Customer feedback: Use AI and listen to your customers, or somebody else will

Joel Passen
March 15, 2023
7 minutes

Every business wants to stay ahead of the competition. We’ve got a saying here at Sturdy; “your customers are either growing with you or away from you.”  And, if you think about it, you are just trying to develop a relationship with your customers to create trust and loyalty. To that end, one of the fundamental tenants of any healthy relationship is listening. Yup. It’s that simple. 

One of the clearest paths to maintaining a competitive edge is simply listening to your customer’s feedback. The next step is acknowledging that their feedback matters. And the way to solidify the relationship with your customers is to implement their suggested changes in a timely manner.  

At the end of the day, listening is a choice in a relationship. Whether or not you listen to your customers is up to you. But one thing is for sure. If you don’t listen to your customers, somebody else will.

Unfortunately, listening to your customers is harder than it sounds — especially at scale. We wouldn’t write this blog post about it if it were easy. While we all agree that customer feedback can give you a competitive edge, implementing the suggested changes is not always easy. After all, customer feedback is often subjective and open to interpretation. It can be hard to take a risk on an idea that may or may not pay off – especially when your competition is doing something different. But the truth is, taking customer feedback seriously and incorporating it into your everyday processes will be hugely beneficial. Not only will you gain customer loyalty and loyalty from potential new customers, but you’ll also stand out in a crowded marketplace. Taking customer feedback on board might be difficult, but it’s worth it. 

You might ask, “how do I listen to my customers better?” Relying on outdated survey methodologies like NPS and CSAT can be tempting. After all, these methods have been around for a long time and are tried-and-true customer feedback techniques. But the truth is nothing is more valuable than the unsolicited, unabridged voice of the customer. Relying on tools of the past, like surveys, can mean missing valuable customer insights, alienating good customers, and wasting valuable internal resources that could be focused on more high-impact projects. As we mentioned in our previous post, 4 stars and frustrated | time to move beyond surveys and sentiment, surveys continue to fall short for many reasons:

  1. Surveys are a backward-looking tool in an era where customers expect near real-time remedies.
  2. Survey results are often ambiguous, failing to reveal the cause of customer frustration.
  3. Survey data is often seen as unreliable and not contextually substantive enough to drive real business impact.
  4. Surveys are often answered by users with exceptionally positive or negative experiences. (According to Forrester reports, surveys capture between 2% and 7.5% of customer interactions.)
  5. Survey responses are limited to structured questions, so respondents cannot provide feedback about topics not covered. 
  6. Surveys require significant customer time and effort and can be considered annoying.

Don’t get us wrong, surveys can be a relatively simple and inexpensive way to collect customer feedback. But the truth is, they’re over the hill. The NPS was first published the same year the camera phone was created. Think that’s wild? The CSAT was created the same year the internet was invented. You heard that correctly, the world wide web kicked off the same year the CSAT was first administered. Feel old yet?

You might be thinking, “Okay, but what about the other methods of gathering customer feedback? What about focus groups, customer interviews, and journey mapping, for example?" Good question! These are decent ways to collect detailed customer feedback without relying on traditional questionnaires and surveys. There’s still one glaring issue, however… These methodologies are still looking through the “rearview mirror.” These reports, interviews, and maps capture what’s happened in the past. Your team needs to look forward through the “windshield” and see around the corners along the way.

Today, deploying a commercial-ready artificial intelligence solution is the key to staying ahead of customer needs and competitors. It fills in the knowledge gap between customer feedback and your team by gathering and making sense of the  unbiased, unabridged, and unsolicited voice of the customer. By leveraging AI, you can gain insights that traditional customer feedback techniques simply can’t provide – like specific signals. For example, today’s AI solutions have language models that understand specific scenarios and integrate with large language models like ChatGPT to summarize what customers are saying autonomously. Surveys aren’t going to surface risks and opportunities in real-time. You and your team will have to sit down and read the results or pay someone to do it. AI is the only way to understand what best action needs to be taken in real-time. 

Think about the potential application of a technology like this! This goes beyond customer success and truly impacts all aspects of a modern business. For example, AI solutions let your product team maintain product-market fit by autonomously capturing product feedback like feature requests, user confusion, frustration, etc. Customer intelligence can also discover and inspect product-related topics like performance issues, bug reports, access issues, security alerts, etc. Your RevOps and BI teams can access an entirely new structured data source to create analytical frameworks. Your marketing team can tap into your pool of happy customers for testimonials and case studies. The list goes on…

In short, customer feedback should always be taken seriously. While outdated survey methodologies like NPS and CSAT can still provide insights, these techniques should only be used to supplement more modern strategies like AI-powered resources. By taking customer feedback seriously and relying on customer-centric methods, you’ll ensure your customers grow with you, not away from you.

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