Q&A: Feedback Management Software Offers Solid BI Investment

Immediate communication with a customer can quickly transform a poor customer experience into an exceptional one.

With traditional business intelligence software, companies use transactional data collected from events that occurred in the past and use it to predict or drive future behavior. This is akin to driving a car while looking in the rearview mirror, maintains Gary Schwartz, senior vice president of marketing for Confirmit.

Feedback management software, instead, collects information from a customer immediately after that customer’s experience with the company. It can thus offer a way to understand aggregate customer opinion -- and thus improve business processes -- as well as to understand and deal with individual customer issues immediately.

In this interview, Schwartz explains how immediate communication with a customer can quickly transform a poor customer experience into an exceptional one, giving the company a much better probability of retaining that customer. That, in turn, can immediately benefit the bottom line.

TDWI: Can you define feedback management software, and discuss why you see it as a good investment in a contracting economic cycle?

Gary Schwartz: Feedback management software allows companies to automate the process of soliciting, capturing, analyzing, and disseminating throughout the organization the attitudes and opinions of customers and employees.

The concept of feedback complements the use of market research in an organization. Typically, companies commission research when they want to know the answer to a question. In practice, this means that companies ask the question of a small, representative sample of individuals whose responses are meant to reflect the views of a larger population.

The purpose of collecting feedback is twofold: to understand aggregate customer opinion in order to impact and improve business processes, and to understand and escalate individual customer issues in order to recapture customers who would otherwise leave due to poor customer experiences.

Unlike research, then, which can be acquired whenever the company wants an answer to a question, feedback must be acquired in the context of the customer’s experience. This means feedback must be solicited immediately after the customer’s experience.

In addition, while research is typically anonymous, feedback, in order to be effective, must be tied to specific names so companies can contact dissatisfied customers when appropriate.

Especially during a recession, the ability to reconnect with dissatisfied customers and turn their poor experiences around is critical. That’s because companies tend to invest in customer retention rather than customer acquisition during a down period, in a battening down of the hatches in order to protect a key asset.

How is feedback management software used in different ways from a traditional CRM or BI package?

With traditional CRM and BI packages, companies typically look only at transactional data in order to predict or drive future behavior. This is akin to driving a car while looking in the rearview mirror. By definition, transactional data is not forward-looking data. As we’ve seen with the current economic downturn, more swift and severe than anyone predicted, past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Because changes in attitude precede changes in behavior, attitudinal data can be predictive of change in an aggregate population. Therefore, businesses use feedback to complement the transactional and demographic data they capture with traditional CRM and BI tools to make the best forward-looking decisions.

Can you provide an example of how a company is using feedback management software?

Farmers Insurance sells its products through independent agents who exclusively sell Farmers products. To support them, Farmers operates nine service centers to handle product, billing, underwriting, and other inquiries. Over time, the systems failed to keep up with market demands. Farmers replaced these service centers with three large, high-capacity, high-tech call centers, designed to improve the speed with which Farmers agents receive service.

Farmers wanted to do more, in particular to provide exceptional customer service. To do that, they needed to talk to their agents about their experiences with the service center. The company implemented a feedback program to give agents the opportunity to comment on their most recent interaction with the center.

To achieve this goal, Farmers implemented Confirmit’s Feedback Management software platform. With this system, agents receive an e-mail invitation to complete a survey following an inquiry to one of the call centers. Over 100 responses are received every day, each of them relating to a specific call into the call center.

These responses help Farmers build an ongoing picture of how processes, teams, and individuals perform over time. The survey tells managers why the agent called, whether the issue was resolved, and how the call center agent performed. This gives Farmers a more detailed picture than standard call center metrics allow, such as first-call resolution. It also provides the pointers that Farmers needs to create demonstrable improvements in service.

Farmers uses this daily agent survey program to identify the key drivers of agent satisfaction, giving the customer insight team the data they need to modify processes to improve customer service. Situations are revolved more quickly, and agents see a greatly reduced response time to their queries.

Moving beyond the call center, Farmers agents have now asked Farmers to provide a similar service to help them better understand their customers’ requirements and improve the quality of their service.

You’ve mentioned research that examines how companies acquire feedback vs. how they make use of it. Can you share that?

Research performed by Gartner, Inc. indicates that while 95 percent of the companies they’ve surveyed collect customer feedback, only 45 percent of those companies even tell their staff they’ve collected the data. From there, the picture only worsens. Only 35 percent do anything with the insights generated, 10 percent improve business processes, and a mere five percent bother to tell their customers.

We find that the most powerful incentive to provide feedback is the knowledge that your feedback matters to the company asking for it. There’s a real opportunity to differentiate your company in the market based on quality of service.

Letting your customers know what you’ve done with their feedback can quickly transform a poor customer experience into an exceptional one, giving you a much better probability of retaining that customer. In the current economic climate, this can make an enormous difference to business results.

What does Confirmit offer in terms of feedback management software?

Confirmit Horizons is an end-to-end feedback management software platform that our clients use to automate the process of capturing feedback from their customers and delivering that feedback so it can be quickly auctioned within the business. Confirmit is a true multi-channel feedback solution, allowing our clients to offer their customers the option to provide feedback over the channel that’s most convenient for them, including interactive voice response, phone, paper, and online.

Confirmit Alerts automates escalation so staff can prioritize and manage customers needing immediate responses. Most of our clients use Confirmit’s On Demand environment for their implementation. The environment is hosted with Rackspace, a SaaS hosting provider.

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