Welcome to the three-part series about the challenges of harnessing unstructured feedback across every level of the enterprise. In this part, I’ll share my tips to overcome these challenges and suggest some technology that can help your organization leverage unstructured customer feedback.
In other two parts, we will explore why agents don’t share feedback and why it’s hard for leaders to act on feedback that is shared.
It all starts by building a process to capture and give structure to feedback that comes in from unexpected places. I can't emphasize enough the importance of having a formal system to manage unstructured feedback. When we receive feedback in a disorganized way, it’s up to those capturing the feedback to give it some structure.
As a customer, have you ever offered a suggestion to a front-line employee, only to be directed to fill out a form or take the survey on your receipt? That’s terrible customer service, and it happens all the time. Most employees haven’t been trained and don’t know what to do with these kinds of suggestions. In reality, that’s probably the best advice they could offer given their limited resources. Organizations struggle to listen outside of the narrow, specific channels they’ve set up to do so. Even if that employee attempted to take ownership of the suggestion, they might not have a path to get it to the right person.
The first step toward being responsive to unstructured feedback is giving employees a way to capture it! This system can take many forms, from writing comments on an index card and putting them in a suggestion box to using a voice assistant, “Hey Alexa! A customer said…” The particular technology you use, whether it’s a link from your intranet page, a CX Magic Button, a phone number to text or call and leave a message, doesn’t matter. What’s most important is that the capture mechanism is memorable, quick, easy to use, and readily accessible anywhere an employee might encounter feedback. If you can integrate operational data from the customer, employee, or touchpoint, that’s great, provided it doesn’t compromise ease of use. Forcing employees to go to a specific place, complete a specific form, or include a bunch of unnecessary details defeats the purpose.
The second biggest issue managing unstructured feedback is getting it all together in one place. Regardless of the method, it’s important for all the results to be part of a single data set so you can look at feedback coming in across the enterprise. If you can build this solution onto your existing survey platform, that’s even better. You’ll be able to analyze structured and unstructured feedback all in one place.
Once you have all the data together, it’s time to give it some structure. This takes some analysis. Start by categorizing feedback with similar themes and ideas. The purpose is to group similar thoughts so you can see how frequently they come up or graph them over time. If you’re starting and have no budget, you can even do this part manually. It’s not a bad idea to get a sense for what’s coming in. As your program grows, you can take advantage of the exciting developments in sentiment analysis and Natural Language Processing (NLP) artificial intelligence. These tools are available in many enterprise experience management products.
Once you have somewhere for the feedback to go, shout it from the rooftops! Brand the program internally; share its goals and the importance of unstructured feedback with employees. Actively work to let them know that everything they capture is valuable, and nothing is too large or too small. It’s also a good time to engage the executive sponsor of your initiative; now they have a tangible behavior to influence.
Regularly share what you’ve captured with employees. Make it a point to communicate about the program routinely. This is another good task that role models in leadership can facilitate. Share the lessons you’ve learned and their outcomes, as well as the feedback you’re still struggling to resolve. Encourage employees to continue sharing, so you can keep track of how frequently issues may occur. Involve all levels of employees in all departments; you never know where the next big idea might come from. You might look into rewarding employees for sharing or give bonuses when solutions are successfully implemented based on feedback.
Be sure that agents understand it’s safe to provide feedback, give them a free pass to share their thoughts. The purpose is to be constructive and drive the organization forward. Even if they feel their jobs are safe, fear of confrontation can be scary. You may want to make submitting anonymous feedback an option, especially for more sensitive matters. Don’t forget to set a good example by modeling the desired behavior.
Everyone has to start somewhere, but some stay abreast of advancements in technology that can support your goals. Having a knowledgeable, vendor-agnostic technology partner can help. I recently had the opportunity to chat with one of LANtelligence’s experts, Martin Tracey, about an exciting Quality Assurance solution they recently implemented for one of their customers.
This 300-seat contact center required eight managers to monitor service quality, and they could only review a fraction of customer calls manually. It was a tremendous expense and took leaders away from more strategic tasks. Martin built them a custom solution, integrating their on-premise contact center hardware with a cloud-based product called ObserveAI. ObserveAI listens to calls in real time, and it uses its NLP intelligence to build an agent scorecard and look out for undesirable outcomes, like bouncing calls between different departments.
ObserveAI is incredibly versatile; it can serve several purposes. Martin and I discussed how it could even be used to capture unstructured feedback from customers, making it easier to quantify exactly how often certain issues come up. The best part about a technology solution like this is that it can be used to retroactively investigate and assess problems once they’re known to the organization. Because of its flexible APIs, it could even be integrated with the experience management tool you’re using to capture written unstructured customer feedback.
Agents have a lot to say, and leaders desperately want to act on what customers demand. The right processes and technology make capturing and reacting to unstructured feedback more practical and actionable than ever before. It’s about time we learn to listen to customers effectively, without relying solely on a survey.