This post is the first in a three-part series about assembling your customer feedback stack so that you can take action faster and more effectively than ever before.

If creating a customer feedback stack sounds overwhelming, take comfort in the fact that you already have one — it’s just a matter of connecting the dots. If you’re analyzing your customer feedback, it’s critical to understand the value of all of the listening posts available to you.

Your customer feedback stack represents all of the channels where you’re getting customer feedback and the systems that the feedback needs to inform. It’s probably not surprising that the stack needs to reflect where you’re getting feedback from customers — but where that feedback needs to go to improve customer experience is equally important.

Let’s start with where you’re getting feedback. There are two main types of customer feedback, solicited and organic, or unsolicited. Solicited feedback is the feedback you explicitly ask for in surveys. Organic feedback represents what customers put in their own words in the channels you’ve made available to them — everything from support tickets, webchat, call center, and emails, to reviews of your product and commentary about your business in community forums and social media. Examples of organic feedback can include feature requests, frustration with company policies, or reactions to a creative workaround that your Support team recommended. All types of customer feedback are important, but organic feedback plays an especially foundational role in your stack.

Solicited vs. Organic 717

Organic customer feedback is incredibly powerful for a few reasons — (1) it’s much higher in volume than solicited feedback and available in real-time, (2) it is likely to represent feedback from more customer stakeholders than solicited feedback, and (3) it is already at your fingertips. As a result, the channels where customers provide organic feedback represent some of your most valuable listening posts. Because organic feedback is unstructured and often spread across several touchpoints, many organizations have struggled to harness it effectively — fortunately, advances in natural language understanding (“NLU”) technology have made it easier than ever to put this data to work.

According to a recent study by Kustomer, 79% of customers get frustrated when they can’t contact customer service on their preferred platform or medium. Your organization has probably invested in communication channels to accommodate your customers’ preferences — so it’s not surprising that 90% of your customer feedback lives in these channels. You may share Slack channels with some customers or offer premium support, such that your customers have access to a 24/7 phone line or chat with a one hour SLA. Perhaps a large percentage of your customers regularly use webchat or email ticketing. Below, we look at the dizzying array of popular customer feedback channels.

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Step 1: Unify Your Customer Feedback

Unifying your customer feedback is the first step in putting together your stack. You’ve probably heard the expression, “garbage in, garbage out” — if your customer feedback analysis is only limited to specific channels or only represents a small percentage of your customers, the takeaways and resulting actions from that analysis are not likely to yield the desired result. Because many CX teams lack a unified view of their customer feedback, they risk overinvesting in the wrong direction, or can’t take action at all.

Without organic feedback, solicited feedback can be difficult to interpret — it’s likely that survey respondents, or others in their organization, have left a trail of rich organic feedback that will complete the picture of why they responded the way they did, and illustrate the true impact of their feedback on your relationship with that customer. Suppose you’re surveying the senior stakeholder who signs the renewal, but you haven’t considered the experience of daily users who contact you across organic feedback channels — this can lead to unfortunate surprises. Similarly,zeroing in on a single organic feedback channel may bias your findings to inflate issues that are unique to that channel.

Without a unified view of your customer feedback, it’s impossible to implement consistent measurement, and without consistent measurement, it’s very difficult to improve your customer experience. A unified customer feedback hub also means you can standardize key metrics across all of your customer-facing channels — companies that are racing to meet customers in their preferred channels often struggle with missing and inconsistent measurement. One channel might have impressive response and resolution times, and another might show the opposite dynamic. Since most companies support these channels with a shared resource pool, it’s critical to allocate resources to optimize for a great customer experience everywhere . A McKinsey study cautioned that individual touchpoints can perform well, even if the overall customer experience is poor. As a result, nearly a third of CX practitioners cited siloed customer data as a key obstacle to improving customer experience (CXN Global State of CX 2020).

In the spirit of breaking down silos, many CX teams are already trying to unify customer feedback, though it’s often via manual processes. CX teams pour days of every month into cross-referencing customer feedback sources, looking to substantiate anecdotal observations or survey results with complete data and rich verbatims. In fact, having a unified customer feedback hub saves CX teams an average of >6 business days of team productivity every month, so that they can spend more time activating customer data instead of collecting data.

A unified customer feedback hub also ensures that your analysis isn’t biased toward any single customer type and that you can make confident, data-driven decisions based on all customers’ experiences with your business, product, and service.

Importantly, having a truly unified customer feedback hub also means that the data is normalized into a consistent, searchable format without needing to take extra steps. This should enable you to analyze all feedback from any given customer or group of customers about any issue, regardless of the channel where it surfaced.

Stay tuned for part 2 next week covering the next step to assembling your customer feedback stack, so you can activate more customer feedback faster.