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customer-feedback

Positive Feedback: How Your Customers Can Be Your Greatest Consultants

Feedback from customers regarding your business is frequently a focal point for anguish or ridicule amongst employees. Oftentimes workers will project their stress and frustration from their job onto the customer, privately blaming them for any minor inconvenience. Throw in a few horror stories from interactions with genuinely toxic customers and it’s easy to see how many businesses end up building up an us vs. them mentality, employees seeking camaraderie through shared humiliation of the customer.

Obviously treating your clientele as adversaries, even as a joke or behind closed doors, is not a healthy attitude in the long run. But beyond simply giving your customer base the respect they deserve, by learning how to positively use their feedback you and your employees can harness a huge potential source of information to improve your practices and reputation. It can take some practice to separate the useful data from baseless complaints or ignorant commentary, but ultimately your customers are the ones you have to please, and the more you can divine about them from how they talk about your business, the better you can cater to their needs in future. Here are some of the biggest advantages to analysing customer feedback.

It actually can be a valuable source of improvements to make to your business

Obviously there is a reason companies seek out customer feedback in the first place. Individual customers may not be as valuable a source of information for your business, but if you can gather enough feedback (especially at the point of service) and if you’re proactive in gathering it instead of just waiting to receive it from those who explicitly offer it (usually those with more extreme opinions) then you can really start to get a picture of where you are and are not meeting the “average” customer’s needs.

Get news on changing market desires right from the source

A surprising amount of money moves simply on the basis of who reacts fastest to changing market desires. Customers as a whole can be notoriously fickle, and businesses devote much stress and brainpower towards figuring out what they’ll want next. But one of the cheapest and even most effective ways to do this is simply to speak to the customers about it. You need to find the right questions to ask and the right ways to ask them, but by collating enough data you can identify commonalities in customers’ desires and be the industry’s Nostradamus.

It’s a genuine way to show goodwill – and generate it

Customers, especially long-time customers of a business, naturally want to feel some sense of recognition or belonging. Offering this goodwill to your customers builds trust and loyalty, hugely valuable relationships which should be among the goals of every organisation. There are a variety of schemes that businesses employ to try and bring customers back and generate those attitudes, but one very simple way is to ask them how they feel about your business. Doing so in a sincere and effective way shows you care about the service they receive and that you respect them enough to listen. If they feel their suggestions are being implemented and that the business is really there to help and serve them, you’ve already generated massive goodwill in that customer which will have them coming back for years – and bringing their friends. What company couldn’t benefit from that.

If you’re going to do it, do it right

One reason using customer feedback is viewed is seen as laughable by some people is that it is very easy to go about gathering it the wrong way, which can impact the accuracy of the impressions you take from it. For the best cross-section of your customer base you want information to be given willingly, soon after their sale experience and as specific as possible. Having questions which allow customers to quantify their answers (rate this service on a scale from 1 to 10) and making sure you tell them how valuable this feedback is are proven ways to improve the success rate of these initiatives.

It’s also vital to consider the medium you’re using to gather feedback, and how that will affect who answers and the information you receive. Some common means of gathering feedback are:

  • Surveys at the point of service – this is the classic solution, capturing the immediate response to your business. Keep questions to the point and few, to ensure good faith in the answers.
  • Forms on the company website – obviously more useful to businesses with a strong digital platform. Should require as few clicks as possible and not inconvenience the customer by changing their current page, which may disrupt their browsing.
  • Contacting individuals directly – usually works best if you have the means and information to contact many customers at once, such as email. Allows for tailored questions and adds a personal touch.

The follow-through makes all the difference

All of the potential business benefits and goodwill generated by gathering customer feedback can be squandered if you do not have a good plan in place for how to use that data. A great start to any feedback analysis is to gather your team and share that feedback with them; both positive and negative comments can be motivating in their own way, if employees are prepared to receive them. Then you should collaborate as a workforce to identify the common needs expressed in the feedback and implement them. Advertise openly to the customer what changes you’re making and that these are the direct results of their feedback. They will be pleased to see that their feedback was truly heeded and will give more targeted and willing feedback in the future.

In the end, your business is going to receive some level of customer feedback whether you want to or not. If you can find the time and resources to do so you may as well take advantage of that feedback by gathering and processing it correctly. Above all else, this process is about being a good listener for your customer base and being prepared to acknowledge their needs and opinions above your own. It can be difficult, but by doing so you are securing your future with them and building a reputation which will help you as long as your business stands.

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