When was the last time someone in your life told you that your efforts fell short of a desired goal? Regardless of the exact date or time, this interaction probably left you feeling irked, disappointed, and dejected.
Certainly, sulking over these emotions is no way to get through the day, especially when you have a business to run. Still, it is not as if you can wave a magic wand and prevent customers from being dissatisfied. What are we supposed to do about this?
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos provided a solid answer to this question: “We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.”
Of course, a quick Google search will show you an endless number of methods for attempting to accomplish this. How are you supposed to know which of these will benefit you and your company? Thankfully, a lineup of well-versed businesspeople has agreed to offer practical advice for tackling this beast.
So, without further ado, here is how to gather constructive feedback from customers and apply it successfully.
How Do You Gather Constructive Feedback?
1. Social Media Research
Before you and your company can act on customer feedback, you’ll need more than a few examples. Plus, you can’t rely on just one feedback channel. To receive a full understanding of how your customers feel about your company, you must connect with a variety of customers in a variety of ways. Scouring social media for mentions of your company can be an extremely helpful approach.
“There is something about posting on social media that gives human beings confidence they don’t usually have to share their true feelings,” says Cody Candee, Founder and CEO of Bounce Luggage Storage. “This can be used to your advantage if you search for your company online. Seeing other people bad mouth your company isn’t fun, but it can be a great way to learn about what you need to work on.”
From community pages about interests related to your products to the lone social media user yelling into the digital void, there is no shortage of people offering what may be valuable opinions online.
This method is far more traditional than scouring social media for information. In fact, you are likely familiar with the survey process in some way, shape, or form as a staple in the business community. Surveying is the simple process of reaching out to a previous customer and asking them a series of questions related to their experiences with your company and products.
“It’s smart to believe in surveys because the consumers who choose to engage with your survey are showing you that they care enough to provide responses,” says Trina Johnson, CEO of Blue Forest Farms. “This reaction depends on a well-crafted survey, but it’s not rocket science.”
As with many solutions found in our world today, there are technological ways to send out, analyze, and appropriately react to surveys and the information you get from respondents. Data like this could make waves for your company as you continue to grow.
3. Personal Interviews
No two methods for securing customer feedback are the same. Each will come with its own set of pros and cons. While finding the time (and people) to ask relevant questions about their experience with your company will be expensive, there is a high chance it will yield information your company can build on. This is due to the human tendency to be vastly more open and honest with other humans over digital systems.
“If you could have a face-to-face conversation with a large portion of my clients regarding their thoughts on my company, any good businessperson probably would,” says Matt Miller, Founder and CEO of Embroker. “Still, that’s not feasible from a time or financial perspective. Instead, you can settle for as many of these conversations as possible. Why? Clients want to be heard, not to feel like their opinion is a numbered response.”
However, showing up to these conversations empty-handed will not provide the results you need. You must design a set of thoughtful questions prior to getting started. Otherwise, you are setting yourself and the interviewees up for a directionless conversation.
4. Implement and Observe AI Chat
There is a high likelihood your company has made use of live chat on your corporate website in the past. If not, it might be something worth looking into — but that is a matter for another day. Instead, turn your attention to the recent developments in live chat technology – artificial intelligence. That’s right: You can now have a “bot” run a portion (or possibly even all) of your website or social media live chat. Doing so eliminates the wait time for users and removes the inherent limitations of a scheduled chatroom service.
“Despite the best efforts imaginable, you will never understand every customer’s mindset … but you can leave the door open to more information by using AI chat,” says Brian Munce, Managing Director at Gestalt Brand Lab. “A simple question asked by an online stranger could create monumental positive change for your company.”
Be certain this is not your only method for collecting customer feedback, as you do not want the public to perceive your company as completely autonomous. While AI is certainly a strong ally, it cannot replace human sincerity.
5. Don’t Forget To Incentivize!
Ultimately, your goal is to connect with customers in a more meaningful way than a simple transaction. Hopefully, this will lead to growth for your company. But, you might find many customers are either hesitant or dismissive of responding to any of the methods described above. Obviously, these are not the most helpful of positions. To counter, give the customer something in return for their opinion. Whether it’s a discount or something else of value, this act has shown to be beneficial for many companies out there.
“Everyone loves free stuff; that’s just the way it is — especially when the stuff is directly related to their existing interests,” says Chris Bridges, CEO of VITAL Card. “Even if a customer only answers your questions to get free stuff, that feed back is a big benefit to your company.”
Feel free to get creative with this aspect of gathering feedback! You do not have to limit yourself to the cliché five percent off coupon. Exclusive access to new products is a very popular method. So, too are the large-scale, name-drawing-based giveaways. No matter what you choose, ensure you receive quality feedback in return.
How Should You Apply Customer Feedback?
1. You Know Where to Start
After you have sorted the wheat from the chaff in your customer responses, you will have a better understanding of which issues need to be tackled before anything else. Any issue left unchecked is ill-advised, but a potentially debilitating issue should be addressed as soon as possible.
“Being a business owner can feel like you are doing one small side quest after the next simply because there is so much to do,” says Soji James, Lead Expert Certified personal trainer at 1AND1. “Just remember that the customer knows what they want, so start working on whatever issue they are communicating about the loudest.”
2. Improve Your Products
Customer feedback can help inspire additions and improvements to your existing products. Maybe it was an offhand comment they made about a specific feature. Perhaps it was a direct question about why it does (or does not) perform a function. Either way, customer feedback is a great source of inspiration.
“An outsider’s perspective should never be overlooked, especially when that outsider is your customer,” says Andrew Meyer, CEO of Arbor. “All it takes is the right idea at the right time to revolutionize your products.”
At first, some of these perspectives may not make the most sense to you. But pay attention to specific trends. At the end of the day, your company’s mission is to meet demand and failing to see that demand could be fatal.
3. Better Customer Service
Generally speaking, the more a person is exposed to an experience, the more comfortable they become. This is absolutely true in customer feedback: The more you do it, the better you will become at responding to it — and your employees will, too.
“The software options for customer feedback management are endless, and most of them will create immediate impact,” says Victor Mathieux, Co-Founder and CEO of Miracle Brand. “I can’t say enough about how much more efficient my team has become since we started doing more analyzing via software and less speculating.”
A business is like an engine in that the individual parts making up the engine must be operating in unison. If this is not the case, the whole engine fails to operate. But, if they all work together flawlessly, peak efficiency happens. Getting a close handle on your customer feedback will push your business to high efficiency, so to speak.
4. Own Your Mistakes
Have you ever positively reacted to a negative mistake you made by saying, “Wow, I’m so glad I did that”? Probably not. In fact, you have likely hidden some of your mistakes from others. None of this will fly with your customers. So, when customers let you know of a mistake, meet the issue head-on.
“Willfully ignoring an error made by your company will hurt every relationship involved with that error, even if you don’t realize it at first,” says Asker A Ahmed. Director of iProcess Global Research. “It’s a reflection of your character, and customers want to see high-quality character.”
Your customer support agents should be taught this practice as well. Hopefully, the number of your mistakes is few and far between. When they do arise, be sure to treat them as priority number one.
5. Positive Feedback = More Customers
Given the immensity of this writing, you may have found yourself asking, “Should I be focused on turning negative feedback into positive feedback?” The answer to that question is an unequivocal yes. This is true for as many reasons as there are grains of sand, but the largest of all is that good reviews mean more customers.
“Every product out there has about 10 competitors doing the exact thing, and that doesn’t feel like an exaggeration,” says Susan Kim Shaffer, President and Co-Founder of Pneuma Nitric Oxide. “Your online reviews and other public perception is the difference maker here, so don’t slack on restoring damaged customer relationships, no matter how small the issue is.”
This aspect is the real and true act of going above and beyond for the customer. In many customer service cases, it may seem like the company lost the transaction on paper. However, if the customer is happy, the company comes out on top.
As you can see, there are so many options at your disposal for gathering and applying customer feedback. Truthfully, these are only a few of the options out there, so do not be afraid to do more exploring and experimenting. As you do, dwell on the words of Warren Buffet, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and 5 minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”