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By Georgina Nelson, CEO & founder, TruRating

A recent article by McKinsey presenting a damning take on the CX industry has been making the rounds online recently.  While I agree with many of the issues raised, the solution McKinsey put forward left me feeling cold to say the least.

There is clear evidence in the data McKinsey provides that something is going wrong in the world of CX.  Of a panel of 260 leaders in the field, only 15% of users claimed to be satisfied with the survey data they currently collect, while just 6% said they were confident in using it to make decisions.

In spite of the huge financial investments businesses are pouring into customer experience, the fact that at least 85% CX leaders are looking for something better speaks volumes to these programs’ efficiency.

So, what then, are we supposed to do about this?

The McKinsey Way

The villain of the McKinsey piece is customer surveys in general.  While I have few qualms with this in relation to traditional survey methods, McKinsey’s proposed fix is to stop collecting voice of the customer data altogether.  Instead, they suggest businesses focus on the historical customer data that they already own.

The ‘data lake’ is the in-vogue term used to describe the complex web of information collected over the course of the customer-business interactions – every time we interact with a website, speak a to a customer service agent, use our smart phone, or even enter a store (think IoT) – we leave a web or trail of data leading to the products or services we purchase.

McKinsey’s view is that, if businesses really want to understand their customers, investing in better capabilities to mine this data for insights, coupled with investment in predictive analytics programs, is the approach to take.  In my opinion – a dangerous game.

The Issue With Traditional Surveys 

To understand why McKinsey might suggest such an approach, we need to examine the issues with survey methodologies widely used today.

The article raises four key problems with traditional surveys:

  1. They are limited due to low response rates
  2. They are reactive and do not allow for timely action
  3. They are often ambiguous and fail to identify root problems
  4. They provide little to no connection to financial impacts or ROI

If they had left things there, I’d have little to say.  In fact, the issues cited here are the very same that inspired me to set out to fix what I see as a broken insights industry.

Where I take leave with McKinsey, is the idea that VoC data in and of itself is the issue – rather it is the way that this data is collected and implemented (and in many cases used to inform incredibly high-stake financial decisions) that is the real problem at large.

Betting on the AI Game

While AI and machine learning are often presented as the solution to near any retail problem, when it comes to customer insight, there are huge issues with relying solely on historically crunched data.

For businesses like airlines, credit card providers and to a lesser extent grocery (or loyalty-led businesses) ‘data trails’ wide and varied enough to allow insights into customer experience or future customer desires may exist, but as one commentator put it on LinkedIn, “How on earth do you expect your organisation to understand your customers’ perspective, if you’re not asking them their opinion on anything?”

The vast majority of businesses – those we interact with once or twice a year – simply do not have access to the levels of data required.The danger of positioning this as a necessary investment for the future, is that businesses could become entirely side-tracked trying to setup incredibly complex infrastructure they don’t need.

Even if they did manage to get there – the return on investment in time and resource, is likely to come far too late to deliver on critical needs today.

The Data Dilemma

That businesses should want to improve in their ability to use data is of course a natural and indeed, positive move.  But to do so without attempting to put the customer at the heart of the decision-making process is a highly questionable practice.

The issue with so many survey methodologies today, is that they have really not evolved beyond the approach taken at inception.  If you are able to make your surveys frictionless, simple for customers to use and secure from gamification or fraud – you can easily solve for each of the four core issues that negatively impact survey programs today.

By harnessing the power of the customer voice and your existing data resources, you remove the need to take a risk on an unnecessary, and potentially damaging, artificial binary.

Taking Customer Centricity Seriously

The real issue with many contemporary CX programs is that they fail to put the needs of the customer first.  Customer data is not a transactional currency to be taken lightly.  If you want to truly connect with and understand your customers, you have to engage with them in a way that respects their wants and needs – that in fact puts them first.

Many businesses continue to rely on survey platforms that do not respect the basic tenets of consumer privacy, our desire for frictionless experiences and the time-poor nature of the modern consumer.  Most people are happy to give you their opinion, they just don’t want it to be difficult to do so.

As a student of psychology – a field in which achieving statistically significant sampling is a necessityI know that when you make the process easy, the majority of people are more than willing to participate. Those who can provide a simple, secure means for their customers to feedback, are those who will be successful in the new, still somewhat uncertain world, that lies ahead.

When businesses can deliver on a customer-first approach to collecting data, everybody wins.

About the author

Georgina Nelson is the CEO and founder of TruRating, a pioneering customer experience platform. Headquartered in the U.K., TruRating has operations across Europe, Australia & NZ, Canada and the U.S. With a background in law and consumer rights, Georgina saw the need for reliable, validated customer reviews that would better serve both businesses and consumers, thus launching TruRating in 2014.

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