This story is a version of a post published here.
A pioneer in world business and CEO of HSN, Mindy Grossman once said “I believe in accessibility. I believe in honesty and a culture that supports that. And you can’t have that if you’re not open to receiving feedback.” Bill Gates, the richest man in the world said, “We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.” Why is it not surprising that successful business leaders and entrepreneurs are always the ones who are wanting to take feedback from their customers?.
Now you may ask, ‘Why would the customers want to give feedback?’ While some might want to see genuine improvement in the products that they use, some others might think it is a waste of their time. However, customer feedback is a goldmine of information and the onus is on you to be able to mine out this free data. You cannot succeed until you understand what your customer needs and until you innovate accordingly. Remember that collecting feedback is only half the work done; the other important half is to act upon the feedback and make your customers believe that their voice is always heard and respected.
Feedback is the same thing as complaints
No! They are not the same thing. For you to truly understand the difference, let me first define the two.
Customer Feedback – is a term that describes the process of obtaining a customer’s opinion about a business, product or service. It could be either praise or criticism.
Customer Complaint – is “an expression of dissatisfaction on a consumer’s behalf to a responsible party” (Landon, 1980). It can also be described as a report from a consumer providing documentation about a problem with a product or service.
Customer complaints while mostly negative, feedback can be great accolade for your company, frustrated remarks or even a suggestion. Remember that, you may find a complaint while looking through your customers’ feedback. However, when a customer has a complaint, it is directed to a dysfunctionality in their interaction with your company, product or service.
Your primary aim is to resolve customer complaints as soon as possible. Nevertheless, customer feedback is equally important and every bit of feedback must be accounted for and acted upon. Always thank customers for their feedback and inform them about any changes implemented as a result of their feedback.
Customer opinion is only valid in large numbers
Have you ever thought or said “We’ll wait until more people comment about this” or “not enough people are complaining yet?” If so then you’re doing something wrong. Sometimes this wait could cost you a great deal.
As per a research by the White House Office of Consumer Affairs, for every customer who bothers to complain, 26 other customers remain silent. So your mindset of waiting for more people to join the negative feedback bus just doesn’t cut it today. Take it as good fortune that the one or two customers who actually gave you feedback noticed a flaw in your business; which you can improve on. Those one or two people who noticed the problem aren’t the only ones, however they took the initiative to inform you about it.
If you can be proactive and react to feedback immediately then you have saved yourself a good amount of social backlash.
Customer feedback is only a suggestion
There is a common misconception among many top level executives that customer feedback is only a suggestion and that one has the choice whether or not to take it on board. Although this is rarely true, depending on the feedback, it will benefit you to read what the customer has to say about you; without considering it a suggestion.
Now think about it. Your customers have taken the time out of their busy day, to point out an issue in your company, service or product. They wouldn’t have done it if they didn’t care for your company or didn’t like your product. The feedback may even point out something that you may have missed. Avoid being in denial and accept what you are doing wrong. It will only impress the customer.
It is not necessary to analyze the quality of customer feedback
Alright I agree that some bits of customer feedback may be completely irrelevant or even spam. However, you can’t consider every bit of feedback that you don’t agree with to be trash worthy. So how should you sort through feedback?
There is a lot of debate around the topic of how to handle incoming feedback. Nevertheless, if you mismanage customer feedback it will only end up hurting you and your bottom-line. Hence, in the future, to properly analyse feedback, and sift through the irrelevant bits make sure to follow these procedures:
- Make sure that there is more than one person reading and reviewing all the incoming feedback. If your company receives feedback on a larger scale, install an omni-channel solution to ensure the quality of the review process and ultimately inculcate a more customer centric culture in your organisation.
- You should also cultivate a system to categorise your feedback. Remember that, all feedback is not equal and you shouldn’t be waiting for feedback to come in large numbers to be taking it into account. Some of your feedback will be product related and others marketing related. Ensure that you group your feedback before you assess it. You could use methods such as a chart, a graph or even a report on the feedback. After all it is the voice of the customer (VoC) that you are capturing and acting upon.
Survey design doesn’t really matter when obtaining feedback
Survey design is one of the primary factors that could determine your success or failure with customer feedback. The design and length of your feedback form determines whether customers will find it useful enough to fill it out. Customers are put off when they have to answer long winding questions in a form that psychologically forces them to discontinue the feedback process.
A few things to consider when sending out your feedback form:
- Maintain a suitable order of questions. Avoid disrupting your customers’ train of thought when filling out the survey form.
- Keep the feedback form short and relevant. Ask only question that you need information about. According to a research by HubSpot, eliminating one field in your feedback form can increase your response rate by 50%. You surely don’t want customers leaving your feedback form halfway through.
- Create consistent rating scales. If you ask a question with a rating scale from 1 to 10, don’t change that scale to be from 1 to 5 in the next question. It only confuses the customer an deters them from completing the feedback form.
- Centralise the feedback form around the customer’s experience, rather than on your company’s flaws.
Using a single channel is alright for customer feedback
As per a study by Brand Republic and Snap Survey, when marketers were asked which feedback channels their companies used, 59% said that they use social media, followed by online surveys at 54%.
Image Source: Customer Guru
In this generation of millennials and boomers, you are going to have to adapt to the digital age to handle all the feedback, reviews and complaints that you are receiving. Today, there are so many ways that a company can interact with their customers. Social media, email and even live chat. Have all these channels established in your company and well-trained, responsive employees to handle such channels.
Although the ease of online surveys are appealing to marketers and executives, the truth is that not all customers can be reached online. Be prepared to reach out to customers who will give you feedback offline. Additionally, take into consideration, the restraints on surveys delivered through mobile.
It is of higher importance to find out about the company’s issues than the customer’s experience
The concept of a customer centricity also falls true when you obtain feedback from your customers.
“Often, surveys are structured so that the organization’s issues are being explored and not the consumer’s, and that can be frustrating,” says Jane Woolley, Customer Insight Consultant.
A lot of customers are willing to give companies their feedback, however if you only focus on your company and not the customers’ experience they realise how much you truly care about them over the company and your product or service. Make the feedback all about the customer and through that you can investigate what you are doing wrong.
It’s a waste of time to thank customers for their feedback
If you think it is, then you don’t deserve your customers’ feedback. Period.
Always thank your customers for their feedback. Think about it: What if a customer’s feedback has helped you make a change to your product or service or has resulted in a change in company policy? If your customers aren’t receiving a response, they’d believe that you are ignoring their input and not giving them any credit. This would only result in customers who don’t want to give you their feedback: not something you want, is it?
One of the most underused methods to interact with the customer is a personal ‘thank you’ or follow up note. Whether you’re a small or a large company, this opportunity must be used! After all, your customers are the ones taking time out of their day to give you feedback on why they do business with you.
In conclusion, the feedback you get from customers is of utmost importance to you. What if Zappos never facilitated a way for customers to to provide feedback? Would they have flourished to this extent? Not at all! Today people don’t recognise Zappos as the online shoe retailer, rather they are known as a company that provides excellent customer experience through a customer centric culture. Zappos listens to customer feedback with such care that customers truly see the changes that they suggested and want to keep coming back.
While a lot of companies consider market research and customer interaction at the start of their developmental process, they often fail to incorporate such interactions at later stages. Organisations should aim to gather customer feedback throughout the life-cycle of the company.
I completely agree with your arguments, I do not have a very large store but I’m convinced that customer feedback has a good effect on sales, people want more information about products, and the owner of an online store or online business should try to answer on customer questions.
So true, Bill. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
it’s funny how underrated customer satisfaction can sometimes be. Great read especially on the importance of your survey length and design.
As a customer who likes to take surveys, I would suggest making sure that the survey includes all the possible answers. Surveys that include questions about ads on television often omit the possibility of not having cable and watching over-the-air television. Another more understandable mistake is the question about handling the family investments. I have only once been able this question correctly because I handle my investments and my spouse handles hers so that the assumption about a unified family investment policy is incorrect. Finally, remember to include “n/a” or “other” in those cases where they are possible answers.