Whenever I do customer feedback projects, I start every report with the quote that “Feedback is a gift.”
I do this because it seems that the human brain translates “customer feedback” to customer criticism. That’s not surprising, From our earliest days, we seek approval from parents, teachers, bosses and now — customers.
I get it.
After all, you started this business to be in control of your time, your life and your destiny. And now, you are opening the floodgates for criticism!?
Why Customer Feedback is Important
Customer feedback HELPS business — it will never hurt your business. It might hurt your feelings, it might make you think you screwed up — but it will only make you better.
Engaged customers are loyal customers
Time after time, research shows that engaging with your customers increase their loyalty. Think of feedback as a back and forth conversation between you and your customers.
Gartner research recently discovered that collecting customer feedback can increase upselling and cross-selling success rates by 15% to 20%.
So, not only will customers come back to your business, they will buy additional products and services that you offer.
In my personal experience with doing in-depth-interviews with customers, in every instance where I asked questions about a product or service that my client offers, at least a handful of customers exclaimed “Do they do that? I didn’t know they offered that?” This is a sales opportunity!
Customer feedback provides specific improvement ideas for your product or service
One of the wonderful aspect of gathering customer feedback is the opportunity to gain customer insights around your product or service.
Consider the aspects of how you deliver your product or service. Over the years, you’ve developed systems and processes because you think that it’s what your customers want. But when you gather customer feedback, you can discover that some of your processes aren’t really delivering value.
For example, in one customer feedback session, I asked a customer how important it was that they saw a sales rep regularly. That particular customer said it was nice, but not necessary. In fact, when we expanded the research to a broader group of customers, a significant number of customers said the same thing!
As a result, we were able to reduce the number of personal sales visits — which saved a ton of money on travel expenses. Instead we sent an email outlining the specific products that were available for sale and added a call to action to order the product directly from the email. And guess what happened? Sales increased, costs decreased and customers were happier.
Collecting customer feedback actually increases sales
Back in 2002, the Harvard Business Review conducted a fascinating piece of research. The results were astonishing! They found that by simply gathering feedback, 30% of the respondents opened new accounts.! In other words, the act of doing a customer satisfaction surveys increased sales.
A year after the survey was conducted, the customers we surveyed were more than three times as likely to have opened new accounts, were less than half as likely to have defected, and were more profitable than the customers who hadn’t been surveyed.
Customer Feedback Isn’t About You — It’s About Your Customers
Let’s just admit that when you hear the word “feedback”, you instantly make it about you. But it isn’t about you. When your customers give you feedback, they are telling you what they want and need to choose your business over your competitor.
In fact, the reason that getting piece of feedback from your customers is an opportunity to improve your product.
Rejoice at Negative Feedback
Yes, I said rejoice — and be glad! Instead of looking at customer feedback as some kind of grade, look are gathering customer feedback as a treasure hunt.
User feedback is a hunt for unhappy customers who you can contact immediately and fix what’s wrong.
Negative feedback is an opportunity to uncover pain points you hadn’t considered. With those in hand, you can create product development projects that address those pain points and make you more competitive.
Informal Customer Feedback Methods You’ll Actually Enjoy
Gather customer success stories
Think of it this way, if customers weren’t happy and successful using your product or service, then they would not purchase from you again. So if you have repeat customers — they have success tories.
Put a process in place for gathering those success stories. An easy way to do that is to hit your social media channels and regularly ask for people to share their successes. For example, you can call it “Success Saturday” and ask people to contribute their stories as a post or in a video. Reward those customers with a discount or some special offer.
Engage on social media; ask for ideas, answer questions, solve problems
Use those same social media channels as a focus group. Share what questions you have or what decisions you’re looking at making. Ask your customer community about features they’d like to see.
Ask your customer community to share any ideas they have. Also ask them to share problems or difficulties they are having with your product. Your goal should be to dig for potential improvements. Because if one person is asking, there are probably ten or more who are thinking the same thing.
Interview your customer support team
Your customer service and support team gets a daily earful of what can be better. Schedule a regular meeting with your support team and encourage them to share the questions customer have and the problems they are struggling with.
Every one of those conversations is an opportunity to improve your product or service.
Dig for what people say in their word of mouth referrals
I’m constantly being asked to refer vendors and experts. One thing that never happens is that a vendor asks me HOW I refer them. This is more important than you might think.
When a customer or client said that they just referred you to a friend, be curious and ask them “What do you say to people when you refer us?” This simple question will reveal what that particular customer sees as your biggest strength and a reason that their friend or colleague should choose you.
Ask specific questions as part of your normal conversation
We’ve all been there. You’re enjoying your meal at a restaurant (or not), and the server comes to you and asks how things are. If your meal is fine, or if you’re in the middle of a conversation, you say “Fine.” They stop there and go away. This gives you nothing.
Instead, think about a specific area of your business or customer experience you want to improve and simply ask people for specific feedback about that one thing. For example, “We’ve been taking steps at serving you faster. Did you get your food fast enough?”
If you don’t want to be specific about a product, service or feature, simply walk up to your customer, start a conversation and then ask them “What is one thing we can do to improve your experience with us?” Then shut up and listen.
If You Love Your Business Then Embrace Customer Feedback
Maybe you don’t love your customers, but I’m thinking you love your business and the revenue it brings. And if you do, then embrace customer feedback!
It’s natural to avoid getting back feedback. No one wants to hear that they aren’t doing a good job. But when customers give you any feedback, they are sharing their feedback because they care about you. They love your business and they want to keep buying from you.
Embrace feedback. It’s a gift that will help you improve your business, uncover what sets you apart and keep customers coming back for more.