We’ve been preoccupied with our image since we learned of our reflections in streams and pools of water. As humanity evolved, we’ve learned to polish reflective materials all the way until glass was invented during the middle ages. The rest, as they say – is history.
Avoiding mirrors for any length of time would be an impossible task for most of us. I’m not talking about going to the washroom with your head down. You can catch a glimpse of your reflection without even noticing by using your phone, while driving your car, or walking by countless windows and storefronts on a daily basis.
Lately, I’ve been drawing parallels between people, businesses and the need for self-assurance. If mirrors are objects of personal observation and grooming, shouldn’t brands also be aware of how they come across? A mirror gives us useful information and knowledge due to its function as a feedback tool in letting us know about our appearance.
Without a mirror, we risk looking unkempt which can hurt our personal and professional images. Businesses need customer feedback for the same reason to survive. Without it, companies lose momentum their customers have established for them, including opportunities to build trust and valuable connections.
Here are the “mirror principles” and how you can apply them to better understand your customers:
1. It’s descriptive
A mirror gives me a very detailed description about me. There is no judgment or opinion being passed around as part of this description. Ultimately it is up to me to understand and interpret what is being shown to me. When listening to customer feedback, do we understand everything that’s being said? Is there an open, productive discussion or process to let team members know of the pain points outlined by the customer?
Before you start talking with your customers, you must outline and understand what information you want to collect during your conversation. Perhaps you’re launching a new product and want to improve it before launch. Perhaps your website traffic isn’t converting and you’d like to understand why. Either way you must establish a general feedback goal before you ask for that feedback.
2. It’s specific
When I look in the mirror, it gives me very specific type of feedback. It tells me that a new pimple has emerged on my chin. It is not vague in telling me that there’s “something on my chin”, it clearly demonstrates what the problem is. In the same way, your questions, including their execution should be as specific as possible. Customer responses are going to be only as good as the questions themselves.
The biggest benefit of customer feedback is the honest, actionable information you can use for the betterment of your company. Less obvious still may be the personal connections you make and a greater understanding of how customers are using your product.
3. It’s immediate
Another thing that a mirror does is give you immediate feedback of everything that’s in front of it. It’s reliable, accurate and most importantly provides instant gratification. Similarly, giving customers the ability to express themselves with minimal friction – wherever they are on your site (ie: using a feedback widget) – is of utmost importance.
Once you’ve made changes that are customer-driven, close the loop with customers that were part of the feedback process. It’s one of the most critical steps: customers will be encouraged to share feedback if they are being heard and believe they are driving positive changes. Make it a habit to follow up with your customers as soon as possible at every stage of your feedback process.
As human beings, we prefer closure to hanging in limbo – even if the news we receive are less than stellar. By dragging your feet on communication, you are leaving unresolved issues on the table, losing the human touch with your customers.
4. It’s genuine
A mirror doesn’t select certain aspects to show and exclude the rest. Similarly, you should treat good feedback and negative feedback on equal grounds.
Just like we rely on mirrors to improve our appearance, customer feedback is a tool companies use to improve operations. Seeing a customer solve a problem or suggest an important fix for your product is a rewarding moment for any customer-facing company.
However, don’t let good feedback to give you the warm fuzzy feeling, potentially overshadowing the negative feedback you get from legitimately concerned users.
No one likes negative feedback, but that’s because it requires work: analyzing, validating, implementing and following up with your customers. At the end of the day, it elevates your business to a favorite because you care about what your customers have to say.
What clouds your company mirror?
Is it feasible or even beneficial to ignore your company’s reflection everywhere you go? Probably, according to Henry Ford or Steve Jobs.
If I asked what my customers wanted, they’d say faster horses – Henry Ford
People don’t know what they want until you show it to them – Steve Jobs
However, we mustn’t forget that these were leaders with highly directed (and somewhat proven) goals in mind that applied to their industries.
For most of us who are trying to grow an existing product, customer feedback is valuable data straight from the source. It’s counter-productive not to want to listen to people that are paying you money and using your product.
The benefits of listening with an open mind shouldn’t be understated. It’s a lot easier to play down customers’ concerns because they “don’t know the product” or thinking of negative feedback as people looking to complain.
Listening should be seen as a two-way street. Sometimes customers may need to be informed or presented with clarification as part of the feedback process. When you see your product through their eyes, it gives you a different viewpoint from which to tackle the same problem.
Happy customers reflect back on your team
Whatever feedback gathering methodology you settle on, you’ll need to gather together and have positive, productive conversations.
Being in a state of consistent improvement can resonate positively on the overall customer experience. When customers see that their feedback is utilized and outcomes documented, they will value you and your brand more.
This trend has an overall positive impact companies. Staff who take personal, shared responsibility for customer satisfaction tend to stay happier themselves. After all, happy staff usually means happy management and an improved work environment.
This article was originally published at http://helprace.com/blog/customer-feedback-is-your-companys-mirror