly owned by the HR organization, but requires the active involvement of line management, as well. Here are two areas to consider as you work with HR to build out your employee engagement strategy:

  • Employee recognition and compensation –Set balanced goals based on achieving key performance indicators (KPIs) for customer satisfaction and loyalty. Recognize and reward employees individually and/or by groups. Most important, link employee compensation to achieving measurable gains in customer satisfaction.
  • Employee trainingCommit to a continuous employee training program on customer experience management (CEM), including soft skills such as conflict resolution, as well as technical or job-based competence. In addition, take advantage of certification courses that are available in customer experience, CRM, and CEM. This advanced-level instruction can pay big dividends for your company and provide career advancement for employees.

Employee engagement is part of the Act phase—along with corrective action and change management—and one of the 12 of the components that comprise the CEMDNA Playbook Strategy.

What?! Another Poor Customer Experience?

How often do you encounter this situation? You’re working with a reputable and reliable company and the event quickly turns into a fiasco. It moves so far from delivering customer success that you ask yourself if this could be the same company.

To make matters worse, it’s often a company that prides itself on delivering the highest level of customer experience (CX). Doesn’t it make you wonder how much substance or truth is behind their claim?

My recent misfortune, which I will describe shortly, reinforces the message I continually deliver to clients: Every company looking to maintain loyalty and grow financially should continually ask themselves, “Would our customer’s experience be considered easy and effective?” and “When was the last time we looked at our customer journey?”

I will share with you some proven ideas to become better connected with your customers, and deliver loyalty-building and profit-growing results. But, before I begin, I’ll set the stage with the story that precipitated this article.

I needed to contact a company for TV support. When I did, as in the past, I am addressed as a preferred customer and they thank me profusely. Oh yes, I have worked with them for more than 12 years. By now, you would think, my confirmation information, my issue, etc., will travel with me regardless of where I’m transferred during the interaction. After 4 transfers and repeating the issue each time, I was able to resolve the issue. Or, so I thought. After I hung up, the issue recurred. So, I called again…three more transfers…resolution, finally—and an email confirmation, which wasn’t part of the process the first time.

It’s about the customer experience…delivery and results

I wonder how many companies really follow through on the CX strategy they’ve put in place. Why? Think about how often companies fail to deliver a quality customer experience regardless the investment they’ve made.

It’s clear from my recent experience that the TV support process has never been thoroughly vetted from a customer’s perspective, which is where the customer journey map process would be so useful. This is evidenced by the complexity of my having to weave through multiple barriers to resolution and the company’s poor execution. It makes me wonder how many other companies own CX strategies are built on a house of cards.

The path to delivering positive customer experiences begins with understanding the customer journey

Delivering a consistently satisfactory customer experience is more challenging than one realizes. Organizations learn that there is much more to the job of engaging and retaining customers than just putting some processes in place and moving on to the next challenge. While they may recognize the need to provide easy and rewarding experiences, they’re challenged with designing, developing, executing, and delivering an integrated customer experience strategy. In fact, many businesses still do not walk the journey from their customer’s view.

Today, there are still far too many of you who feel you already know what needs to be done and how to do it without taking time to walk it from your customer’s side. Well, let me help you: That is simply not going to work!

Know how to ask the right questions about your process

The challenge is to move your game to the next level by taking an approach that links strategy, vision, measurements, technology, organization, engagement, and the like. At the same time, nail down customers’ outcomes and then design around it. You can no longer be good at CX; you have to be better—even best at it. Any less than this no longer suffices.

I like customer journey mapping as a powerful tool of choice. Customer journey mapping is a proven tool that allows you to focus on the customers’ experiences with your company. This way, you learn more about your customer: how they define success, how to deliver successful customer experiences, and how to make them happy while growing your profits.

To move from delivering a good experience to a better or great experience requires that you set aside past practices and consider some changes. These are 12 that I share with clients:

  1. Have your processes been customer journey mapped?
  2. Have the barriers to successful performance been identified and removed?
  3. Has the journey map allowed a good look at your internal technology, is that technology easy to use, and does it make the right information available to the right people when they need it?
  4. Is there organizational alignment?
  5. Has the journey map added clarity to your rules of channel engagement?
  6. Has the journey map provided the clarity needed to demonstrate why your silos must melt away and set the course for a mind-set that foregoes silo thinking to facilitating customer success?
  7. Are your customer processes aligned to metrics that gather insight to move forward?
  8. What personas are you addressing?
  9. What type of feedback do you want to collect, and how will you engage customers to obtain it?
  10. Is your organization robust with passionate employees who are engaged?
  11. Has the journey mapping effort given you the needed focus on the customer segments, micro-experiences, and channel details that are at the core of your strategic business processes?
  12. How will you measure success?

My takeaway

How you answer these questions will give you insight into whether your CX effort is built on a house of cards, like too many businesses today, or built to deliver those customer loyalty–building experiences—or, as I like to say, that aha customer moment, one that delights your customer as it delivers customer success.


Dennis GershowitzAbout the Author
Dennis Gershowitz is founder and principal of DG Associates, a consulting firm that specializes in driving service revenues and profits through the development and implementation of customer experience management (CEM) strategy and service operations improvements. Contact Dennis at

Corrective Action Planning in Customer Experience Management

Corrective Action Planning in Customer Experience Management

Corrective Action Planning in Customer Experience Management

A natural result of benchmarking your current state customer experience against your CX goals is change. Of course, you’ll need to make changes to your customer experience management strategy over the short and long term. But, remember, an essential part of that planning is determining how you’ll respond to issues that customers raise—especially concerns raised by high-value clients. That’s what we’ll focus on here.

Take these five steps to get your customer-focused corrective action plans in place.

Prepare a corrective action plan – Corrective action plans address critical external customer issues. Formulate your plans with two goals in mind: quickly responding to key accounts based up their experience and issues that emerge; addressing internal systemic issues that negatively impact customer-related processes. The latter are often discovered in addressing the former.

Create closed-loop Action Alerts A critical element of a corrective action plan is to “close the loop” on every action needed. Create alerts that allow you to track the progress of actions taken to resolve immediate customer concerns, as well as address larger systemic issues. This will enable you to be sure that issues are attended to and resolved. Or, they’ll alert you to take any further action required.

Build in accountability for results Assign responsibility to frontline and management-level personnel to carry out the corrective action plans. Clearly delineate their objectives and roles in taking immediate corrective action, as well as recommending solutions to longer-term systemic issues.

Verify and communicate results Develop a system that allows you to verify that the corrective actions taken have resolved customer issues. For immediate concerned raised by a customer (especially a key account), be proactive and reach out to other customers who may have experienced the same issue and present your solution.

Additionally, confirm internally that you’ve address any systemic problems that caused the more immediate issues in the first place. Action Alerts are essential to this process.

Once you’ve verified that an immediate concern or systemic issue has been resolved, communicate that out to key stakeholders. Those stakeholders may include customers affected by the issue, account managers, sales or customer service leaders, employees in teams related to the issue.

Review the plan – Your corrective action plan should be flexible enough to evolve over time. Examine your plan’s progress and results on a quarterly basis and make appropriate changes to the plan based on that insight.

Corrective action is part of the Act phase—along with employee engagement and change management—and one of the 12 of the components that comprise the CEMDNA Playbook Strategy.

Paving the Way for Omnichannel Customer Service

Paving the Way for Omnichannel Customer Service

Customers will contact you for service based on how it best suits them, so you need to be ready to respond in their preferred channel—or set of channels. And, you need to be ready to respond with consistency across all your service channels.

This doesn’t mean simply providing top-notch service in siloed channels—calls, online chat, email, etc.). It also means having the ability to provide that excellent customer service within those individual channels and seamlessly across them. So, if a customer begins a service interaction via chat, and then escalates to a call, those touches aren’t two discreet interactions, but instead is one interaction that bridges the two channels.

This level of service requires process and technology changes. Here are five ways to begin the move from the multichannel service most companies provide today to the omnichannel service customers prefer today and will expect tomorrow.

Be a good listener – Knowing what customers expect when it comes to customer service starts by asking them. Gather input through activities such as surveys and social listening. Also, track customers’ behaviors to surface the differences between stated and implied preferences. This combination of data will help you to determine the ideal mix of service channels for your organization. That insight will then lay the foundation for the people, process, and technology changes you may need to make to best meet customers’ service expectations in a way that makes the most business sense for your company.

Be where your customers are – Where do your customers expect to be able to contact you for service? Make sure that you’re present and available in those channels. For example, if most customers prefer to call you, have your toll-free number clearly available on your website, in your email, and in other communications channel—even on your social pages. If your customers expect service via social media, ensure you have a meaningful presence there.

Whenever possible, make service available where customers spend their time that isn’t a typical touchpoint. For instance, providing in-app service instead of forcing customers to interrupt their activity or switch channels.

Be proactive – Use alerts to inform customers of potential service disruptions, schedule changes, and the like—and be sure to do so in their channel(s) of choice. This may vary based on the urgency of the communication, and customers may want notifications via more than one channel, so be sure to provide multiple options. You can ask customers for this information during a registration or purchase process, or you can provide a preference center.

Be connected – Technologies are available to create a holistic view of customer data that allows companies to respond with greater relevance and have insight into customers’ service journeys. Consider investing in systems that allow you, for example, to know what actions a registered customer took on your website before calling the contact center, so the agent who takes the call can seamlessly handle the issue without requiring the customer to explain everything she’s done up to that point.

Be flexible – Train your service agents to handle interactions across multiple touchpoints. This allows for more leeway in scheduling and helps improves your organization’s ability to be responsive as interactions across various channels ebb and flow. It’s also an effective way to engage agents by diversifying their job and broadening their skills.

Most organizations are at the beginning of their journey toward delivering true omnichannel customer service. Businesses further down the road can use that better customer experience as a competitive advantage.

These five approaches can help pave the way for your organization to make omnichannel customer service an integral part of your successful customer experience management strategy—and give your company the winning edge.