Why Customer Anecdotes Can Tell You As Much as Metrics

by Jeannie Walters

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Customers like to share. But they share when it’s about them, not you.

Send a survey and you’ll receive great feedback from a wide swath of your customer population. Ask for comments about their experience and you’re sure to get some gems.

But there’s gold in them there off-the-cuff customer comments.

I discuss nuance a lot. Sometimes, I have to back off of working with a potential client because they don’t believe in the subtleties like I do. They praise the 1 – 10 satisfaction scale as if it’s the only path to true enlightenment. I disagree it’s the only way to track what’s important. Here’s why.

When we connect with companies we’re really connecting with people. When we connect as people, we share stories. One story could tell a company SO much about their customer experience. And, yet, they’re dismissed.

Many customer-facing employees – customer service reps, sales people, account folks – hear the stories. They hear some gems.  Customers don’t always go through the “right” channels. They don’t call the proper number or fill in the right survey bubbles. But they will sing like a bird if they are feeling heard. The problem is when there is nowhere to catch those stories – no way to record nuance.

Too often, customers send up warning flares. They mention to their regular contact, be it the bank teller, the client services rep or the cashier, something is a little off. Maybe they don’t like the way the new web site works or the change in the billing policy. Maybe they talk about how their friend has recommended they leave your organization and they’re considering it. It’s subtle. But it’s a warning shot nonetheless.

As customers, we’re often met with a shrug or a friendly “I know” from the trusted company representative we mention our subtle complaints to. They don’t really know what to say. They may not have much to say. There is no way to take our comments and DO anything with them. All they can do is empathize.

Hope is not a strategy and neither is empathy. Empower your employees to actually DO something with those anecdotes. A few ideas:

  • Have a place to record “unofficial” complaints. Set up a regular review. Encourage front-line employees to ask and listen to customer feedback.
  • Bring in a customer or two to just talk about their experience to your executive or board meeting.
  • Challenge your employees to bring up the best and the worst comments they heard from customers that week. Share strategies. Follow up with those customers.

Hearing customer complaints is easy. Acting on it before it becomes a dip in your retention rates or revenue is priceless.

What are your ideas to capture this type of feedback?

Photo credit: jczart via Creative Commons license

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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, LinkedIn Learning instructor, TEDx speaker, and President-Elect of the National Speakers Association Illinois chapter. Learn more here.

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