November 3, 2020

What Is Unsolicited Feedback and Why Does Your Business Need It?

Solicited and unsolicited feedback from customers can be used by businesses as a tool for fostering improvements and transforming the customer experience.

To understand the crucial role that both types of customer feedback play in pushing businesses forward, consider these stats:

  • 52% of consumers believe companies need to take action on feedback provided by their customers.
  • According to customer reviews research, one of the main reasons why 62% of consumers ages 18-34 trust a brand is because of positive customer feedback — specifically, good ratings and reviews.
  • 63% of customer experience management professionals use customer feedback to prioritize investment in better products, services and customer experiences.

To be able to manage customer feedback effectively, your business should be able to define it in the context of today’s increasingly digital world. What are the types of customer feedback today? What is unsolicited feedback and how can you get the most out of what your customers are saying organically?

What are the Types of Customer Feedback?

Customer feedback is any information that comes directly from a company’s customers — information that conveys their thoughts, feelings, sentiment, satisfaction levels, or opinion about a brand, product, service, or experience.

An illustration of customers leaving their feedback about a business

Technology has expanded the ways in which customer feedback is generated and procured. Now, with the help of customer feedback tools, businesses can capture feedback from customers using various channels and platforms, such as:

  • Customer feedback surveys (including NPS reviews surveys)
  • Comment cards
  • Patient satisfaction surveys (for healthcare organizations)
  • Emails and phone calls
  • Online reviews and ratings
  • Social media comments
  • Focus group discussions
  • Individual customer interviews or customer roundtables
  • Usability tests

Using information from customer feedback, companies can gain valuable insights essential to improving their brand, products, services, and overall customer experience.

Through effective customer experience management, businesses that are able to monitor and manage customer feedback also have a more complete understanding of their customers and can easily measure satisfaction and build customer loyalty

Solicit Feedback Meaning vs. Unsolicited Feedback Meaning

It’s useful to classify customer feedback based on how it is generated or collected. Key differences between solicited and unsolicited feedback mean that you must be able to strike the right balance and successfully manage both.

Solicited customer feedback is feedback that a company has actively asked for or tried to obtain. For example, customer feedback surveys, comment cards, NPS reviews surveys, customer interviews, and focus groups typically produce or generate solicited feedback.

Unsolicited customer feedback, meanwhile, is feedback shared by customers without having been prompted or asked to by the business.

Social media and business review sites have given rise to massive amounts of unsolicited feedback. With more and more consumers choosing to ignore lengthy surveys in favor of quick posts on websites like Google, Facebook, Yelp, and Tripadvisor, unsolicited feedback has become an increasingly valuable source of information for companies looking to understand how their customers really think and feel.

Hashtag concept illustration of young people using mobile tablet and smartphone for social media

Getting both types of feedback can provide a more complete picture of the customer experience. For example, while handing out surveys can be a great way for your organization to obtain baseline information about customers, you can also benefit from managing feedback that comes from people who have decided to share their thoughts and experiences without being asked to.

Structured Data vs. Unstructured Data

Another useful way to understand customer feedback is by assessing the kind of data it provides.

Structured data from customer feedback is clearly defined and easy to report on. Examples of structured data types that you can procure from customer feedback include: 

  • Customer name
  • Age
  • Location
  • Income bracket
  • Star rating
  • Survey score
  • NPS score and label

Notice that these types of data can be collected, analyzed, and organized using a data collection platform, a customer experience analytics tool, a spreadsheet application, or traditional statistical tools and methodologies.  

Unstructured data from customer feedback, meanwhile, is more difficult to define, analyze, and report on. Examples of unstructured data from customer feedback include: 

  • Free-form text found in online reviews
  • Social media posts
  • “Additional comments” in survey responses
  • Forum posts
  • Call center transcripts
  • Customer support inquiries
  • Live chats
  • Video reviews

According to Forbes, as much as 90% of all data today — including enterprise-relevant information — is unstructured.

Why is Unstructured Customer Feedback Harder to Define and Analyze? 

It has something to do with how it takes on a form akin to human conversation — characterized by misspellings or grammatical mistakes, or lack of punctuations, or the presence of multiple unrelated ideas, or sentiment that’s hard to pin down.

While managing and analyzing unstructured data from customer feedback has become a growing challenge for many companies, natural language processing applications and analytical methods like text analytics and sentiment analysis can help make unstructured data more manageable and easier to understand.

This is why an increasing number of companies are leveraging these various methods and techniques: in order to dig deeper into the customer experience, find patterns and trends, and uncover information and insights about customer sentiment, tone, emotion, and motivation.

How to Get the Most Out of Unsolicited Customer Feedback

The most successful companies listen to and act on unsolicited feedback in order to understand customers better and deliver improved customer experiences. Here are some things to keep in mind as your organization looks to invest in customer experience management.

Illustration of businessman blowing light bulb by air pump

Make the commitment. Embrace customer feedback and foster an organizational culture in which everyone from the C-suite to the frontline is empowered (and equipped) to listen to the voice of the customer.

Work with a technology partner. Spending a bulk of your time just collecting data is not the most efficient way to manage customer feedback — especially if you’re running a company with tens, hundreds, or thousands of business locations.

To make sure you are really hearing your customers and their unsolicited feedback, work with a technology partner or customer feedback management provider who will help you meet your business goals and extract meaningful insight from data.

Stay engaged and responsive. When you hire a third-party provider or invest in a software platform, there’s a temptation to let your tools do all the work. This shouldn’t exempt you from continuing to engage with customers who have shared their feedback.

No matter the tool you’re using, you should still read the comments, know how to respond to negative reviews and positive feedback, and resolve customer issues. Here’s the thing: technological capability is great, but it won’t close the loop on your behalf.

Reach out to customers if you’re not getting enough unsolicited feedback. Have an NPS reviews survey or review request program in place to encourage your customers to be more vocal. Reaching out to customers and soliciting feedback using a timely approach also helps you determine whether or not you’re delivering experiences that meet or surpass customer expectations.

Integrate unstructured data into your strategy. Some companies focus exclusively on capturing structured data, but unstructured data from customer feedback often holds rich information that you simply cannot ignore. Instead of just seeing your average star rating or your customer satisfaction scores, you get to hear the story and experience of your customer — through their own words.

Focus on insights. You shouldn’t make data collection your goal. More information doesn’t necessarily equate to smarter business decisions. You should focus on how you can gather actionable insights from customer feedback, as well as how you can address challenges based on the information available.

Final Thoughts

Now is the time for you to make the commitment to managing solicited and unsolicited feedback. It’s one of your company’s greatest sources of learning, helping you deliver experiences that inspire customers to keep coming back for more.

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