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Using Direct Customer Feedback to Drive CXO Efforts

We have access to unprecedented amounts of data about our customers. It’s enough to make your head spin. With all this data, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you “really” understand your users. We have standard page view data that tells us exactly where people are clicking. We gather still more information with abstract data collection methods such as heat mapping.

Knowing the size of the 2016 marketer’s toolbox, you can feel so well equipped with data that talking directly to current or prospective customer might seem unnecessary or unreliable. You must remember the old “numbers do not lie, people do” trope? To be clear, I consider myself an analytics junkie, so I don’t intend to downplay the importance of these tools.

But what I have noticed is a gap in our understanding of why users are taking certain actions. Even with detailed analytics, a user’s motivation is a hard thing to grasp without talking to him or her directly. If an experience performs well in a test, we’ll know a great deal about the positive performance of the test in general, but we’re still making many assumptions about why it did well.

Even with detailed analytics, a user’s motivation is a hard thing to grasp without talking to him or her directly.

It was not until I started incorporating voice of customer data (VOC) into testing analysis and strategy, that a clearer picture of the thought process behind a user’s behavior arose. From there, we built a holistic strategy to optimize the user experience. VOC data became a regular genesis for many test ideas as well as a catalyst for follow-up experiments.

There is a wealth of customer feedback collection methods. You can collect Net Promoter Score (NPS) information, which concerns understanding customer sentiment over time, but can fall short of giving very specific information on optimization opportunities. Collecting user feedback directly on specific pages can also offer actionable information, but is at risk of being saturated by “trolls” or a lack of clear consensus on the issues.

To clear things up, the following are different VOC collection methods explained alongside my thoughts and experience learning what customer feedback aspects work best for augmenting your CRO strategy.

On-Page User Feedback Tools

Engaging users while there are interacting with your site is a way to get candid feedback and generate ideas direct from your target audience. Gathering page scores, Net Promoter Scores (NPS), short-answer responses, and multi-step feedback surveys is easy thanks to several accessible tools now on the market.

Here’s what I have seen work well:

  • Collecting User Feedback at Tension Points: Pick a page that is performing below par and carefully ask your users for feedback. This is a great way to understand issues that are not obvious when collecting regular site analytics. I have discovered issues from this feedback that impact conversions late in the funnel – where a great user experience matters most.

  • NPS Scores: I have seen these work particularly well when looking at the long-term impact of an experience change. For example, one e-commerce company I worked with was interested in the impact of different free shipping transit times. While we were interested in the immediate conversion impact of offering slower free shipping, we also monitored NPS and survey feedback for customers in different test populations to see if there was a long-term impact on loyalty and repeat purchases.

  • Surveying What Appeals & Excites Users: Many companies, in my opinion, do a terrible job communicating a good value proposition. Companies often mistake what they think users value, for what they actually do. These survey responses can help you craft and improve that value proposition, and also provide guidance on what needs to be clearly communicated to users.

DISCLAIMER: Time and again I see companies go overboard with their demands for user feedback. We’ve probably all experienced that moment when we generously agree to take the time to complete a survey, only to be navigated to a 25-question screen in micro-font.

Be very careful about going too far in your ask, not only because you are going to affect your response rate, but also because overdoing it may illicit responses exclusively from the group of users who are willing to tolerate the amount of effort you’re asking for.

Guided Panels

Guided panels can mean different things to different people. In some cases, panel members are located on-site, in others they are monitored remotely, and sometimes they’re even approached on the street. While not the cheapest option, conducting guided panels is an effective way to collect very specific feedback from users in a structured or unstructured environment. Data from your panel can be coupled with eye tracking or a host of other physical aspects. Panels give you the opportunity to ask deeper questions about user emotions, concerns, etc. when it comes to their interactions with your online channels.

Personally, I have seen some fantastic optimization insights come out of panel conversations that have led to home-run tests. To be more specific, you can gain insight into what aspects are frustrating and what users expect (but are not getting) at each stage in their journey. At a panel conducted for an e-commerce company, we gathered some solid feedback into catalog filtering and navigation. I have also used the Oracle Maxymiser solution in conjunction with a usability department to execute user panels exposing people to test prototypes we were considering running, before exposing to entire site population.

Just a couple points I would like to emphasize based on my experience with panels:

  1. Be careful of very small panel samples. Yes, it can be expensive to run panels, but if you are just talking to just a few subjects, you can end up chasing ghosts that a panelist or two expressed, but do not really impact the larger audience.
  2. Speak with an expert on structuring the panel and questions. There is an intersection of art and science when it comes to conducting panels, and guided panels can quickly go off the rails, resulting in misrepresentative data. It is worth the investment to speak with an experienced paneling company or consultant on best practices when it comes to constructing survey questions and selecting panelists to ensure valid results.

Company Internal Resources

Embarrassingly enough, I was well into my optimization career before I fully realized the benefits of engaging with my colleagues that directly interface with customers most frequently, such as Customer Service and Sales team members. Establishing feedback loops with these departments can reveal a treasure trove of testing ideas.

These individuals hold key information with what is resonating or confusing customers, which is often absent from traditional analytics. In fact, with a former retail client, we used the on-page feedback tool, Qualaroo and restricted use to internal customer service access, so agents could submit ideas or issues directly on the page.

We then pulled a report from Qualaroo of all the submitted issues and ideas and were able to sort by a wealth of attributes (including the page where it was submitted). Typically, we prioritized based on ease of solution, number of users affected, impact to bottom-line, and number of times reported.

A couple things to be careful of here. There’s a risk of trying to respond to every little issue with limited bandwidth and/or letting the loudest employee or customer dictate what to focus on. The key is to communicate the process, educate people internally what testing can do, and announce company heroes when their idea leads to a win!

Now that I have walked you through the most valuable VOC tactics as they relate to your optimization efforts, it is time for you to start talking to your customers and prospects.

The key is to communicate the process, educate people internally what testing can do, and announce company heroes when their idea leads to a win!

First, you might want to poke around to see if some of these efforts are underway, because many companies are, let’s face it, not great at internal communication. If no VOC efforts are underway, then maybe start with the basics of collecting some simple on-page comments or page feedback elements.

In addition, set up internal feedback channels with employees who interface with customers on a regular basis. Once you have some good processes down, then you can move into more advanced tactics such as NPS and even guided panels. Remember, do not buy a Ferrari only to drive it around a parking lot. Establish process and understanding, then go all out.

Corey Trent is Director of Optimization and Analytics at Convincify, an end-to-end conversion rate optimization agency and Oracle Maxymiser Partner. Click here to check out Convincify's attractive and free testing idea notebooks, which can help marketers and designers prioritize and plan A/B tests.

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