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3 Ideas to Get Started with Customer Service Feedback

This article originally appeared on vocalabs.com on July 17, 2013.

I often get asked how to get started with a customer feedback program, when the organization doesn't have any surveys or other feedback processes around the customer experience. Our Customer Service Survey Maturity Model is a useful tool for understanding what's possible and how to get the most out of a feedback program, but most companies don't want to dive right into a maturity level four program on day one. That's a lot of commitment (and culture change), and it usually makes sense to start smaller and work up.

So what's the best way to get started?

I see a lot of companies which decide they want to start a voice of the customer program, but don't give much consideration as to why or what they hope to accomplish.

In keeping with the principles of Agile Customer Feedback, even a "starter program" should address current business needs, respect and listen to customers, and be designed to tell you something you don't already know.

There are lots of ways to get your feet wet in customer feedback. Here are three ways you can start collecting customer feedback in a customer service environment which are likely to be easy and show a quick return on your investment of money and effort.

Idea 1: Start asking a "Question of the Week" on customer service calls.

Customer feedback can take many forms, and it doesn't have to be a formal survey program. You can start by having customer service reps ask a "question of the week" at the end of calls and making a note the answer. For example:

"One last thing before we hang up. We're looking for ways to improve our customer service. Do you have any suggestions?"

"Before we go, we're looking for ideas to improve our website. Is there anything you wish our website did better?"

"One quick question. We're trying to improve the automated part of our calls. Did you have any trouble getting through to a person?"

This is not going to be a scientific survey with anything like statistically valid data. But it will do two things: give you some ideas of what your customers would like to see improved, and get your employees into the habit of listening to customer feedback.


  • Don't have the customer service reps ask for feedback on themselves. You won't get honest responses, and it will be very awkward.
  • Don't expect a random sample, since CSRs won't want to ask for feedback from the unhappy customers. This is an idea-generating exercise, not a science experiment.
  • As a team activity, have the CSRs talk about the feedback they got and what they think it means. This helps build the idea that everyone should be listening to the customer.

Idea 2: Do a survey of your callers who don't talk to a person.

IVR is a big blind spot for many companies' customer feedback programs. So doing a survey of callers who stayed in the IVR is almost guaranteed to tell you something you don't know. These should be follow-up surveys (preferably phone interviews) conducted as soon as possible after the customer hangs up (but not on the same call, since that biases the sample). Getting 500-1,000 surveys will give you a good statistical sample and the ability to get a good understanding of your different caller populations, but even 100 surveys will be enough to generate some new ideas for improving the customer experience.

Some things to ask about are:

  • Did the caller actually self-serve in the IVR, or hang up in frustration?
  • What tasks should callers be able to do in the IVR but often struggle with? What tasks do callers want to do in the IVR but aren't supported?
  • What are the barriers to either self-service (when appropriate) or getting to the right person (when self-service isn't an option)?

Many companies have the general idea that their IVR systems don't work well for customers, based on the complaints and other feedback they get. This one-time survey will quantify that, help identify which customers are having what sorts of problems, and point out ways to make it work better. Often small changes, like updating the options in a menu, can have a large effect.

Idea 3: Add some feedback to your training program.

Hearing the voice of the customer can be a powerful training tool, and the most effective way to deliver this is through the literal voice of the customer--that is, the recording of a follow-up interview with the customer.

Many contact centers already do training sessions where supervisors listen to calls with the customer service reps and offer feedback. It's easy to add customer feedback to this process. You will want to call a small sample of customers back right after their call, and ask for general feedback and suggestions. Play the recording of this interview for the CSR when reviewing the same call for training purposes.

Some tips for implementing this:

  1. You can start very small and informal, and scale it up as appropriate. To begin with it may be as informal as having a supervisor call the customer back and ask, "I'm going to be training Alice in a few minutes, do you have any suggestions?" This can grow into a program with specific questions, defined metrics, and a statistical sample.
  2. Tempting as it may be, don't make the CSR part of the call back to the customer. This will just be awkward. Don't try to get feedback during the customer service call, since you'll only get the happy customers. Call back.
  3. Have the CSR listen to the interview recording first, and then listen to the original call. That puts the agent in the shoes of the customer, and makes him or her more sensitive to how the customer viewed the call.


Peter U. Leppik is president and CEO of Vocalabs. He founded Vocal Laboratories Inc. in 2001 to apply scientific principles of data collection and analysis to the problem of improving customer service. Leppik has led efforts to measure, compare and publish customer service quality through third party, independent research. At Vocalabs, Leppik has assembled a team of professionals with deep expertise in survey methodology, data communications and data visualization to provide clients with best-in-class tools for improving customer service through real-time customer feedback.