Research Uncovers Tactics in Customer Feedback Management

May 18, 2016

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Customer feedback management allows companies to listen to, understand, respond to, and share the voices of their customers.

In today’s world, where customers are in the driver’s seat and businesses are compelled to find new ways to differentiate beyond price, customer feedback — be this in the form of online reviews and ratings, social media comments, survey responses, or e-mails and phone calls — serves as one of the most valuable sources of information for your organization.

Customer Feedback: Key to Understanding Customers and Improving Performance

Not only does feedback help shape your business reputation; it also serves as key to understanding the needs, wants, and concerns of your customers.

How can you make the most of the customer feedback you collect? How can you act upon it in ways that elevate the customer experience and improve your business? And how can you fine-tune your customer feedback management strategy so that it successfully sets your brand apart from the competition?

A research study published recently in the Journal of Consumer Psychology explores specific factors influencing customer feedback — in particular, online reviews.

Entitled “Effects of multiple psychological distances on construal and consumer evaluation: A field study of online reviews,” and authored by a group of researchers led by Nina Huang of Temple University in Pennsylvania, the study analyzed over 160,000 restaurant reviews on travel reviews site TripAdvisor and studied the effect of time and space distance factors on the sentiment of reviews and customer feedback.

To determine the home location information of reviewers, Huang’s group applied Google Maps, extracted public information from the reviewers’ TripAdvisor profiles, and calculated the distance between their homes and the businesses (restaurants) they reviewed.

Here are some key findings from the researchers’ text analysis:

  • People who are farther from home and wait longer to write online reviews are more likely to evaluate businesses and brands in abstract terms using positive textual descriptors like “pleasant,” “amazing,” and “delicious.”
  • People who are closer to home and write a review shortly after their experience are more likely to focus on specific details about the food, the service, and the ambiance. To describe the business or brand, they also use verbs and adjectives — “unpleasant,” “disappointing,” “spoil” — that are often more negative in sentiment.

In the study, time delay and physical distance are considered as forms of separation that help create a kind of positive bias and “boosting” effect — leading to higher ratings, better reviews, and more positive customer feedback.

“We found evidence of a distance boosting effect, whereby experiencing spatial distance (authoring a review about a geographically distant restaurant, rather than proximate one) and temporal distance (authoring a review after a lengthy delay, rather than immediately) jointly affect review positivity by amplifying consumers’ high-level construals,” the researchers write. 

Based on the study’s findings, we can uncover several key insights to help drive the success of your customer feedback management strategy.

Tactics in Customer Feedback Management

Give customers some time before asking for reviews

Proactively requesting online reviews and customer feedback is one of the most effective ways to measure and improve the customer experience.

But it may be better to delay sending those requests: instead of reaching out to customers immediately after the sales transaction or product delivery, take your time and give them some time. Save your e-mail message as a draft and let it linger unsent for a while (1 to 3 months). The time delay just may spell the difference between, say, a 4-star rating and a 5-star rating.

“Companies that ask customers to give feedback immediately after a phone call may want to re-evaluate this strategy,” Huang suggested. “It may be wiser to send a follow-up survey via e-mail in the future.”

Look beyond your immediate service area for promoters

Companies that utilize the Net Promoter Score (NPS) methodology to measure customer loyalty and improve the customer experience may benefit from engaging with those outside their immediate service areas: out-of-towners, tourists, non-resident customers.

Considering how greater physical distance can lead to higher ratings and better reviews, you can expand your customer feedback management program to include travelers from towns and cities not near you. By doing so, you may be able to activate loyal and enthusiastic promoters who will refer others to your business and help fuel your growth.

“Business owners may want to consider asking patrons from out of town to give reviews,” Huang said. 

Read MORE:5 Ways to Convert Your Customer into a Brand Advocate

Engage with and address feedback given by local customers

While locals are by no means to be automatically considered detractors, it is nonetheless critical for your organization to pay closer attention to their feedback.

Respond to your local patrons’ reviews. Acknowledge them individually. Answer their questions, social media comments, e-mails, and phone calls. Those who are closer to home are likely to share their customer experiences in greater detail: take full advantage of this in order to gain valuable insights and understand when and where to foster service and operational improvements.

Market realities have empowered the voice of the customer to speak and share feedback across a dizzying array of channels. Companies that stay engaged and understand the importance of managing customer feedback are the ones better positioned to succeed.

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