Realtime Voice of the Customer

I’ve been working with my best clients on integrating realtime Voice of the Customer (VoC) technologies into their e-commerce operations. The results have been enlightening and profitable!

When I first started with e-commerce systems around 2003, the industry was still in its infancy, and many customers still followed up online orders with multiple confirmation phone calls, or would use a vendor’s website to get their phone number to place an order. This seems archaic now, just a few years later, when almost nobody picks up the phone to make a purchase. As e-commerce presences grew, the dual phone/web channels could not scale, so the direct and real time feedback of the customer was often lost.

So how do we capture the Voice of the Customer, gather comments, and learn about opportunities for improvement if we don’t speak to them anymore

Email Surveys

E-commerce vendors developed email-based surveys to fill the gap left by waning telephone sales. These surveys are sent anywhere from the time of order confirmation to several days after delivery. The customer would complete the survey at their leisure, or not at all. Much of the shopping experience itself is usually out of mind by the time an email survey is completed. Over time, these have become little more than noise in a customer’s inbox, and not very actionable by vendors.

While not particularly useful to capture the shopping experience itself, email surveys are still effective in a couple of cases. Major vendors, Amazon included, use email surveys to solicit feedback on the products themselves, packaging quality, or shipping speed. Most customers, however, never fill these out unless there is something negative to report.

So how do we capture the essence of the customer’s shopping experience?

Exit Surveys

For more immediate feedback, exit surveys are usually placed on the order confirmation page, or when navigating away from this page. Customers’ shopping experience is still fresh in their mind, and both kudos and frustrations are more readily captured. This can also serve as an effective diagnostic tool for any technical problems with a website. I worked with one client, a $400M online retailer, to implement on-page exit surveys, and the results were astounding.

Their support number would occasionally ring with a customer complaint of checkout issues, only to have the order completed over the phone. This event would never get escalated to the web team for investigation. Over time, these problems just festered until a major promotion went out, when the phone rang nonstop due to shopping cart glitches. The exit survey was directed to the web team, not customer service, and issues were triaged in realtime. The root cause of the website issues was corrected, and conversion rate improved dramatically in a week. No more hours wasted scratching your head over funnel abandon rates.

Realtime Chat

Web-based realtime chat is a terrific innovation for customers to speak to a live person, and comfortably ask questions and give feedback where a phone call is inconvenient or time consuming. Some customers are shy, or have language issues, and typing is just easier for them. Unless you’re particularly short staffed, this is a fantastic tool, and there’s no downside.

Intercept Surveys

I absolutely LOVE these. I use them on my own website. Unlike email or exit surveys, you can get realtime feedback from visitors who chose not to buy. These surveys typically take the form of a popup, and ask just a couple of key questions about the shopping experience. I also set them up to capture email addresses for lead generation. I’ve also set them up to capture Net Promoter Score (NPS), demographic information, or to leak promotion codes.

I often hear concerns about the intrusive nature of these popups, and whether or not they increase bounce rates. Better tools are typically more passive and configurable, appearing only at the most opportune time.

While we love hearing from customers who spent money, we also need to hear from those who don’t. You’re not going to get these insights any other way.

Can you hear your customers?

© 2015 Mark Richman. All rights reserved.


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