Courtesy of Primary Intelligence, a CustomerCentric Selling® Partner
When some marketing professionals think about surveys, they generally think about close-ended feedback. Close-ended feedback, which is typically collected in online surveys, involves rating scales, “check boxes” of applicable categories, “yes/no” questions, and other data that is typically quantitative.
Close-ended feedback is usually efficient and straightforward for customers to answer, as well as straightforward for organizations to analyze. This type of customer feedback also provides the ability to easily compare different parts of the organization, different team member’s effectiveness, and overall customer experience from a quantitative, “temperature-taking” perspective.
In contrast, open-ended feedback is typically qualitative in nature and often includes verbal or written comments that provide context behind the close-ended quantitative data. For example, an especially low rating of a “1” or a “2” on a 0-10 point ratings scale would benefit from customer follow-up to discover why the respondent rated the category especially low. Similarly, understanding a “9” or a “10” rating would help to explain and drive behavior that should be replicated throughout the organization with other customers.
(For more information on quantitative and qualitative data, download our eBook “B2B Quantitative vs. Qualitative Data.”)
Types of Customer Data to Collect to Improve Marketing Strategy
Collecting Open-ended and Close-ended Feedback
Collecting a combination of open-ended and close-ended feedback is a best practice at Primary Intelligence. While collecting only close-ended or only open-ended feedback is possible, having one without the other only tells one side of the story.
In many of today’s data-driven organizations, having a CX (Customer Experience) program with only qualitative comments typically invites skepticism from data hounds, who want to know, “What can we do with this unstructured feedback?” This is especially true if text mining or text analytics is not being used to help sort and understand the feedback.
At the same time, providing only data points often doesn’t tell the whole story. Data alone doesn’t describe the why of the story. It’s also devoid of specifics, a particularly difficult situation to find oneself in when trying to understand why customers stay or go, why customers remain loyal or churn.
The most popular method of collecting open-ended feedback is through electronic surveys, with 85 percent of organizations collecting qualitative feedback in this manner. An additional 59 percent are collecting open-ended Customer Experience feedback through telephone interviews, while close to 50 percent are utilizing on-site or in-person visits.
Collection Methodologies Advantages and Disadvantages
While collecting open-ended feedback through any means is helpful in understanding customer sentiment, different approaches to collecting open-ended feedback have both advantages and drawbacks.
While gathering open-ended feedback using online surveys can be efficient for organizations administering the surveys, one of the principal drawbacks of collecting open-ended feedback using online surveys is that organizations cannot delve deeper into customers’ responses to ask probing follow-up questions. Additionally, open-ended responses to online surveys can sometimes be confusing, and even contradict earlier feedback provided in the survey.
In-person meetings have the advantage of showing customers the extent of care and attention organizations are willing to pay to them to address their needs, with executives taking the time to meet with customers face-to-face and address problems head on, not hiding behind a computer screen or armies of mid-level managers.
A drawback of on-site visits, however, is that the conversations may or may not be recorded, so capturing and analyzing the information for later reflection and comparison with other customer data may be spotty, minimal, or non-existent.
Another potential disadvantage of on-site visits is that the individual or team sent to meet with the customer may not be ideal. For example, organizations that send a member from the customer’s account team may encounter defensiveness when the account representatives hear negative feedback or suggestions for improvement. As a result, customers may be less than candid in sharing the totality of their feedback.
(For advice on how to handle negative feedback, check out this article.)
Advantages of collecting open-ended feedback over the phone include reduced time and expenses compared with on-site visits, as well as the ability to ask clarifying or probing follow-up questions to tease out root issues causing customers to defect or areas of delight leading to loyalty and recommendations. Telephone conversations can also be recorded, with comments transcribed for later viewing and analysis throughout the organization.
One of the disadvantages of interviewing customers through telephone conversations is that scheduling logistics can be challenging, especially if the customer is in a different region of the world. Speaking on the telephone also does not allow the interviewer to see facial expressions or body language, and pauses can be difficult to interpret in telephone conversations.
(For a deeper discussion on phone interviews, read this article.)
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