Surveys are one of the most time-honored methods of soliciting customer feedback, but one of the primary pitfalls is that they rely on the customer’s memory. Data based on people’s reflections of a past experience, is muddy water to say the least. A more accurate way to understand the customer experience is to ask the customer about his or her experience while it’s still happening. Coordinated and executed carefully, it could be the most valuable feedback exercise your business conducts.

Mobile technology is bringing feedback into the modern age more powerfully than ever before. Real-time customer feedback tools have emerged as an easier, faster way to establish active listening across multiple touchpoints and departments. They are scalable, allowing you to survey a wide customer base cost effectively, as well as unbiased (no researcher involved) and customizable to fit the context of each interaction being surveyed.

1. Ask the right question, in the right way

Customer experience teams need to consider the implications of asking the customer for feedback during their experience, recognizing that it needs to be as easy as possible for the customer to respond. Limiting the survey to a single question is the best way to minimize disruption to the customer. Seth Godin has stated that questions are expensive – in terms of your customers’ trust and goodwill. Secondly, think about what type of question will provide the most important insight to your business, and whether it will be contextually appropriate and easy for the customer to answer. Possible questions could be:

  • How do you feel about [the experience] so far?
  • How good was [the offer] you just received?
  • How did [the experience] compare to [another experience]?

2. Choose a relevant rating system

The sample questions above can also all be answered through a scaled rating, meaning providing the answer shouldn’t take much time, or require excessive typing (an important consideration if the feedback is being given through a mobile phone). If you use a rating system it needs to be clear what each number translates too. For example some might interpret a ⅗ as ‘alright’ but some might think that score is ‘good’. Be specific in how each score is meant to be understood.

3. Think carefully about timing

You can probably remember a time when you’d barely arrived somewhere, only to be asked ‘how likely would you be to recommend your experience to a friend’? Most people would be annoyed by a message like this. However, if the question asked them how their experience has been so far, or asked them specifically about their arrival, then it wouldn’t seem out of place. If you have a well-mapped out customer journey, that can be your guide for selecting the most important time to ask your customer a question. Consider also the way human emotions can snowball – if the customer is unhappy about something early on in the journey and that issue is not addressed, the rest of the journey will be experienced through a negative mindset.

4. Close the loop by taking action

Every negative response that you receive to a real-time survey is an opportunity to recover that service. Yet, by not taking immediate action on negative responses, you could compound the issue because now the customer is no longer simply giving negative feedback, but also feels ignored. Plan out in advance how you will action each type of survey response, and your target response times for each time of day.

Your team may need to dedicate additional resource time to ensure that you are responding immediately to any negative customer responses that come through. Mapping out a workflow that suits your particular business and the typical responses you receive can help provide the direction staff need to act quickly.

By collecting feedback during the customer experience, you can not only recover service opportunities, but understand in greater depth what most motivates customers to make a purchase and how various touchpoints combine to influence customer decisions.