Why Customer Comments Are as Valuable as Metrics

by Jeannie Walters

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Customers love to share. But they generally only share when it serves their own interests, not yours.
A survey can yield lots of great feedback from a wide swath of your customer population. Invite comments about their experience and you’re sure to get some gems.

customer comments

There’s gold in those offhand customer comments.

Sometimes, I have to distance myself from a potential client because they don’t see the value in subtleties like I do. They often believe their carefully crafted sets of multiple choice questions have put them on the only path to true enlightenment.

But in order to track what’s really important, we must step outside of the cozy confines of that 1-10 satisfaction scale and start paying attention to those subtleties. Here’s why.

When we connect with companies we actually connect with people. When we connect as people, we like to share stories. One story could tell a company volumes about their customer experience. And, yet, they’re dismissed.

Customer service reps, sales associates, support technicians, and other customer-facing employees hear the REAL stories. They get to hear the gems. Customers don’t always communicate through the “right” channels. They don’t fill in the right survey bubbles or call the proper number. But they will sing like canaries if they know someone is listening. The problem is when there is nowhere to catch those stories and record nuance.

Customers often send subtle warning signals.

But who is listening for them? They mention to their contact person, be it the sales manager, the customer service rep or the cashier, something isn’t quite right. Maybe they don’t like the change in the billing policy or the new website design. Maybe they mention how their friend has recommended one of your competitors and they’re considering it. It’s subtle. But it’s a warning signal nonetheless.

customer comments

As customers, our subtle complaints are often met with a shrug or a friendly “I know” from the trusted company representatives who hear them. They don’t really know how to respond or may not have much to say. There is no way to take action on our comments. All they can do is empathize.

Empathy is not a strategy and neither is hope.

Here are a few ways to empower your employees to actually DO something with those anecdotes:

  • Provide an official place to record “unofficial” complaints and review them regularly. Encourage customer-facing employees to ask for feedback and take notes.
  • Bring a customer or two to your executive or board meeting just share their experience.
  • Challenge your employees to gather and share the best and the worst comments they heard from customers that week. Discuss strategies for following up with those customers.

Hearing customer complaints is easy. But acting on it before it becomes a spike in your churn rate or a dip in revenue is priceless.

How do you take action on this type of feedback?

Image credits: 30 Lineslamoix 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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