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Panning for Gold: Maximizing Unstructured Feedback | #ICMIchat Rundown (April 21, 2020)

Gold coins

Customers aren't shy about telling us what they think, but only a fraction of customer sentiment can be captured in a survey. It's becoming increasingly difficult for companies to generate actionable, big-picture insights from surveys because customers are growing evermore fatigued by them. Surveys often aren't designed with the customer in mind, and they don't always make it easy for customers to share what they want to tell us.

For organizations to move beyond the status quo, they must learn to utilize everything a customer says across every touchpoint in the entire journey. Without hearing the words "complaint" or "supervisor," modern contact center agents must be tuned in to customer feedback as it happens. As leaders, we must give our agents a convenient place to capture customer feedback, and organize it in a way that promotes understanding and action. We asked the contact center and customer experience community to share their thoughts about leveraging unstructured feedback in #ICMIchat.

Join us every Tuesday on Twitter at 1 p.m. Eastern, 10 a.m. Pacific, to weigh in on the hottest topics in the contact center industry. Next week, we're talking about "Communicating Effectively With Your Team." You may preview the questions following this article.

Before getting started, we took a moment to reflect on exceptional experiences our practitioners had sharing feedback of their own. Where possible, our community likes to share positive feedback with front-line agents they interact with. A little kindness goes a long way.

I developed a relationship with some folks at my credit union when giving feedback on how great they were! Was able to bring them to some events and learn side by side with them.

Last night. Providing real time feedback to the Xfinity rep. I let him know he had made a bad day better. His response was priceless.

When I gave birth to my son the hospital room was full of too many health care people who were talking to each other and not me, and not even about me. I called time out with the nurse and she was totally cool and said, "You're right."

However, if our sample is any indication, many companies still have a lot of work to do when it comes to handling unstructured feedback gracefully.

Is it bad to say that I'm having a hard time thinking of one amid the sea of unresponsiveness to my feedback?

If I'm completely honest, I'm not sure I've ever had an exceptional experience giving feedback.

Expect the Unexpected

The beauty of unstructured feedback is that it's candid and spontaneous. It can come at any time during another interaction with customers, or even when they don't think we're listening. When it comes to social media, we can even make use of what a competitor's customers say about them. Our community has witnessed that first hand.

[Leslie O'Flahavan] will love this based on last weeks chat. Got pizza delivered to the office for the team & it was trashed. I tweeted the company a photo & 1hr later the opposition delivered pizzas saying soz for their competitors service. Where'd we got pizza from then on?

Absolutely, customer feedback is everywhere, not just in surveys! Key is figuring out a system that allows you to actively listen for, collect, and ultimately leverage it for the advancement of your Customer Experience strategy.

It's important to recognize what feedback looks like. Some feedback is easy to spot. Other types maybe not so much. For example, resistance is a form of feedback, but most people don't take it as such. They resist back instead.

The Man (or QA Team) Behind the Curtain

Concerned whether or not agents' were empowered to act on feedback, we wanted to find out if this affects how our community shares with the front-line. Turns out, they offer a lot of feedback intended for review by quality monitoring teams. It's a clever idea, assuming the particular call is evaluated.

Whether the agent is empowered is not something we know going in, so I try not to prejudge. Even if they're not, there is still value in sharing feedback, as the call may be listened to by someone who is. Also, your feedback may actually serve as coaching!

No, I ask the agent to please share with the Sup. And I always say (in loud voice) "Since I know this is being recorded, if your QA team is listening, ___ is what needs to be improved and fixed."

I provide feedback more often than not. Folks deserve to know if they positively impacted me & they need to know if the service they provided didn't meet expectations. Feedback = growth.

Using What We Hear

Unstructured feedback arrives in unpredictable ways, which makes it a challenge to capture and use efficiently. Our community spotted a couple of different reasons why listening to the people who listen to customers is easier said than done.

Filtering signal from noise. The front line gets a lot of solid feedback but also not-so-solid ones. We need an effective way to separate them out.

Organizing so it's measurable / actionable. In many cases it's difficult to tell if something is a big problem we're seeing frequently based on feedback from an individual (customer or agent). We have to figure out how to give some structure to the unstructured.

The inability to quantify! "Everyone is saying this" isn't helpful. You simply can't do everything customers want you to do and the ability to quantify helps you prioritize.

It's challenging to use feedback received by frontline reps because a) it's hard to tell whether it's representative feedback or just a one-off impossible-to-help customer, b) feedback may not be about agent's performance at all, c) compensation motivates feedback.

The challenge is trying to take the emotion out of the feedback. People usually give feedback when they had really great service or really bad service.

Building a Suggestion Box

Identifying useful customer feedback over the course of a conversation is hard enough, so it's critical for employees to have an easy way to record and share what they hear with the right people. If it's difficult for agents to pass along suggestions, it won't happen. If suggestions get lost along the way, leaders cannot act on them.

Give them an easy and defined process for doing this. Have it built into CRM or a form they can fill out. Heck an email to a specific box/person can work in a pinch. Also, ask [Nate Brown] about his magic button!

There's some really great tech out there right now that uses AI and natural language processing to capture and analyze feedback from calls, e-mails, and online reviews. I think it's our responsibility to stay in-the-know about emerging tech.

In the absence of a magic button I suggest...Capture the call ID, send to manager, and follow discuss during next 1x1 (at the very least).

USAA Insurance does a tremendous job in quickly enabling an agent to capture structured real-time feedback data (complaints, compliments, etc.) in the CRM platform since the '80's. It's part of their process improvement and CX culture.

Organizing Ideas

It's crucial that leadership has a way to organize and structure all of the lessons they're learning, otherwise, nothing can be accomplished. If hundreds of agents are each actively listening to customers, they'll quickly generate a mountain of suggestions. Knowing how to best utilize resources is the name of the game.

The level of difficulty for organized and quantifying data depends on the organization. I avoid a dump of unstructured (often Excel files) like a plague. This is where a good partnership with the CIO and an affordable cloud data analytics platform is valuable.

I often found that it was a challenge to quantify issues from a half dozen different sources to prove to my boss that it was a an issue worth spending time and money to address.

For sure! Small quantities doesn't always mean SMALL problem. There are those times you know the sentiment holds more weight than the volume in a situation and convincing people to act an small quantities of feedback can be easily seen as a small problem.

Picking Your Battles

Having a central repository for all feedback, in which it can be organized, quantified, and prioritized is a recurring theme when it comes to incorporating unstructured feedback into decision making. If your voice of the customer data is in disparate systems across the organization, you can only make decisions with half of the picture.

Just like with our Customer VoC program, the data must be centralized into one source. We can't put employee survey data in one place and verbatim feedback "over here on this spreadsheet." Bring it together so you can take the best action and close the loop.

First, team leaders & managers must commit to capturing random feedback, just like archaeologists commit to "capturing" bone and pottery fragments. The capturing is the first task.

Keep It Coming

Learning from our customers, by any means they wish to communicate, is imperative to drive customer experience work. However, customers and front-line employees stop sharing if they don't think we're listening. Keeping the flow of input coming is half the battle.

Demonstrate that you are listening by taking action AND sharing the action and result w/ the agent.

Great question. By letting them know some of the actions taken based on their feedback. Also, why some feedback can NOT be acted on. Builds trust.

To encourage customers & front-line employees to continue sharing impromptu feedback, avidly collect and publish GOOD feedback, esp internally. It's OK if you can't assert the statistical defensibility of compliments & praise. Just get that good feedback out there!

For employees: Create a safe environment for feedback, make it easy to capture. For customers: Coach employees on how to solicit feedback without responding to it emotionally and defensively. Also: Practice active listening for any hidden, non-direct feedback.

Technology Is Your Friend

People are not great at managing vast stores of data, but computers can handle it with ease. Technology is particularly vital to organizing unstructured feedback, and there are a lot of great tools that can make the process easy. Don't forget the possible applications of other tools you already own.

Voice analytics has been around a while but still has a way to go to be 100% accurate in translation and sentiment. It sure is getting better though and cheaper every day as well as more flexible with consumption based models.

AI is already playing an increased role in capturing customer feedback through automated speech and text analysis. In the future, I expect we'll see a wider range of applications in terms of not just the spoken or written word, but also in sentiment analysis.

Machine learning models, for sure. With the amount of feedback coming in, we can use models to categorise and make sure it reaches the right person on time!

If you enjoyed this discussion, you're sure to love our future topics. Mark your calendar, and tweet us on Tuesdays!


#ICMIchat April 28, 2020
Communicating Effectively With Your Team

Teams only work well when they're working together, and communication is the vital link that keeps everyone moving in the same direction. On April 28, we're diving deep into how communication affects our colleagues and customer experience. Meet us at 1 p.m. Eastern, 10 a.m. Pacific, to share your strategies with the community.

#ICMIchat April 28, 2020, Communicating Effectively with Your Team

Q1: Does communication efficacy affect employee engagement and morale?

Q2: How might ineffective internal communications affect customer experience?

Q3: What is the best way to quickly share time-sensitive information with your team?

Q4: When it comes to internal communication, how do you decide between one-on-one, all-hands meetings, posting in a chat room, and email?

Q5: How often should managers have one-on-one and/or small group meetings with their direct reports?

Q6: Have you tried any new mediums, like podcasts or videos, for internal communication? What was the result?

Q7: Should senior leaders and executives build rapport with their indirect reports and front-line employees? How?

Q8: When should messages be delivered through the chain-of-command and when is it best to address employees directly?

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