QuestBack is one of Europe’s largest provider of Enterprise Feedback Management and online surveys. Its Web-based services enable relationship development through the collection, analysis and follow-up of business critical information. Its UK customers include the Tate galleries, Energy Saving Trust, Metropolitan Housing Partnership and flyBMI. We spoke to Simon Oldfield, UK MD of QuestBack, to discuss the importance of collecting, analysing and following up on customer feedback in all types of organisations, industries and roles.

What does QuestBack do?

QuestBack provides online survey services and know-how for gathering, analysing and responding to business critical feedback. It advocates asking the right questions, of the right people, at the right time, and then acting on the knowledge gained. QuestBack’s Enterprise Feedback Management (EFM) solutions are time-saving and easy to use with a flat-fee subscription model to encourage a frequent and wide range of use without extra cost. QuestBack strongly believes that EFM is a key facilitator in increasing revenue, for example, by retaining valuable personnel or developing a compay’s base of customers or members.

What are the benefits of having the right information on your customers and employees?

Capturing the right information is critical to helping businesses provide a useful service to customers with added value. By targeting the right customer groups, a business can gain a better understanding of its customers’ needs and wants. Similarly, it is crucial for organisations to really get under the skin of their employees and understand what makes them tick.

By requesting regular feedback on their views, a business can really understand their employees’ expectations, motivations and whether they are truly engaged in the company’s vision and values. By committing to relationship development with both customers and employees, the end result is increased profitability and improved customer and employee loyalty.

A recent study by the University of Michigan showed that an increase in customer satisfaction is equivalent to an increase of 2.4 percent on return on investment (ROI) for a company.

This philosophy can be illustrated by a recent project with one of the UK’s largest manufacturing companies which used QuestBack’s feedback management tool to help investigate problems it was experiencing with flexible working arrangements following complaints from its employees that the system was being abused and mismanaged.

The anonymous online survey revealed that 79 percent of employees didn’t like the flexible working arrangement and a staggering 94 percent believed it was being abused.

Although this is an ongoing process, the management has already acted on the results and given the company the opportunity to dramatically improve its operations. It has increased its employee loyalty and saved money by re-training its employees to become more mobile within the factories and work on different production lines rather than having to call in agency workers to work on lines falling behind on targets.

How can you ensure that your survey gets you the best results?

I can’t stress enough the importance of spending time on planning and preparations to achieve a good result. There are several elements that are useful to consider before you start. Some aspects almost go without saying. Start up with defining the purpose of the survey. What is it that you would like to know? Who is responsible for carrying out follow-up activities based on the survey results? Who is your target group? Your complete customer base or segments?

I recommend that instead of conducting annual customer satisfaction surveys, you create short, frequent surveys related to customer processes. Make your feedback process part of your customers’ natural interaction with your company, and reap the following benefits: the customer experience is fresh; the survey is perceived by the customer as very relevant; you will be able to do continuous feedback based improvements as opposed to only once a year.

Response rates are a tricky business and there are no definite answers on how high or low they should be. The following will affect your response rates: use reminders; keep the number of questions to a minimum; keep the questions interesting and relevant to the target group; make sure your language and spelling is flawless; report results back to the respondents.

What is the best way to deal with your survey results?

Most companies conduct customer or employee surveys in some shape or form, but a recent Gartner survey has shown that that only 35% actually implement changes based on research findings and only 10% communicate decisions and improvements back to the respondents.

Communicating with customers or employees about how they will benefit from improvements based on their feedback is the best motivation a company can give them. It will make them feel important and valued, and the chance that they will offer their feedback again increases.

Following up with customers and staff by: informing about the survey results; informing about actions taken based on the survey results; gathering more information to continue the improvements.

At QuestBack we have called this Ask & Act. First you Ask to collect business critical feedback – then you Act to turn your knowledge into results. Ask & Act should be a continuous process that will have a direct positive impact on loyalty and satisfaction levels by letting customers and employees know that they are being listened to, and their input is being taken seriously.

Why do QuestBack’s feedback tools deliver better results than other methods of surveying customer and employees?

It is most common for companies to outsource surveying to an external agency which designs the questions, conducts the survey and provides a written report. Not only is this a more costly and time consuming option, but it is missing the crucial element of ‘follow-up’ proven to impact on satisfaction and loyalty levels of employees and customers.

Most companies will execute an annual ‘post-mortem’ customer or employee survey by internal or external methods, but this is most likely to be too little, too late. By carrying out surveys on a planned, regular or ad hoc basis depending on an organisation’s changing needs, it is possible to ensure consistent feedback and follow up so that respondents feel that they are really being heard.

Give me an example of how the real truth has been revealed with QuestBack software?

Unite the Union, Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union conducted a confidential survey of nearly 2,000 BA employees in November 2010. It revealed that nearly three in every four members BA staff had witnessed or been subject to bullying at the company. The majority of the respondents to the survey were cabin crew members who fedback that they had been deliberately targeted by BA’s management, which is seeking to ‘break’ them and their union in order to drive down terms and conditions.

Significantly, 60 percent of people did not report the bullying, with many commenting that they saw no point due to the company’s or management’s approach. The Union was able to reach the BA employees through the QuestBack feedback tool which emailed its members and allowed it to build a dialogue with the anonymous survey correspondents, providing real employee evidence to go to management with authority. With crew scattered throughout the globe this was far more inclusive and secure than any paper survey could have been.

How does the UK compare to other European countries in its uptake of feedback management tools?

I would say that the Nordics are the European pioneers in this area which mirrors the country’s more customer and employee orientated approach to business. This is particularly noticeable within the human resources (HR) department which pays significantly more attention to the feedback of its employees than in the UK. The UK is certainly starting to show interest in the value of EFM and I expect to see more widespread use of these tools and processes in the coming years. From our experience in the UK, the sectors that we have been dealing with most frequently are professional services, higher education, housing, banks and financial services.

Are there any clear trends within the feedback management area?

Most companies have their own customer relationship management (CRM) system or customer database, but a small number of forward thinking organisations have began to integrate this existing customer information with their enterprise feedback management (EFM) tools. The ability to improve customer service and reach customers in an efficient and cost effective manner is vastly improved, for example, if a company acquires a new customer then an email can be triggered to the customer to take part in an entry survey and the answers are subsequently routed back to the system for a follow-up at a nominated date.

There is also a strong link developing between social CRM and EFM to help companies monitor social media channels and develop a better understanding of what customers and other stakeholders are saying about their products or offerings, which will in turn help them deliver better service levels and products.