Does your customer feedback include open-ended survey questions? If so, what are you doing with the verbatim comments? Are you simply reading them? Or, are you quantifying them and showing the actions you’re taking?
My guess? You’re missing the one thing you need most.
Rating questions show your scores, but verbatim comments do the heavy lifting. Verbatims uncover what to change and for whom. They are the tools that enable you to improve.
Since you’ve taken the trouble to write open-ended survey questions, you know that verbatim comments are where the meaning lies; they are your survey ‘gold.’ But are you getting their full value? Are you sure?
Unfortunately, most companies rely on word clouds or AI-driven sentiment summaries (positive, negative, neutral) to show the content of their verbatims--instead of a scientific verbatims analysis.
Edward Tufte: Don’t Abbreviate
But as information designer Edward Tufte says, “We shouldn’t abbreviate the truth but rather get a new method of presentation.” Word clouds and sentiment summaries are exactly that, an abbreviation.
Similarly, as I’ve written about previously, reading your verbatim comments is a data dead-end because your brain can’t synthesize and quantify all that information.
More Than a Pretty Picture
The solution? An interactive dashboard that measures your verbatim content and gives you an ongoing sentiment analysis plan.
After all, it’s likely you are using dashboards to display critical facts like their sales per location, NPS survey scores, and resolution rates. But since your open-ended survey questions contain gold, they deserve a dashboard too.
And not just a ‘pretty picture’ dashboard, one that enables full participation.
This way, while your research team is using social-science methods to categorize the comments, your customer success team is indicating who they’ve reached and the cases they’ve closed.
For example, here’s a dashboard in which 24 comments have been anonymized. Typically, you’d have thousands of verbatims, but this gives you a sense of what’s possible.
See How this Dashboard Works
Click on the picture above and see that you can filter this dashboard in numerous ways including by department, tag, and date. Each filter shows your scores and themes within each area.
- Choose ‘Repairs’: This consolidates the comments and scores specific to this department.
- Choose ‘Improve’: Now you can see what needs to be addressed and for whom in the ‘Action Needed’ column.
Your Rating Questions Are Lying to You!
Wondering if your verbatims are truly worth dashboarding? Yes! Often, customers’ ratings and their answers to your open-ended survey questions don’t line up.
For example, we recently analyzed a survey where most customers reported their expectations were met. Yet, in their comments, customers complained that it took forever to reach an associate.
Going by just the ratings, things looked fine. But with the verbatims data, our client is already putting in place new IVR messaging, superior call routing, and different staff break times to address call queue issues.
Another example is a client’s NPS survey. While the NPS survey score was high, customers had a lot of suggestions for how to improve associates’ communication skills and knowledge. NPS survey questions may be valuable, but they’re only actionable when paired with verbatims that contextualize those scores.
Armed with verbatims data shown in charts and graphs, you’re able to improve the customer experience. Even better, you’re able to prove that you’ve actually made a dent.
Benefits of Open-Ended Survey Questions
There are two main benefits of open-ended questions.
- They keep your survey short.
- They uncover what you don’t know you don’t know.
Survey fatigue is growing exponentially, so shortening your survey is essential. Open-ended questions condense your survey by keeping extraneous questions at bay.
Furthermore, ‘open-ends’ allow themes to emerge. You’re able to discover issues that you never even thought to ask.
For example, in one survey project, we found that customers were outraged by staff attire. We saw this in the comments, but who would have thought to ask customers to rate employee clothing choices?!
Above All Else, Show the Data
But even with verbatims to give you context, consider how you display that information so that your staff knows what to prioritize. To quote Edward Tufte again, “above all else, show the data”. Don’t obfuscate data, don’t abbreviate it. Give your audience the facts they need to make sound business decisions.
You’re one step away from nailing your open-ended survey questions. Give your verbatims their due with their own, high-participation dashboard.
Toward more customer empathy and profitable voice of the customer listening!
About Martha Brooke, Blackbelt 6 Sigma & CCXP
Martha founded Interaction Metrics to bring a science-based approach to customer experience measurement and improvement.
About Interaction Metrics
Interaction Metrics is a customer experience research agency. Methods include customer satisfaction surveys, tracking studies, and customer interviews. Interested in what Interaction Metrics can do with your open-ended survey questions? Learn more here.