SurveySparrow CEO chats about the need for conversational approaches to customer feedback

Shihab Muhammed talks about the firm's recent tool to assist with 360-degree employee reviews, and defends NPS as a CX metric

Shihab Muhammed was working for a company that sent out one of those regular monthly “pulse” surveys to check in on how employees were feeling. His reaction was much like those of employees everywhere: indifference.

“They were these boring forms,” the founder and CEO of SurveySparrow, a provider of chat survey software based in Palo Alto, recalled. “I realized I was very active in platforms like WhatsApp, or wherever chat is possible, but I was not answering most of my surveys.”

Muhammed had come from Zoho, a maker of office productivity software for small business, and later worked as one of the early employees at FreshDesk, which provides applications to support customer service departments in large companies. 

Since SurveySparrow launched three years ago, Muhammed and his team have been on a mission to replicate the ease of chat experiences to create research tools that help in everything from customer feedback to an assessment of employee experiences. It claims to increase the survey completion rate by 40 percent with what it calls a Conversational User Interface (CUI) to share engaging, mobile-first surveys that offer a chat-like experience. 

The company’s tools aren’t just for external-facing uses, however. Last month, for example, SurveySparrow launched its  360-degree assessment solution, part of a broader employee experience suite, which is designed to help managers, leaders and individuals within an organization to get a better understanding of their strengths, blind spots and areas of improvement.

The release is timely, Muhammed pointed out, given that many organizations have moved to having their employees work from home. This includes SurveySparrow itself, which also has offices in Kochi, India and recently announced it would be extending its remote work policy and offering a salary hike to eligible members of its team to boost morale. On the other hand, the working from home (WFH) shift has made it harder, in some cases, to have visibility into employee performance and to identify areas for improvement, he added. 

“Sometimes 360 employee surveys are seen almost as a sort of penalty plan instead of an improvement plan,” Muhammed told 360 Magazine, “but we intuitively know that if employees are happy they will actually do their best for customers, and then everything (in terms of metrics) will go up.”

Defending the viability of NPS

Other pieces of SurveySparrow’s employe experience suite include pre-hiring surveys and exit surveys. Its CX applications, meanwhile, can assist companies focused on specific metrics such as Net Promoter Score (NPS), segmenting responses based on custom fields and mapping feedback based on customer journeys.

Shihab Muhammed SurveySparrow
Shihab Muhammed, CEO,
SurveySparrow

NPS has faced some criticism in recent months, particularly in a Wall Street Journal article that suggested it doesn’t provide meaningful insight into a company’s rapport with customers or its future prospects. However  Muhammed said he believes it remains a viable place for many CX strategies to start.

“The best part of NPS is it is a single quotient. That actually simplifies a lot of things, because automatically you’re getting a score to act upon,” he said, suggesting firms could send customers specific NPS-related surveys once a quarter about areas where they may need to improve. “If you can do that across every touchpoint you’re doing to see progress.”

Much like marketing technology or ‘martech,’ CX tools are proliferating rapidly, which could make buying decisions for those in charge of shaping or improving experiences more complex and cumbersome. This is why Muhammed said SurveySparrow — which already serves more than 20,000 customers including FedEx, Deloitte Digital and Siemens, among others — is investing its R&D to be as comprehensive as possible and to integrate well with other solutions. That way its customers will only be doing minor configurations instead of changing systems entirely when they want to add new features or functionality.

“Lot of players are coming with niche products — they’ll only help manage your NPS or customer effort score, or they only do surveys,” he said. “You need to go for a platform which will help you improve at every touchpoint.”

The importance of nurturing and managing customer reviews

Right now, a lot of the key stakeholders within SurveySparrow’s customers come from areas such as sales and marketing, according to Muhammed, though more dedicated CX roles and teams are emerging. He also cited customer support professionals as the lead in many cases. This is only going to increase, he added. As more organizations switch from a business model based on discrete manufacturing and production to one based on subscriptions, Muhammed said customer feedback mechanisms, such as reviews, will be critical for organizations to nurture and manage in order to stay competitive.

“Before you’re going to order something, or taking an Uber taxi, you’re looking at the reviews. Even I if wanted to book a vacation, you’re looking the reviews. In most cases for customers now, the switching cost is too low for them to stay with a vendor they don’t like,” he said. “The biggest factor for desiring or choosing which service you want will be the experience.”

While a lot of CX work can be based on what happens in the early stages of the journey — when they’re first becoming aware of the products and services a firm offers, for example — there needs to be an equal amount of emphasis on what happens from the moment they sign on, Muhammed said.

“If you see from your NPS data that someone is really happy about you, that is the best moment to ask for a review,” he said. “There should be an easy way to be able to ask them to take the next step, like putting a review on your Google (listings) page.”

SurveySparrow has raised $1.4 million in seed funding from Prime Venture Partners. It recently ranked #1 in G2’s Fastest Growing Products 2020.

Back in India, meanwhile, the company announced it has launched a COVID-19 self-help portal and ready-to-use form catalog to help connect employees with organizations in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. SurveySparrow said it intends the portal to help state, local governments, NGOs, employees, and individuals to communicate with organizations more effectively. 

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