Creating a customer journey map is the first step toward designing a superior Customer Experience (CX) that drives end-user growth. Rather than rushing in and narrowly focusing on a single touchpoint to measure success, a customer journey map helps you evaluate the journey as a whole—providing a bird’s-eye view of everything.
Once you’ve mapped out the customer journey, however, you may be wondering… what’s next? How do you take that big picture view and start asking your customers about their experience?
To move forward, you need to figure out which specific touchpoints you want to study, which metrics you want to gather, what questions you want to ask, and which channels you want to use to collect that data.
Your customers are more than willing to tell you about the bottlenecks in their journey, but you’ll want to be thoughtful in your approach. So, before you start sending out surveys, think through your voice of customer strategy using your journey map as a guide.
That’s what this post is all about. It will help you develop a strategy for gathering feedback at key points within your customer journey so you can take actionable steps toward optimizing your user experience.
When (in the customer journey) should you ask for feedback?
It’s important to determine which pivotal touchpoints within the customer journey—those make or break moments—are ideal times to gather feedback.
We can give you a general idea of when to ask these questions, but this is not a turnkey solution. Every company’s customer journey map looks different, and your approach to asking the right questions at the right time will differ.
In fact, in all likelihood, you already have some sense of where the bottlenecks are in your customer journey and what needs improvement, so trust your intuition there. And if you’ve got any doubt? The following touchpoints represent good places to start.
1. Onboarding Completion
Why is onboarding a make-or-break moment? Signing up for a new service always takes effort because you’re asking new customers to open their minds, learn about your product, and make a change by integrating your product into their lives. The more seamless you can make this stage, the more likely you are to gain a loyal customer.
2. Support Interaction
Why are support interactions make-or-break moments? We often think of Customer Support as it’s own thing, but it’s a vital part of the customer journey. Why? Because the bane of product-led growth is friction, and by definition, a support interaction is a point of friction. No matter how usable your product is, some people will struggle with it. Asking for feedback after a support case is closed will give you feedback on how your support team is doing. It will also help determine resources Support may need to speed customers through this touchpoint. It will also let you know about bugs and usability issues, and it will draw your attention to possible feature improvements.
3. Product Experience (usually in-app)
Why is in-app product use a make-or-break moment? This feedback will tell you what’s working as anticipated and what needs to be reconsidered. Customer feedback can and should influence your roadmap and guide the prioritization of development resources. Plus, SaaS companies are always trying out new features, and there’s no better time to survey your customers about those features than in the very moment they’re using them.
4. First Experience of Value and/or Pre-renewal (Loyalty check)
Why is this a make-or-break moment? After a user has been up and running for a bit, they should be experiencing the benefits of using your product and services. It’s time to make sure they are. Asking for feedback at this touchpoint is meant to surface all kinds of things about their relationship with you (that you won’t hear after a support interaction, for example.) Product, service, pricing, you name it. A survey response might give you the opportunity to fix an issue you didn’t know about and retain their business. Ask again pre-renewal to make sure your relationship is still on track.
How might your approach vary depending on your business model? Let’s say you’ve got a self-serve product where customers get started quickly and they can see your product’s value upfront. In that case, it makes sense to ask the loyalty question (Net Promoter Score) early on in the customer journey—whenever they reach a point where they understand your value proposition.
On the other hand, if you send in consultants who spend weeks or more helping your enterprise users get up to speed with your product, you’ll probably want to wait a while to send that first NPS survey.
Just make sure that, whenever you ask the question, it makes sense to do so at that time. For example, asking someone how they feel about a new feature (PSAT) when they’re not currently using that feature makes no sense. Instead, ask them about the feature using an in-app survey, while they’re engaging the product. And of course, you wouldn’t want to ask someone about a support experience they had weeks earlier. Instead, use common sense, and put yourself in the customers’ shoes, delivering surveys that flow with their experience.
Remember: Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is a mature CX program. Companies don’t generally implement voice-of-customer surveys at multiple journey points all at once—they roll out gradually, sometimes over 2-3 years. They might do one, then add another 6+ months later.
Start with the touchpoint that will give you the biggest bang for your buck in terms of learning, retention, and driving Customer Lifetime Value (CLV).
What questions do you ask?
When gathering Voice of the Customer (VOC) data, the most common feedback questions revolve around those things that drive Product-led Growth—things like ease of use (for your product), customer satisfaction, and brand loyalty. With this in mind, the following metrics can help you assess these elements at key touchpoints: Customer Effort Score, Customer or Product Satisfaction, and Net Promoter Score.
Now, you may be wondering… why not simply make up your own customer feedback questions tailored to your business, products, and CX? While that may be tempting, the following metrics will give you a benchmark and scores that you can monitor and track over time. Yes, qualitative data asking customers to describe what they like or dislike about their experience is vital, but the metrics will tell you whether you’re improving over time.
Need a few more reasons to use standard metrics?
First, it’s much easier to get internal buy-in when using tried-and-true metrics employed by companies around the world. People can waste countless hours arguing over what questions to ask, and using established metrics can instantly end that debate.
Second, these metrics are extendable and extensible. In other words, you can extend the same questions to different products and features without reinventing the wheel. This makes it easier to roll out a CX program across a portfolio of products and brands.
Finally, these established metrics will stand the test of time, surviving personnel changes. Simply put, it’s an evergreen survey strategy.
Note: If you’re not 100% familiar with each of these surveys, don’t worry—here is a primer on how these CX metrics all work together.
What are the metrics you ought to consider tracking?
Choose your metric based on what you want to learn, and whether it will make sense to your customer in context. Remember, a survey is part of your customer’s experience.
Customer Effort Score (CES)
Customer Effort Score lets you know how much work it takes for customers to accomplish something (e.g., onboarding, solving a problem).
Customer Effort Score (CES) surveys ask the customer “How easy was it to ________?” and is scored on a numeric scale. It’s a metric that is used to improve systems that may otherwise frustrate customers.
As a CX metric, CES helps with that “ease of use” component that increases Customer Lifetime Value (CLV). And while there’s no standard format for CES surveys, they usually look like a 5- or 7-point scale asking how easy it was for a customer to achieve whatever goal they’re trying to accomplish. Take a look at our post about how to use CES to evaluate your onboarding experience for more details.
Customer Satisfaction (CSAT)
SaaS companies typically use CSAT surveys to get a read on specific interactions, such as a recently closed support ticket or a fresh purchase. You can format your CSAT survey as a numeric scale (e.g., 5-point or 7-point). You’ll typically want to follow the rating question with an open-ended one asking the customer to explain their score.
Product Satisfaction (PSAT)
A PSAT survey measures customer satisfaction with your product or a specific feature, and you’ll often ask it with an in-app survey. Like CSAT, it is flexible and you can ask the question in a variety of formats (binary +/- or on a 5- or 7-point scale). You’ll also want to follow with an open-end question asking them to explain the reasoning behind their score.
Net Promoter Score (NPS)
There’s an excellent chance you’re already conducting NPS surveys at regular intervals, and that’s great! By combining NPS data with other key metrics listed here, you can get a good sense of the customer experience you offer across the entire journey. If you aren’t already using NPS, ask it after your customer has had a chance to experience value from your product or ask it prior to renewal. Both are good times to assess user loyalty.
Net Promoter Score measures brand loyalty, and unlike the other three metrics listed, it follows a standard format, which allows you to compare your results against industry leaders in your field. The standard NPS question asks: “On a scale of 0-10, how likely are you to recommend us to a friend or colleague?”
That NPS question should always be followed by an open-ended question asking respondents why they gave you the score they did. You will then use their answers to (1) have a customer service agent or a success manager follow up with the detractors to try to fix the problem and (2) use the response to improve your customer experience.
Remember: Less is more
Have you ever taken a “brief” survey that stretched on far longer than promised? Most customers don’t want to take 3-4 minute surveys, and you can reduce friction and improve your survey response rate by using microsurveys.
Let people write a novel in response to your open-ended questions, that’s great—you’ll learn a lot from them! But put yourself in your customers’ shoes and keep your surveys short and sweet, gathering a relevant metric upfront.
Which distribution channels should you use to gather feedback?
Emails, SMS, and in-app surveys are the three main survey channels typically used to gather customer feedback on a post-acquisition journey. Once again, use common sense and think about the channel that makes the most sense for the user. Product experience, as mentioned above, is almost always best asked through in-app surveys at the moment they’re in your platform or app. Support experience is often assessed with an email survey. SMS can be a great channel for gathering feedback if you are already communicating with customers via phone–for example, following up on a cable technician’s visit.
Just like the question of “when” to collect data, the question about how to distribute surveys will sometimes produce different answers based on your business model. For example, if you’ve got a more complicated onboarding process where end-users interact with Customer Success a fair bit, they won’t be surprised to receive a survey via email. On the other hand, if you have a largely self-serve product where onboarding is straightforward, it makes sense to conduct the CES survey in-app.
The best distribution channel can vary by touchpoint, so consider a multi-channel strategy. To start, determine the best survey channels for your business.
Understanding the big picture
As you gather data and begin to analyze it, it’s important to remember that none of these metrics or the touchpoints they evaluate exist in isolation. The real secret to a successful CX strategy is to take a step back and look at the entire journey—understanding how it’s all interconnected.
This is where it helps to have a cross-functional team, often led by someone with responsibility for CX Operations, that can step back and look at an implementation plan. They can then unify all the data and connect information across the tech stack (e.g., Zendesk, Salesforce, Gainsight, Wootric).
Without this holistic approach, it’s easy to develop departmental silos (where everyone focuses exclusively on their own touchpoints) and technological silos (e.g., the Sales team sees what’s in Salesforce, and the Customer Support team sees what’s in Zendesk, but nobody sees the big picture).
Tasking a team with developing a big picture approach to evaluating the entire customer journey is an essential ingredient in creating a consistent customer experience. And a consistent, seamless, enjoyable experience will build loyalty and boost customer value in the months and years to come.