Customer feedback is a subject of serious debate in the business world. While some hot-headed entrepreneurs avoid feedback to pursue their vision, other founders find themselves bending over backward to accommodate all criticism.
The truth is that business leaders need to find a happy medium between these two extremes. This starts with having a firm, established policy about how to collect, organize, and implement customer feedback for future business decisions.
This is a huge challenge when running a business, and it’s not always fun to navigate a sea of feedback online. However, the benefits are great for those who figure it out.
Let’s ask a bunch of business pros about their customer and client feedback policies, and how they implement this info to full effect.
Feedback Acquisition Strategies
Before you can turn feedback into golden opportunities for your business, you need to collect a lot of it. That means having a range of sources you can rely on.
1. Get the Scoop from Surveys and NPS
Surveys are a customer service classic, and they work better than ever thanks to streamlined services sent via email and social media.
“Today’s survey systems are so user-friendly and accessible for even the most basic online businesses,” said Fred Gerantabee, Chief Experience Officer at Foster Grant. “You can spend a small monthly sum to send out surveys to your customers and even use incentives to get them to respond in a certain timeframe. NPS tools are also valuable, even if they offer less depth. This is money well spent if you want to start taking customer feedback more seriously.”
2. Connect with Customer Support
What better place to look for customer feedback than from your in-house support team? They may not have the quantitative data on hand, but they can give you valuable insights regardless.
“Collecting feedback is a very underrated part of the customer service role, and you need to tap into this wealth of information,” said Remon Aziz, Chief Operating Officer at Advantage Rent A Car. “Create workflows that make it easy for your support staff to share key bits of knowledge that you can use to improve your products and service levels across the board. Every aspect of the customer journey must be considered.”
3. Feature Request Boards
Customers love to feel like they’re part of the creative process for a business they support. Feature request boards give them this opportunity to pitch in their two cents.
“Think of this as an advanced version of a suggestion box you’d see at a small shop or office,” said Andrew Ferenci, CEO and Founder of Comrad Socks. “You won’t get as much harsh criticism, but you’ll get a range of opinions that might not occur to you as a business owner or manager. It’s nice to see things from an outside perspective and implement changes that you know people truly want.”
4. Tune Into the Conversation
Social media users are not shy when it comes to sharing their thoughts about experiences with businesses of all types. Be sure to pay attention to the conversation online so that you don’t miss out on useful insights from real customers.
“People are talking about you and your competitors constantly,” said Joei Chan, Content Marketing Manager at Mention. “They could be asking for help, complaining about a bug, or raving about how much they love you. And you want to stay on top of all those conversations. Your customers’ opinions matter, not just to PR & marketing, but to every team — from customer support to product development to sales. That’s where monitoring comes in. Monitoring tools make it easy for you to find people talking about you, and reach out or take notes when necessary.”
Make the Right Moves
Collecting feedback is just the beginning. Businesses must organize and manage this information in a way that makes sense and helps to formulate a game plan.
1. Right Place, Right Time
Lots of companies do a great job of collecting feedback in real-time. However, they often fall short in making sure this feedback gets to the place where actionable changes can be made.
“Every piece of feedback should be sorted and distributed to the correct destination, whether that’s the sales department, customer support, or the marketing team,” said Dylan Trussell, Co-Founder of Culprit Underwear. “Have a point-person on staff who can take the lead on organizing this data and structuring it in a meaningful way. You’ll find everything else falls into place when feedback goes to the right place from the start.
Speed is also a key factor in the realm of customer feedback. Channels must be quickly accessible and intuitive for data to be pulled fast and put to use ASAP.
“Most feedback is incredibly time-sensitive, meaning you can’t waste days or weeks trying to pinpoint the problem and piece together a solution,” said Patrick Samy, CEO of Span Health. “In fact, it’s often better to act fast and potentially miss the mark than to wait for weeks and totally lose momentum. Keep the pressure on in terms of speed and your processes will catch up through repetition.”
2. First Time’s a Charm
These days, customers aren’t willing to deal with companies that make the same mistakes twice. If they offer feedback, be ready to make adjustments right away with no errors.
“Whether you use NPS or a general customer satisfaction survey, the most common mistake I see people make is doing a lot of work to put the system in place without doing the work to get teams/the company ready to act on the feedback that is collected,” said Nils Vinje, VP of Customer Success at Rainforest QA. “If a customer tells you the exact same feedback twice, meaning you didn’t address the issue after they raised it in the first survey, you will lose credibility and they may not be willing to keep filling out your surveys in the future.”
In a worst-case scenario, try to level with customers who have been misled or disappointed. It’s acceptable to apologize and look to make things right.
“A big part of feedback is acknowledging you’ve slipped up and looking to remedy the situation as soon as it happens,” said David DiLorenzo, President of Valentino Beauty Pure. “Customers are much more willing to hear you out if you offer an explanation and some extra incentives. We can’t always do things perfectly the first time around, and customers often understand this if you’re honest and transparent about it.”
3. Action and Accountability
Who is the person accountable for making changes from the feedback pile, and how can you be sure that they follow through? This is the hands-on, practical aspect of the process that needs to be treated as a top priority.
“Within every department, it’s smart to have a person you can count on to intake feedback, process it, and turn it into an action plan for the team,” said Tyler Read, Founder and Senior Editor of Personal Training Pioneer. “That way, nothing will fly under the radar, and you won’t end up with a team trying to make excuses or shift blame around for inaction. This process might be rocky at first, but it will soon be a part of everyday business.”
Before long, entire teams will see feedback implementation as a group effort, which takes the pressure off individuals and creates a culture of positive reinforcement.
“In an ideal scenario, everyone will take some responsibility for fielding feedback and transforming it into action points that take precedence in the workday,” said Kashish Gupta, Founder and CEO of Hightouch. “This might seem like a lofty ambition, but in a well-structured company, it’s definitely possible. Even then, it’s not a bad idea to have a manager or team leader take charge and push things forward if need be.”
4. Follow-Up and Future Planning
Once feedback is implemented and accounted for, there must be some form of follow-up that ensures continued quality and desired outcomes.
“The cycle of feedback is never-ending, and there should always be forward momentum that comes from following up with customers and clients,” said Brittany Dolin, Co-Founder of Pocketbook Agency. “This gives people a sense of closure and allows you as a business owner to feel confident in the choices you’ve made. Without this step, you can’t be 100% certain that your strategies are paying off.”
The entire process we’ve described today is just an outline, of course. Businesses of all sizes need to customize this game plan for themselves and discover best practices along the way.
“Every company needs to go through the gauntlet at some point and find out what works best for feedback discovery and implementation,” said Michael Hennessy, Founder and CEO of Diathrive. “Understand this to be a constant work in progress, just like your business as a whole. There’s always a better way to receive critiques and turn them into real results.”
Now that the feedback loop is faster than ever, and with higher stakes, this is the perfect opportunity to buckle down and make the most of customer and client feedback in all its forms.