When it comes to the development and upkeep of enterprise software, companies are required to weigh many different factors and make numerous decisions in an effort to constantly improve their offering. The question of which areas and features to focus time and resources on will always be a tug-of-war involving multiple sides, as different internal organizations prioritize different aspects in different ways. It goes without saying that these decisions will have major impacts on the direction and ultimately, the success, of the company itself.
At the heart of this struggle is the constant desire to keep customers satisfied. Positive customer experience is key to any company’s success and making customer’s lives easier tends to be towards the top of the list of factors that determine how satisfied they’ll be with your product. But how do companies reliably gauge their customer satisfaction?
Quantity vs. Quality – You Need Both
The answer, of course, is that companies need to engage with their customers directly and collect feedback from them whenever possible. According to SurveyMonkey, “businesses who measure customer satisfaction are 33% more likely to describe themselves as successful than those who don’t.” On the one hand, some companies find they have a lack of reliable feedback and as a result, they don’t truly have a sense of how their customers feel about specific features or their product as a whole.
On the other hand, some companies may have a seemingly constant barrage of feedback from customers in addition to ideas and requests from their own internal teams. The problem here is an overflow of information with little or no system in place to properly aggregate and analyze the deluge of data pouring in. How can a large corporation with tens of thousands of clients even begin to collect meaningful data from their customers? And perhaps even more importantly, how can companies sort through the data and understand the actions that need to take place to make the improvements necessary to increase their customer satisfaction?
Top Answer on the Board: Automated Feedback Surveys
It was precisely these questions that Dana Whitmore, Software Supply Chain Strategy, Technology and Capability Enablement for Hewlett Packard Enterprise, set out to address in her session at Sentinel's LicensingLive! conference in California. The title of Dana’s presentation was “Providing Customers with a Great Experience as Both Company and Portfolio Evolve – It Matters!” and in her extremely enlightening and informative presentation, she gave us a real-life look at how HPE was able to use automated surveys to generate meaningful customer feedback and spur dramatic changes in customer satisfaction.
A few years back, in an effort to better understand their customers, HPE implemented two types of automated customer feedback surveys. These surveys allow a company like HPE to gain insight into their customer’s POV, as opposed to their own.
The surveys themselves consisted of different types of questions and were sent to various types of customers, who used a wide range of HPE products.
Don’t Be Afraid to Open Pandora’s Box
Automated feedback surveys usually consist of two different types of questions, numerical and open-ended. Numerical questions can serve as a quick and easy-to-analyze snapshot as to how customers view your products, features or the specific transaction that just occurred. What these questions lack in depth, they make up for in the simplicity of collecting mass quantities of answers and instantly averaging out responses. As a very basic example, if you were to ask 1000 random users to rate the usability of a specific feature on a scale of 1-10, you could easily put a number to the average overall ease-of-use of that specific feature.
The surveys also included open-ended questions, which according to Dana is “where the best data is collected.” These questions allow customers to freely tell you what they think is wrong with your system. While that may sound like opening up Pandora’s Box, these types of questions really allow your customers to give you detailed feedback on anything and everything they feel you should know about you, your product and their interaction with your product.
Answers on these surveys can range from pointing out bugs they’ve discovered to long-winded descriptions of what they think is wrong with your system and how they think you should fix these issues. And while some may take the time to write solely about their wonderfully positive experience using your product, the real value comes from having customers crowdsource actionable insights into your product, allowing you to discover and fix small and medium size issues before they become significant problems. Gathering this type of data is crucial for you to be able to really get a grasp of where things are going poorly and where things are going well.
Assemble an Analysis All-Star Team
Collecting these responses is obviously very important, but the way you analyze these surveys is crucial as well. At HPE, Dana assembled a team to look at the data monthly and put an emphasis on bringing in members of different departments and areas of expertise. Crucially, this allowed the team to approach each problem from many different perspectives and to collectively understand which of these issues that customers raised were more important than others. If you can assemble an all-star team of product managers, sales reps, customer success managers and software developers, you can understand the gravity of these issues in ways that any one department alone may not have instantly recognized.
We’ve discussed the value of customer surveys, some of the types of questions that surveys can include and the importance of aggregating and analyzing the data in the best way, but how and when do you actually send out these surveys to your customers?
The first type of survey that we’re going to look at is the “Transactional Survey.” Transactional Surveys are triggered after a particular and traceable transaction takes place and can include a mix of numerical questions and open-ended question. For example, if a customer activates a license for a specific product or rehosts a key from one machine to another, a survey would automatically be sent to them based on the parameters that you would set up. These types of surveys tend to have very high response rates which contributes to making the data statistically significant.
At HPE, Whitmore and her team set up these surveys to be automated and pushed out on a large scale after different transactions, which led to surveys being filled out by a wide range of customers, on a vast array of topics, at all times. This also allowed the survey-analysis team to examine the trends from the data they collected and to observe the effect that their response to the feedback was having on newer survey responses. For example, when a new product update is released, there are bound to be bugs that fall through the cracks. When you take a look at the multitude of survey responses that come in following a new product release, it can be easier to track the various issues customers are having and thus, prioritize which bugs are critical to be fixed immediately.
It can also be difficult at times to properly gauge which features of your product are truly valued by customers. The ability to understand which features your customers really care about can have an enormous impact not only in prioritizing future product development but with contract renewals as well.
In addition to Transactional Surveys, there are also what are known as “Experience Surveys.” These surveys can be done on a periodic basis and tended to be more general customer-satisfaction based surveys, as opposed to the product-based questions in the transactional surveys.
As Dana put it, these surveys can “give you a sense of the watercooler-typebvdiscussions that may be happening company-wide in your customer’s offices.” They also serve to track the sentiments of a specific customer, or grouping of customers, over time and across a wide range of topics. For example, experience surveys can be sent quarterly to a range of users from your top 50 largest accounts to better grasp how easy they find you to work with. These survey responses should also ideally be collected and reviewed to gain an understanding of customer satisfaction trends.
Listen, Learn and Act
Everyone loves to be the “voice of the customer.” Sales, Marketing, Development, Product – everyone brings their own suggestions and anonymous anecdotal customer feedback to the table in an effort to improve the product as they best see. And while anonymous anecdotes hold some value for a company, when executives are tasked with potentially spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on solving a problem, it is crucial to be able to put a name to a story, to track trends amongst specific customers and to allow numbers and data to replace feelings and anecdotes. While numbers based surveys are important and can be easier to automatically analyze using a program, allowing comments, data and real customer experiences to aggregate and be analyzed by human eyeballs can really have a major effect on illuminating what your customers find most important.
Improving customer experience is something that should be dynamic and ever-evolving. A company of any size and in any field needs to constantly be working towards the goal of improving their customer’s satisfaction.
As Dana Whitmore so sharply put it at the end of her presentation, “there’s always more that can be done, but allow the voice of the customer to guide you on what is, and what isn’t, actually important.” Be sure to check out our next blog, when we discuss another key component of keeping your customer happy – the ability to activate software updates on demand.
Want to learn more about improving customer satisfaction? Check out our infographic here!