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The power of unsolicited feedback: Tapping into rich, actionable insights

11 min read
In today's data-driven world, understanding the voice of your customers, prospects, employees, and stakeholders is crucial for any organization striving for success. Here’s why working with unsolicited feedback is the key to driving positive business impact…

Author: Terry Anderson

While solicited feedback from structured data sources like surveys and focus groups is always valuable, unsolicited feedback offers a unique and often untapped reservoir of insights.

In this guide, we’ll explore the strengths and weaknesses of unsolicited feedback, drawing examples from various data sources – and we’ll look at how you can handle unsolicited advice in a way that drives actionable change.

Free guide: Reimagining omnichannel CX in the age of AI

What is unsolicited feedback?

Unsolicited feedback is information that individuals provide without being directly asked for it. This can come from various sources, including social media, third-party review sites like Google Reviews, unsolicited feedback forms, and even call transcripts from contact centers.

The alternative here would be sources of customer feedback like email surveys that implicitly seek to solicit customer insights at specific intervals.

Because this feedback is given voluntarily, often as a result of an interaction, it tends to be rich in detail and intention. People reaching out of their own volition have specific thoughts and clear intentions, making their feedback highly actionable.

Solicited and unsolicited feedback are both useful, but unsolicited customer feedback in particular can give you a more honest, objective view than opinions you directly ask for.

Sources of unsolicited feedback

1. Social media

Platforms like X (formerly Twitter), Facebook, and Instagram are treasure troves of unsolicited advice and feedback. Users often share their experiences, both positive and negative, with brands. Monitoring these channels allows organizations to capture real-time sentiments and respond promptly.

2. Review sites

Sites like Google Reviews, Yelp, and TripAdvisor host vast amounts of unsolicited feedback. Customers often leave detailed reviews about their experiences, providing valuable insights into what works and what needs improvement.

Tread customer review on mobile

3. Unsolicited feedback forms

Feedback and ‘contact us’ forms can be integrated into websites or apps, allowing users to offer feedback at any time. In-store and in-location signage can direct people to engage through these digitally-hosted forms, as well as a central and single point of intake. Unlike solicited customer feedback that prompts people at specific times, this kind of passive form lets customers explain pain points and experience gaps as they arise.

The key is to make these forms easily accessible and user-friendly for both respondents and your business, ensuring that individuals can effortlessly share their thoughts while making it easy for you as a business to manage how the information is routed and leveraged internally.

Contact forms are a great source of insights – the fact that customers can use them at any time means they often provide surprising insights about the experiences they have with your brand.

4. Call transcripts

Contact centers generate a wealth of unsolicited feedback. AI-generated, real-time call transcripts, for example, can be automatically analyzed using speech analytics tools to gauge customer sentiment and identify areas for improvement.

Why is unsolicited feedback important?

Unsolicited feedback is an invaluable source of information about what’s going well and what needs your attention. Businesses can often be unaware of the issues found along the customer journey, so both solicited and unsolicited feedback need to be taken into account when it comes to improving both your CX and EX. Here are a few reasons why the latter is especially important…

1. Rich verbatims

When customers offer unsolicited feedback, it often includes detailed, unfiltered verbatims that provide deep insights into the thoughts and feelings of the respondents in their own words. This richness is particularly evident in social media posts and review site comments.

Whiteboard with a multitude of post its containing notes

2. High intent

People who provide unsolicited feedback usually have a strong motivation to do so. This means their feedback is often highly relevant and actionable, as individuals are motivated to share their experiences and suggestions for improvement.

3. Continuous and real-time

Unlike periodic surveys, unsolicited feedback can be collected continuously in real-time. Ideally, at least some of your unsolicited feedback forums should be available to respondents 24/7 by design. This allows organizations to stay updated with the latest sentiments and trends, enabling timely responses and adjustments.

4. Reflects true sentiments

Because customers providing unsolicited feedback do so voluntarily, it tends to reflect genuine opinions and emotions. This authenticity can provide a more accurate picture of customer and employee sentiments than solicited feedback.

Managing the noise in unsolicited feedback

While unsolicited feedback is incredibly valuable, it can also be noisy. To extract actionable insights, organizations need intelligent ways to read, interpret, and categorize this data. Here are some strategies:

1. Natural Language Processing (NLP)

NLP tools can analyze large volumes of unstructured data – like the text and audio from customer conversations – and identify key themes and sentiments. This helps in filtering out irrelevant information and focusing on actionable insights.

2. Categorization and sentiment analysis

Organize feedback into categories such as product issues, service quality, and user experience. This allows different teams within the organization to address specific areas of concern. Tools that analyze the sentiment of feedback can also help prioritize issues based on the level of positive or negative sentiment expressed.

4. Automated quality management

For call transcripts, automated quality management systems can evaluate calls for adherence to standards, helping to triage issues and improve agent performance.

Examples of effective use of unsolicited feedback

1. Social media monitoring

A company monitors X for mentions of its brand. A customer posts about a recurring issue with a product. The company quickly responds, offering assistance and publicly addressing the problem, demonstrating responsiveness and commitment to customer satisfaction.

2. Google reviews analysis

A restaurant chain analyzes reviews on Google to identify common complaints about wait times. By addressing this issue, they improve customer satisfaction and reduce negative reviews.

Various customer reviews from online review sites

3. Website feedback form

An e-commerce site has a prominently placed feedback form. Customers frequently provide suggestions for new features. The company uses this feedback to prioritize its development roadmap, ensuring new features align with customer desires.

For physical locations, contact forms let customers remark on things that they wouldn’t be inclined to make a call about, or that you might not want your team manning phones for – but that can improve CX all the same. So that might be something like a pothole in the parking lot, or bathroom light being broken.

4. Call transcript analysis in contact centers

A telecom company uses speech analytics to monitor customer calls. They identify a common issue causing frustration and train their agents to handle it more effectively, improving customer satisfaction and reducing call handling time.

5. Diagnostic tool for identifying known unknowns

A company notices frequent mentions of “purple elephants” in unsolicited feedback. They weren’t aware that this was a concern for customers. By adding a question about “purple elephants” in their solicited surveys, they can gauge the extent of this issue and its impact on the overall customer experience.

Addressing the challenges of unsolicited customer feedback

Despite its benefits, unsolicited feedback can present challenges. One significant issue is ensuring the feedback is actionable and not just a collection of random comments. Here are some strategies to address this:

1. Setting expectations

When collecting unsolicited feedback, be clear about how the information will be used and whether respondents can expect a follow-up. This transparency helps manage expectations and build trust.

2. Prioritizing feedback

Not all feedback will be equally important. Prioritize feedback based on its relevance and the potential impact on your business. This ensures that the most critical issues are addressed first.

3. Integration with business processes

Ensure that feedback is integrated into relevant business processes. For example, product development teams should have access to feedback about product issues, while customer service teams should see comments related to service quality.

4. Using automation technologies

Implement technologies that can automate the routing of unsolicited feedback to the appropriate stakeholders in real time. This is especially important for high-priority issues.

For instance, in the restaurant industry, if someone reports a potential food poisoning issue, the system should automatically flag this feedback and route it to the relevant stakeholders immediately to minimize response time and address the issue promptly.

The importance of privately managed feedback channels

One additional benefit of effectively managing unsolicited advice and feedback is the ability to control and mitigate potential public relations issues. By providing easy-to-access, privately managed feedback channels, brands can ensure that customers and stakeholders have a direct line of communication.

This approach reduces the likelihood of individuals turning to public platforms like TikTok, Facebook, or third-party review sites to air their grievances. Uncontrolled negative feedback on these platforms can quickly go viral, potentially causing significant reputational damage.

By capturing and addressing issues privately, organizations can protect their reputation, provide timely resolutions, and build stronger relationships with their audiences.

Using customer feedback to drive change

Unsolicited feedback is a powerful tool for any organization looking to gain deeper insights into the experiences and sentiments of its customers, employees, and other stakeholders. By leveraging the richness and authenticity of employee and customer feedback, businesses can make informed decisions, improve their offerings, and ultimately enhance overall satisfaction.

To fully harness the potential of unsolicited feedback, organizations need to invest in the right tools and processes for collecting, analyzing, and acting on this data. Whether through social media monitoring, review site analysis, feedback forms, or contact center analytics, the goal is to create a continuous, real-time feedback loop that drives meaningful and timely improvements.

By embracing unsolicited feedback, businesses can stay ahead of the curve, respond proactively to emerging trends, and build stronger, more responsive relationships with their audiences.

In a world where 85% of all customer and employee feedback is unsolicited and unstructured, tapping into this rich source of information is not just an opportunity – it’s a necessity for sustained success.

Free guide: Reimagining omnichannel CX in the age of AI