CRM Analytics Takes More Than Analytics

A few years ago, during an important business trip to Florida, I had one of the worst hotel stays of my life.

I intended to write a letter to the hotel chain -- which I won't name here, but it is a famous one -- after I returned home. But the chain beat me to the punch, emailing me a lengthy (10 pages!) customer survey.

I was excited that the chain cared about what I had to say. And I was pleased at the prospect of vindication -- that the chain, once it learned about my horrendous experience, would do something to make it all right, even if only in the form of a sincere apology from an executive.

I promptly went to work on the in-depth survey, including multiple free-response questions. I diligently and thoroughly related the details of my abysmal stay, and I submitted the survey.

After that, I never heard from the chain about it again.

To this day, I refuse to stay at that particular hotel brand, and I prefer not to book at other hotels owned by that company.

Unfortunately, this hotel chain is not an aberration. Many companies routinely ask customers for feedback -- some via extensive, in-depth surveys, as the chain did -- but never follow up with the responding customer.

The great thing about surveys is that you get to ask your customers exactly how they feel about you. Presumably, as a business, you would want to use the information you get from the responses to change the way you do business.

Logically, that starts with winning over the hearts and minds of the people who don't like you.

When a customer gets upset and lets you know about it, that isn't a problem. That's an opportunity. Most upset customers speak silently with their wallets, so making things right with them becomes an impossibility. However, if you learn about a customer's problems with your business, you have the unique chance to re-instill confidence in your ability to satisfy that customer. If you do this right, you can give the customer even more confidence in you than the customer ever had before -- by making how seriously you take satisfaction quite clear.

Let's forget data mining for a moment. The whole point of analytics is to give yourself all the data you need to make your business the best it can be. It is inexcusable for a dissatisfied customer to be left completely ignored.

It can take anywhere from five to 10 new customers to replace the cost of losing an old one. Increasing customer retention by just 5 percent can increase your profits exponentially.

Yes, you can use the data from CRM analytics to improve operations generally and keep from repeating mistakes. But the "textbook" uses of analytics should not cloud the fact that you can and should use this data to fix the mistakes you already have made -- with already dissatisfied customers. Analytics is not just about changing the future. You can use this tool to rectify the past.

There's little point in spending time, money, and resources on surveys and analytics if you're not going to use those tools to their fullest advantage. If you don't even acknowledge a customer who reports getting upset, sooner or later that customer will become an ex-customer.

Joe Stanganelli, Attorney & Marketer

Joe Stanganelli is founder and principal of Beacon Hill Law, a Boston-based general practice law firm.  His expertise on legal topics has been sought for several major publications, including U.S. News and World Report and Personal Real Estate Investor Magazine. 

Joe is also a communications consultant.  He has been working with social media for many years -- even in the days of local BBSs (one of which he served as Co-System Operator for), well before the term "social media" was invented.

From 2003 to 2005, Joe ran Grandpa George Productions, a New England entertainment and media production company. He has also worked as a professional actor, director, and producer.  Additionally, Joe is a produced playwright.

When he's not lawyering, marketing, or social-media-ing, Joe writes scripts, songs, and stories.

He also finds time to lose at bridge a couple of times a month.

Follow Joe on Twitter: @JoeStanganelli

Also, check out his blog .

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One positive thing
  • 9/23/2011 2:05:48 PM

Hi Joe,

Well, at least one thing came out of this. A great blog post. But agree with your point. What you do with the data you get, no matter what this data might be, is what's important. But one more thing should be noted. Let's say you're the only one to have a bad experience. Let's say they have no intention of making the changes you suggest because you are just not in their core customer group. What's important is to let you know that the data you've provided is important...because it is! It's part of the whole that they are observing. You've helped them by providing data even if it is data they ignore. Ignoring you is the real mistake.

Re: One positive thing
  • 9/23/2011 2:10:51 PM

Indeed, Shawn.  Even if a customer's experience is an aberration, or even if it is something that most customers would not have a problem with (or even enjoy), some kind of response (even a basic apology) is necessitated.

Otherwise, if you ask for feedback and do nothing visible or transparent with it, you look disingenuous.  Worse, you have apparently put the dissatisfied customer through a lengthy task (not to mention the ordeal of reliving a negative experience) and offered the customer nothing in return to show for it.  It all seems for naught.

Unfortunately, people in the analytics field are often more concerned with impressing executives than with impressing customers.

Re: One positive thing
  • 9/23/2011 3:49:37 PM

Joe, I'm mulling this over and not sure where I side. Absolutely no question about it, if you've taken the time to fill out a 10-page survey and provide thoughtful responses, then you deserve acknowledgement of your effort (and in this case especially so since your experience was so negative I would say a phone call would be appropriate). However, for more routine survey responses -- like two I filled out two nights ago (one placed on each of two laptops I was having a Comcast wireless tech help troubleshoot home networking problems) -- if I were to receive a "thanks for participating" email, I wouldn't give it too much credence or the company too much credit. It'd have been automated, and probably set up by the survey vendor not even from Comcast itself. Now, if a month from now Comcast sent me a report that said, based on our research of customer surveys, our tech support staff is horrible and here's the data to prove it and so here's how we've reorganized to help improve our helpfulness, well, that'd be another story! 



Re: One positive thing
  • 9/23/2011 3:54:53 PM

Well put, Beth.

No, I wouldn't expect a response to be necessary for run-of-the-mill responses, but anything that is an aberration or distinctly negative requires some human response.

And yes, a "we've been horrible, based on this data, but now we've fixed it thanks to customers like you!" would be pretty neat.

Re: One positive thing
  • 9/23/2011 4:05:34 PM

We'd all fall over if we received such a call or email, though -- no? 

Interestingly in my Comcast experience, I was more than glad to fill out the two identical surveys since the guy was helpful. He didn't necessarily solve my problem, but he gave it his best and got me at least temporarily up and running. Then, last night, I had to work with Comcast again -- having installed a new wireless router. The entire tech support call-in process had changed one night to the next. It was crazy. "We can't do that any longer per new policy implemented today. I have to route you through to tiered support." Urr. Also, I didn't get a survey planted on my laptop although this guy had remote control, too. Instead, he emailed it to me. Also, come to think of it, gone was the "would you mind taking a two minute phone survey when you're done" prompt I'd heard over and over in all my calls to Comcast over the last several nights. Strange.




Re: One positive thing
  • 9/23/2011 11:12:50 PM


A weird situation to be sure. I wonder if in this case the "new policy" itself was based on customer feedback or some analysis based on metrics of the existing policy and its effectiveness. Sometimes a data-driven solution may not, by definition, be one tailored to the preferences of an individual but rather to the overall efficiency of an organization. Still it's hard to understand how the policy change you describe could be particularly helpful to anyone.  

Re: One positive thing
  • 9/26/2011 10:34:44 PM

I wonder if there was chaos in the call center with all the changes. Maybe the reps knew of upcoming changes, maybe they didn't. Either way it sounds like an awful way to send the evening.

Re: One positive thing
  • 9/26/2011 11:58:44 PM


Whatever the reason for the policy change, it seems the customer service part got totally lost here.

Re: One positive thing
  • 9/29/2011 12:24:33 PM

By sending out a survery, especially to a disgruntled customer, without a response is useless. Its actually going to cause more of a problem.

If they're willing to send out a survey for satisfaction, go the next step and review what was wrong and follow up with the users. Even if its a canned e-mail saying what's going to be done to fix some of the issues that were described.

Lost Opportunity
  • 9/23/2011 7:32:52 PM

@Joe   Nice Post. I can totally understand where you are coming from, and it is depressing to know that most companies do just that - ignore real customer feedback. One would think that most companies would understand the key to building a strong customer base is not the pampering of the good customers ( though that is certainly not something to ignore either) but really addressing the issues of dissatisfied customers.  

Not taking advantage of the chance to address shortcomings, will probably do more harm than good in the long run.

Re: Lost Opportunity
  • 9/23/2011 11:57:21 PM


Reflecting on this a little more there are really kind of two issues here. 1.) really considering the feedback of a customer who had a very bad experience and was willing to give them details about it  2.) the poor customer service involved in not reaching out to this customer whether they intended to act upon the feedback or not. In this case, it's difficult to make much of a judgment on the first point but clearly on the second it was a huge missed opportunity.

Re: Lost Opportunity
  • 9/24/2011 12:29:16 AM

@Shawn    Absolutely. This unfortunately happens far too often.  Customer feedback is the easiest form of clean data a company can accrue - yes sure the obvious issue of data input can cloud the picture, but on the face - the data is pure and genuine and for the most part ignored.

I am sure there are some companies out there that do an above average job of addressing this type of data. I think of Virgin Atlantic for instance, though I have no hard evidence, this company does seem to respond to customer feedback.

But these types of companies are for the most part very rare and most often the exception to the rule.

Validity of the Survey
  • 9/29/2011 12:21:03 PM

I'd be interested to see what metric validity of these surverys? Honestly, I normally only fill out surveys if the service wasn't mediocre. This meaning that I'll normaly only go out of my way to respond to one if something is REALLY bador REALLY good, but if its average I don't normally reply.

How do you think this effects the overall validity?