Investing in the customer experience is proven time and again to be foundational to any business’ success. Yet how many businesses regularly ask its customers for feedback? Voice of Customer (VoC) programs refer to the processes that exist for listening to customer feedback. Amazingly, only 29% of businesses with VoC programs systematically incorporate customer insights into their decision-making processes.

There are many ways to collect feedback, including post-purchase surveys, focus groups, and email, to name a few. Many of these methods are passive and require you to categorize feedback into themes from which you can make generalized and incremental improvements to your service offering. With real-time feedback, you have the opportunity to make immediate improvements to your service that specifically address the issues stated by your customers before they leave. Once you begin collecting real-time feedback, you need to be systematic with how you analyze and respond to feedback.

Separating customer needs from wants

Depending on the nature of your VoC program and the size of your business, you might be experiencing an avalanche of feedback. With a real-time feedback program there is the added expectation that feedback will be responded to, if not fully addressed, in a timely way. One way to help prioritize your response is by understanding the difference between customer ‘needs’ and ‘wants’.

Since customers won’t necessarily make this distinction clear, those reading the feedback need to know what to look for. There are often only one or two items that will be true ‘needs’. For example, when asked about his expectations, a theme park visitor would say that he wants to: go on rides, not wait too long in lines, buy cotton candy, and be able to win prizes. However, the ability to go on rides is the only true need. Needs are the critical services where, if not met, the customer will most likely not use the service again and the business’ reputation will be at stake. ‘Wants’ represent everything above the core requirements. The customer may still be willing to buy the product or service even if the ‘wants’ are not met.

Whether using real-time feedback tools, surveys, interviews or focus groups, every business must clearly define what the needs of its customers are and prioritize any issues where the needs haven’t been looked after.

Actioning the positives and negatives

It can seem like much of the negative feedback relates to items that you have no direct control over, however there is almost always a way to improve the overall experience of the customer, even if it requires some creative thinking. If a hotel guest complains about the water pressure in the shower, the guest experience team might not be able to immediately change the shower head, but they might be able to offer the guest use of the spa facilities.

On the flipside, positive feedback should not be ignored simply because it doesn’t require immediate action. If the service is rated as ‘ok’ or ‘good’, why not use this opportunity to turn the customer into a promoter by surprising and delighting them in some way? Positive feedback can also be motivating for service teams, who regularly go above and beyond to please guests. Finally, positive feedback confirms which service actions are being received well, giving you insight into the value of such actions.

Throughout the customer journey, there are a number of points that define the experience for the customer and their impression of your business. By finding out what those pain points are, and what the highlights are in real time, you have the opportunity to create a truly personalized experience.