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CX Innovators - Ken Peterson of QuestionPro

CX Innovators: Ken Peterson, QuestionPro

Creating Empathy at Scale Using Technology Tools and Thoughtful Process Improvements

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Ken Peterson is President, Customer Experience, at QuestionPro, the Austin, Texas-based provider of online survey software that enables users to create surveys, analyze results, and visualize the data gleaned from customer insights. The company has more than 2.5 million users in 100 countries, serving all sizes of businesses, academic institutions, and individual users. Peterson joined QuestionPro about 3 years ago with a background in market research and consulting, having previously held senior roles at Nepa AB, Ipsos, and Marketing Metrics.

He was drawn to QuestionPro because he found that technical people were often not thinking enough about human interaction, but rather were focusing more on automation. Peterson was determined to help make survey findings something frontline employees could engage with, interact with, and know what to do with. He asserts that there is an important balance between pushing improvement initiatives to the top of the organization, while also pushing actionable insights to the front lines. Underscoring the theme of actionable feedback, Peterson says, “I’m not in the camp of ‘the customer is always right,’ because sometimes they’re wrong.”

Ken Peterson, President, Customer Experience, QuestionPro

Most Significant CX Challenges

Peterson adds that some CX and customer insights tools have been around for decades, but we still hear the same complaints: “We’re producing results, but nothing changes.” Sometimes, he says, organizations get caught in a vicious cycle, when the important priority is to establish effective improvement loops. “Sometimes, people get caught up in their ways,” offers Peterson, and the dynamic applies to management, employees, and customers alike. The importance of the improvement loop was the motivation for QuestionPro to develop its NPS+ methodology, a metric that is designed to identify the reasons behind the ratings.

Peterson says the priority for organizations should be to provide frontline employees with enough information to provide high-quality service, while simultaneously providing management with the right insights and tools to set strategy. Focusing intently on “what do we need to know for the customer?” and identifying root causes should be the essence of an effective CX initiative, he adds, noting that “customers can innovate, too.”

CX Success Stories

Peterson recounts three key customer case studies that he feels are a good representation of CX success in different ways and across diverse industry sectors.

National Independent Soccer Association (NISA), with whom QuestionPro has partnered over the past 2 years. NISA is an emerging league, with some new teams coming in, even as others fail to survive. NISA officials wanted to know what they were doing right or wrong, and needed to recognize what was important to fans, including their awareness and perception of sponsors, a factor that had not previously been top-of-mind. QuestionPro worked with the league to simplify what they were measuring and assess how it would affect the organization, both at the league and club levels. As a result of the initiative, all stakeholders are now on board with the measurement and feedback loop, and the program has engaged management, ticket sales teams (for better targeting of customers), and sponsorship sales (targeting specific brands). In the process, the league has become more in touch with the diverse set of elements that compose the fan experience, and NISA now has a more holistic view of what fans prefer.

Prepaid Legal (formerly Legal Shield), a lawyer referral network that was having problems with lawyer churn. The organization had previously been paying more attention to end customers as opposed to lawyers within the network, and QuestionPro helped them take a more comprehensive look at all their stakeholders. As a result of implementing new knowledge resources, customers were able to obtain answers to straightforward questions faster, and the attorneys were appreciative of not being bombarded with simple requests. Prepaid Legal was able to improve its lawyer retention rate because they are getting the support they need, and customers are more satisfied because they are getting the service they want.

A major banking institution, which was using a closed-loop system for customer feedback that was going through a third-party software provider. The feedback system had been built for the retail market, rather than banking, and it ran afoul of customer information regulations, which are much tighter in highly-regulated industries such as banking and healthcare than in most consumer-facing industries. QuestionPro worked with the bank to bring the business into compliance and establish a new flow of customer communications. As part of the initiative, the bank was able to streamline resolution of common customer complaints about such matters as overdraft fees, ATM fees, and so forth.

Internal Barriers

Peterson says that he has been talking about the same barrier for about 18 years – the strong linkage between employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction – beginning in 2003, when he worked with a retailer to demonstrate the statistical correlation between these two areas. “There’s still opposition to looking at CX and EX data together,” says Peterson, but as Dash Network has covered extensively, good EX is indeed an essential foundation for effective CX.

He adds that the management of large data sets is also a common barrier for QuestionPro’s clients. “It’s a huge push to get data into a common system, but always difficult to extract meaning insights from that data,” says Peterson. And in the process, data lakes can become “data swamps”. Even organizations with Chief Experience Officers still face the challenge of internal groups not sharing data with each other. “The organization that finds a way to make all that data work together will succeed,” he asserts, and no one group should own the data – the whole company owns the data. “CX is a team sport, and everyone has to feel they are part of that team,” says Peterson, and the most effective CX initiatives are those that empower everyone, including frontline workers, who often get the blame when something goes wrong.

Key Technologies

Peterson states that there are a lot more analytical tools available now than ever before, with strong progress being made in this area over the past 5 years. The automation of internal information sharing has been a huge efficiency gain, he says. And closed-loop feedback systems have been around for a while, but they are really just beginning to be adopted at a larger scale. Another key advancement has been the acceleration of sentiment analysis and the unlocking of insights from qualitative customer feedback, but Peterson cautions that a key problem is that people continue to want to turn qualitative data into quantitative data, a misguided approach in his mind. He also is a big proponent of video feedback, which enables organizations to quickly obtain 30 seconds of customer feedback, then put those clips together into a story. Peterson expects to see a lot more innovation around sentiment analysis in general, adding that organizations “need to be able to create empathy at scale.”

Looking toward technology development and investments over the next few years, particularly those that can foster empathy at scale, Peterson focuses primarily on advancements that are possible using AI tools such as video analytics, natural language processing (NLP), and conversational AI such as ChatGPT. QuestionPro has found ways to integrate Open AI capabilities into surveys, with valuable use cases such as identifying duplicate lines of qualitative feedback, either within a company’s system or on the web. Overall, Peterson admonishes that organizations need to be careful with how they use technology, and ensure that new capabilities are relevant to customers.

Predictions for CX Market Development

When asked to prognosticate on the direction of CX market development, Peterson says he expects to see more growth in the gig economy for customer service agents, adding than an increasing number of agents have never met their colleagues face-to-face. In addition, challenges in the macro economy over the next 2 years are likely to motivate companies to do more with the resources they have. “The CX market heats up every time the economy goes down,” he says. In a resource-constrained environment, Peterson anticipates that there is likely to be more focus on process improvement as opposed to investing in huge technology platforms.

About the CX Innovator Series

The CX Innovator Series is an actionable and educational industry initiative that showcases the best practices that leading end-user executives are using within their organizations to shape their community’s experience. The series is a collaborative effort between Dash Network, Sleeping Giant Labs, and Team Wakabayashi. Using expertly curated executive interviews combined with quantitative research from consumer surveys, the CX Innovator Series provides tangible insights and a deeper understanding of how successful companies are utilizing CX programs resulting in positive business outcomes.

The CX Innovator Series is made possible by support from our lead sponsors: Concentrix, eGain, Tealium, and QuestionPro. If you would be interested in participating in the CX Innovator initiative, either as part of an end-user interview or as a supporting sponsor, please contact us.

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