Ignoring Anecdotal Evidence? Your Customer Experience Will Suffer

by Jeannie Walters

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A brave new approach to data

I recently met with a corporate executive and the conversation was very refreshing for many reasons. He was 100% honest. He explained how tough it can be to get all of his teams aligned. He also described their plans for a more customer-centric organization, which would require a profound shift in their organizational culture: Simply put, the focus must become more about the original customers and less about the big data.

When your boss only seems concerned with the customer satisfaction rate or Net Promoter Score (NPS), it’s easy, even natural, to ignore those little nuances or hen-pecking concerns from the individual customers. That anecdotal data ends up getting filed under “not significant data” in out brains. But there’s gold in those verbatims.

anecdotal evidence

When customers make bite-sized comments like “I expected it to work this way, but it did not,” they are giving you valuable insight into what they will want and need from you in the future. And since there’s a good chance one of your competitors is already working on these things, they are offering you second sight. It’s time to dig in!

How does your NPS depend on the verbatims?

This executive I met with mentioned how his organization made the decision some time ago to read and consider every single verbatim comment in their customer management software.  The responsible team was forwarded each complaint or compliment along with the corresponding surveys, ranking the individual customer experience on a scale from 1 to 10. So this became an everyday procedure. They sent out the latest customer satisfaction numbers and NPS reports, but better yet, the verbatim customer comments were forwarded to these teams, not just the hard data.

Who on earth could argue that this would not lead to better customer experiences? It most certainly did. The fact is – it’s really not possible to get a high customer satisfaction rate or NPS Score if the verbatim comments customers provide are not gathered and considered.

Hear it from the horse’s mouth.

Can you imagine how some of the bigger customer experience snafus could be eliminated if the companies involved recognized the true value of verbatim comments?  For instance: Now that we know mobile usage is on the rise, companies are investing a lot in optimizing their sites for mobile experiences across platforms and trying to solve the enigma of mobile conversions. And who said there wasn’t enough data to really focus on mobile? They were considered leaders in their industries, and it wasn’t very long ago.  How many customers, struggling to complete a mobile transaction, left comments about wanting a more robust mobile experience? Certainly, there were piles of these verbatims, but most of the people receiving the data just didn’t have a way to relay that feedback to their organization.

anecdotal evidence

Verbatim comments and anecdotal evidence can provide early warning signals for upcoming disasters. Watching for patterns in the emotional intensity of these comments can provide insights otherwise misplaced. If one angry customer goes over the top with profanity, excessive punctuation and ALL CAPS, that’s easy to dismiss ans attribute to an attitude problem. But when multiple customers are having a cow over the same, or similar issues, it means you’ve got your work cut out for you. You best pay attention!

Tiny anecdotes can yield infinite wisdom.

Data can be mind-blowing, and it’s essential. But if the data collected only reiterates what is really just common sense, analyzing and sharing the verbatims, anecdotes and comments customers provide can be the early insight we need in order to stay proactive.

The most important part of all of this? Sharing. If customer feedback is filed away then forgotten, as it often is, it is no better than a fleck of gold thrown out with the sand. Sharing this critical feedback can provide so much more direction than just tracking numbers on a spreadsheet.

Who’s with me?

Many will say anecdotes aren’t valuable and should never be the catalyst for a shift in focus or strategy. But I wholeheartedly stand by the fact that anecdotal evidence and customer comments should be seen as the valuable sources of information they really are.

This post was written for, and a version originally appeared on Sensei blogs.

Image Credits: Philippe PutOfficial U.S. Navy Imagery via Creative Commons

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Jeannie Walters

Jeannie Walters is the CEO/Founder of Experience Investigators, a global Customer Experience consulting firm. She has 20 years of experience helping companies improve loyalty and retention, employee engagement, and overall customer experience. Jeannie is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP,) a charter member of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA,) a Professional Member of the National Speakers Association, a Forbes Coaches Council Member, a C-Suite Network Advisor, a LinkedIn Learning and Lynda.com instructor, and a TEDx speaker. Learn more here.

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