The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted large volumes of buying online, putting even greater physical distance between businesses and their customers. This is why listening to the Voice of the Customer (VoC) is increasingly critical to understanding their experience with your brand and building a relationship with them in our current digital-only environment.

Opening a feedback channel via e-surveys

One common way to monitor the customer experience is through online surveys. However, for this method to be its most effective, organizations need to make the process more about starting a conversation than just assigning scores. For example, surveys often use multiple-choice answers or “rate your experience from one to 10” scales. To be clear, useful data can certainly be drawn from such polling, but it doesn’t allow for open-ended feedback that lets the customer talk about their unique experience, grievances, and preferences. And that’s a missed opportunity to engage.

Like all of us, customers are human, and they enjoy talking about themselves, especially when they feel they are being listened to. Surveys that allow for open-ended feedback is a way to establish a customer dialog, especially if responses that indicate a dissatisfied experience are followed up with a personal interaction, such as a phone call or email.

Surveys that use multiple-choice answers or rankings for efficiency should have an area in the response fields for the survey-taker to tell more, if they desire.

Brief dialogs are better than longer ones

Collecting just a few data points per survey will increase participation and reduce drop-off rates while also letting customers know that you value their time. Especially if you plan to conduct surveys regularly (and you should), keeping questions to a minimum—say, no more than five—will help respondents to avoid survey fatigue.

Surveying regularly is recommended since it’s a way to continue to maintain that customer dialog once it has been established. E-commerce vendors might consider a survey at the point of purchase, at product delivery, and then again later to find out whether the product is performing as expected.

Also listen to what the non-buying customer has to say

For e-commerce in the United States, the average conversion rate is 2.57 percent. Rounded up, this means that three visitors out of a 100 will convert into a sale, on average, while the remaining 97 will browse for varying intervals and then surf away without purchasing.

While the advantages of soliciting feedback from buying customers is clear, most businesses stop at those opinions. But what about shoppers who left without buying, or abandoned their carts prior to purchase?

Putting survey mechanisms into place that can solicit feedback from non-buyers as well provides a chance to find out why your product, pricing, or website performance failed to end in a conversion. Such data can be captured on a very short exit survey that pops up when the visitor clicks to leave. Or, if it’s a past customer who came to the site but didn’t buy, the survey could be sent in a follow-up email.

Bottom line, don’t leave the non-buyer out of the conversation. It’s possible to learn as much from those who didn’t buy as those who did.

Use KPIs to Measure and Improve Performance

Finally, it’s important to determine the effectiveness of a customer survey campaign. Survey strategies should be tied to KPIs such as the Net Promoter Score and Customer Effort Score. These scores can tell how likely a customer is to recommend you to others and the perceived ease of interaction with your brand, respectively.

Pre-pandemic, and in brick-and-mortar environments especially, there were lots of opportunities for customers to tell a brand what they thought. Oftentimes, it was as simple as speaking with a salesperson or store manager. In our current all-digital world, it’s important to meet the customer where they are and to grab each opportunity to converse with them about their experience.

If you haven’t already, start thinking about how to monitor VoC online and on mobile platforms.

This article was originally published on the author’s customer service blog and reprinted with permission.