From tweets to product reviews, every business receives a lot of customer feedback—and chooses whether or not to actively respond to it. And while it might be fairly straightforward to informally respond to the odd customer comment, anyone who’s worked for a sizable business will know that it’s essential to have a process to not only manage feedback at scale, but transform that feedback into meaningful improvements.
Now, imagine you’re about to invite 200,000 customers to step up and share their thoughts. What kind of process would you put in place?
When I was tasked with creating a Voice of the Customer program for Campaign Monitor, managing feedback at scale became my business. As a fast-growing email marketing service with 200,000 customers, any effort to proactively reach out for feedback would likely yield a lot of responses. So, it was essential that we develop a scalable program for not just feedback collection, but analysis and follow-up.
Our VoC vision was to not just come up with vanity metrics and feel-good customer stories, but have a direct impact on the future of our service. We needed to know if changes—from planned features, to updates to our support policies—were for the better. Essentially, we needed metrics that reflect customer loyalty and sentiment toward our service as a whole.
Enter the Net Promoter Score® or NPS.
Introducing the NPS Survey
As an industry-recognized metric, NPS allows us to measure customer loyalty in a quantitative way. By proactively calculating our NPS while collecting qualitative feedback, we could set baselines and receive relatively impartial customer insights.
At this stage, I’ll assume that many of you have previously launched a customer survey that measures NPS, but if you haven’t, I highly recommend reading Groove’s post on the lessons they learned sending an NPS survey. It provides a concise view of their process and you’ll have an undoubtedly richer understanding of how and why businesses use NPS after reading it.
So, we had a plan to start running an NPS survey, which includes both the NPS question and a call for qualitative feedback. It was time to find a scalable approach.
People, not numbers
Launching an NPS survey seems easy. You set up your audience criteria and goals, send out an invitation, have people fill in the survey, then magically turn the feedback that you receive into results…
Actually, let’s not fool ourselves—it’s not that easy.
Customers are people, and if you aim to engage them thoughtfully, you’re probably going to receive thoughtful, unique, and sometimes surprising feedback. How do you respond to the Detractor who has lost their login details? Or the Passive who is struggling badly with a feature gap, not knowing that a launch is just around the corner? In both cases, simply marking them up as a “score” and providing no meaningful follow-up would be a missed opportunity, if not downright heartless.
So before we talk about processes, keep in mind that not everything can be automated—especially when you receive feedback like the above. However, proper planning and the right tools can minimize manual work and even turn unhappy customers into brand promoters who rave about your customer experience.
All these details can get out of hand quickly, so before we go into the busy work of how we manage 500+ pieces of feedback a month, let’s first bring some method to the madness by introducing the NPS Feedback Cycle.
The NPS Feedback Cycle
At Campaign Monitor, the NPS survey is the ever-running engine of our Voice of the Customer program. But regardless of whether you’re sending a definitive quarterly survey or calculating NPS based on a rolling 30-day window, it pays to think of it as a cycle.
As a lover of acronyms, I use PREACH to describe each step:
- P — Prepare
- R — Reach Out
- E — Engage
- A — Analyze
- CH — Change
In summary, you should move through these steps, using customer responses to guide decisions and ultimately change the product or service you’re collecting feedback on. Once you make those changes, further feedback should then be used to validate the change and enable further improvements. The process doesn’t stop.
To marry theory with practice, let’s look at each of the stages in the PREACH cycle and how we manage them at Campaign Monitor.
During the Prepare phase, we’re building the foundation for the NPS survey. Tasks that can occur during this phase include:
- Setting success metrics/goals
- Deciding who we’ll send the NPS survey to
- Determining what tools we’ll use to distribute surveys and collect feedback
- Confirming what other questions we’ll be asking (in addition to the NPS question)
- Planning a process for replying to respondents (closing the feedback loop)
- Getting buy-in from other teams that can enact change
Preparation isn’t a one-off task. For example, at Campaign Monitor, we use this phase to revisit the performance of previous email invitations. Over time, we’ve optimized our email campaign for survey completions, meaning we send a version of our email that we’ve found to bring in both NPS data and useful, qualitative feedback.
With a plan in place, we’re ready to act on these tasks at different stages of the NPS Cycle.
After all that planning, we’re ready to share our NPS survey. Assuming you’ve already chosen distribution method and created a nice message during the Prepare phase, it’s time to schedule and send. Brace yourself!
We initially set the ambitious goal of managing 1,000 completed surveys a month. With a historical response rate of around 5% from the email campaigns sent, we’d have to survey almost 25,000 people a month to achieve this. Given that the idea was to carefully and gradually survey our customers, we soon realized this goal was a little too high.
Once a realistic goal was set, we decided to select a randomized segment of customers who had not received a survey in the last year and would not receive one in the year ahead.
For distribution, we started with our own service, using Campaign Monitor emails to invite customers to participate. Later on, we also paired with Intercom for in-app messages. Email had by far the best response rate (5% completion rate for email vs. 2% for Intercom), but in-app messages allowed us to reach a different audience of end users.
GetFeedback was our platform of choice for feedback collection and analysis. With a built-in NPS question and newly released GetFeedback Analytics, we could quickly deploy an NPS survey, share results in real time, and create dashboards to plot our changes over time. (Disclosure: Campaign Monitor acquired GetFeedback in 2014.)
Wanting to keep the NPS survey short and sweet, we limited it to two questions:
- The NPS question: How likely are you to recommend Campaign Monitor to friends and colleagues?
- A qualitative, open-ended question: What, if anything, could we do better?
Keeping our NPS survey short (it takes less than a minute to complete) has ensured high completion rates. Out of all the people who start the NPS survey, 94% finish it—and often take the time to provide remarkably detailed feedback.
Now that we have a firehose of customer feedback pointed in our direction, it’s time to close the feedback loop by acknowledging our respondents. Typically, this is best done within 48 hours of receiving feedback.
We set up automatic, personalized confirmation emails to thank respondents for their feedback. If the respondent is a Promoter, we encourage them to rate us publicly on a popular cloud apps review site. In addition to an automated email, Detractors are sent a personal email, acknowledging their feedback and seeking their ideas on how we can solve their problems.
Interestingly enough, much Detractor feedback relates to fixable issues that can be addressed by our Support team; in my experience, there’s no better way to turn around a customer than to solve a nagging issue!
For more information on how to follow up with respondents, I recommend checking out “NPS for Newbies,” which kindly links to templated replies that you can use.
With all that customer feedback safely stored in GetFeedback, it’s time to slice, dice, and pivot it to get all the useful insights you could ever want.
Some things you might want to try during the Analyze phase:
- Create survey analytics dashboards (like the one below) to track NPS— both the current score and change over time.
- Break down NPS by customer profile, such as account type or spend.
- Categorize qualitative feedback by type (e.g. Reliability, Usability, Functionality).
During the Analyze phase, we employ a variety of methods to get the answers we want. We share both the feedback and analysis with others. In tandem with GetFeedback’s shareable reports and dashboards, we also export customer survey responses and pivot it with profile data to get the full picture on who is responding and why.
Talking about dashboards, our 30-day NPS is shared with the entire team via our in-office dashboards:
We also automatically sync NPS with Salesforce to ensure customer-facing teams have visibility over what has been said about us. Prior to sending a new quote, our renewals team can now read up on a customer’s concerns, while Customer Success Managers can follow up with further training if a customer says they want to learn about a specific feature.
In the next section, we’ll talk more about how we use our analyzed data to enact change.
Feedback is pointless if it doesn’t result in change. The change can simply happen between you and the customer. For example, a Campaign Monitor customer replied to a survey and told us their email marketing messages weren’t being delivered. A brief investigation revealed that he could solve his problem immediately by changing the “From” to a non-webmail email address. It was just a matter of swapping out firstname.lastname@example.org for email@example.com! Once this nagging problem was resolved, his opinion of Campaign Monitor improved.
While this kind of follow-up can have a direct impact on individual customers, the NPS survey is really designed to improve customer experience for everyone. By collecting and prioritizing feedback around feature requests and improvements, customer service, service reliability, and more, you can drive significant, positive change across all aspects of a business.
Campaign Monitor’s Customer Success and Product teams have a close relationship; we co-host recurring monthly feedback sessions and share both raw and summarized customer feedback. The Product team uses customer responses to validate planned features and service updates—and often reach out to customers personally to further explore their requirements. Better still, when a previous request has been fulfilled, our Product team reaches out to share the great news.
By sharing NPS survey results, we’ve been able to help our Product team bring to market the most essential customer requests and link them with our most passionate and invested customers.
A feedback program that drives itself
You would think that managing 500+ responses a month would require a lot of manual work, but after gradually introducing processes like automated confirmation emails, recurring feedback meetings, and a sync between GetFeedback, Salesforce, and Campaign Monitor, we’re now managing NPS surveys within our Voice of the Customer program with relative ease.
Each day, we spend roughly 10-15 minutes reviewing the feedback that has come in overnight and replying to Detractors or any customers that could benefit from a personal touch. And sometimes, the feedback is truly gratifying. For example, I recently received this personal message:
“The way you followed up to my survey, and how other people on the staff have helped us in the past, makes me feel that whenever we need you guys, you will have our back.”
That confirmed for me that our NPS survey was not only working well for us internally, but actually positively impacting customers’ perception of Campaign Monitor overall.
So, with the right tools, the NPS Feedback Cycle, and a fantastic team, we’ve turned what was once a mountain of work into what’s practically a self-driving system. The NPS survey has revolutionized the way we measure customer loyalty and prioritize improvements at Campaign Monitor.
Ros Hodgekiss is the Customer Success Programs Manager at Campaign Monitor and “Top Email Marketing Thought Leader.” With over 10 years in email marketing, she is now focused on developing scalable customer training and feedback programs and publishing a variety of resources for the marketing community. The NPS survey is her not-so-secret weapon.