Timing is Everything. When's the Best Time to Ask for Customer Feedback?
Just like a romantic proposal or a dropping a comedic punchline, when it comes to collecting customer feedback, timing is everything. Even if you’ve crafted the perfect survey for all the right customers, if it’s delivered at the wrong time, many customers will give up providing feedback altogether. Research from Gartner found that feedback collected at the point-of-experience is 40% more accurate than feedback collected even a day later. But the question of feedback timing doesn’t stop and start there. Through our experience working with service brands around the world, across industries from healthcare to financial services, we’ve identified the most effective and impactful times in the customer journey to ask for feedback.
In line with the research from Gartner, we’ve found that for many service industries, fresh is best. Like hot cookies out of the oven, feedback hits best when served up immediately (or as soon as they’re cool enough to touch). For most industries, this ‘fresh point’ is anywhere between 1 and 7 days. In that period, customers are still riding the highs (or lows) from their recent experiences, and you’ll be able to extract feedback that’s authentic, meaningful and relevant. Not only are your customers more likely to provide accurate feedback, but asking within 1-7 days of a customer experience makes acting on that feedback much easier for frontline teams. If a frontline employee is made aware of average or negative feedback within a week, they have time to remedy things with the customer before they turn bitter.
While 1-7 days is the general rule of thumb for most industries, how long a customer experience stays fresh for will depend on the nature of your service.
Short-term experiences: For short-term customer experiences like house cleaning or a dental hygienist check-up, the experience is often over and done within a few hours. In these cases, if you ask for feedback after 7 days, a customer would have likely forgotten about the service or feel their feedback is redundant. For experiences that are done and dusted fairly quickly, it’s best to ask for feedback as soon as possible, e.g the day of or day 1 or 2 after the interaction.
Long-term experiences: Some customer experiences take a little longer, and customers should be given more time to let their thoughts marinade before they provide feedback. For example, if you asked a new customer of a gym for their feedback as soon as they sign up, they may not have had the chance to get a proper feel for the equipment or attend any classes. In these circumstances, the ‘fresh point’ gets extended – and it’s best to ask customers closer to the 2-4 week mark, depending on the industry and service.
Instead of getting too caught up on the number of days, ask yourself this key question: At what point in the journey can the customer ultimately decide what they think of your service? Collecting feedback as soon as customers make up their minds (the fresh point) is vital.
Batching Fresh Feedback
Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. If you gather all fresh customer feedback at the same time, it makes it hard for frontline teams to get through and most importantly act on the feedback. Instead, batch your survey send out times over a time period to ensure a consistent flow of feedback that’s manageable for frontline teams to take action on.
Long Haul Feedback
Service brands with the most consistently awesome customer experiences not only ask for customer feedback while it’s hot, but on a long term basis too. The general cadence of recurring surveys is between 90 and 180 days. This longer time period allows for customers to make repeat purchases, explore various offerings and build a more robust perception of your brand.
Asking for feedback on a long term basis is important for both short and long term services or experiences. For example, a cleaning company may ask their customers for feedback 120 days after their first service. By this point in their journey, perhaps they’ve had 3 or 4 cleaning services which allows the customer to gain a more informed opinion and therefore provide more accurate feedback. Similarly, a fitness center may ask their customers for feedback on day 90, which allows them almost three months to properly test out all of the equipment and attend a wide range of classes.
Long haul feedback is particularly important for speciality healthcare and financial services, where the impact of the customer experience ripples out for an extended period of time. For example, a patient at a dermatologist may need over three months to test a cycle of medication or new skincare routine, before they can provide accurate feedback. Similarly, a customer of a credit union may need over 180 days to get a proper feel for the customer service when repaying a loan.
Batching Long Haul Feedback
Like fresh feedback, it’s important to gather long haul feedback in batches. Take your total number of customers (N) and divide them by the number of working days (D) in a quarter, or whatever length of time works for you. Then batch feedback to maintain a consistent and steady flow of feedback to your frontline over the course of a quarter.
Seasonal batching = Number of Customers (N) / Working Days in a Quarter (D)
Say you have 2400 customers you want to contact over three months, which is sixty working days. So the equation becomes 2400 / 60 = 40, so that means for every day within a quarter, you want to send out 40 feedback surveys.
All in Small Doses
Bigger is not always better. Generally, customer feedback surveys should be short, sweet and to the point after each customer interaction. Smaller pieces of more frequent feedback always wins over long, boring quarterly surveys. Why?
Easier for the Customer: Customers are more likely to engage with surveys that are short, sweet, to the point (and fun!).
Easier for Frontline Teams: Small soundbites of customer feedback is highly effective for guiding coaching conversations and recognizing achievement. In small doses of achievable, actionable feedback, frontline teams know exactly what they’re nailing and what they can do that day to improve the customer experience.
Easier for Execs: Short, streamlined data points in regular doses are the best for discovering trends and uncovering blind spots.
Timing is tricky, but don’t let it trick you. With a combination of fresh and long haul feedback, you can have a steady influx of customer sentiment that can be used to coach frontline teams and optimize the customer experience.
Now that you know when to ask for customer feedback, learn about how to gather feedback, using our real-time feedback tool.