Customer feedback can be scary: what if you hear something that you don't want to hear? But often times the most critical responses are the most helpful...
While you may not always like what your customers say (or how they say it), the feedback they provide about your business is priceless.
You're the expert on running your business, but your customers are experts on using your business. They can tell you what's working and help you figure out how to improve the things that aren't.
All you have to do is follow this simple process to collect their feedback, and then know what to do with it (and we'll of course tell you how).
1. Commitment to Care
If you're like most business owners and managers, your business is your baby. It's the thing you devote every day to, the way you put food on your table.
And just as you'd bristle if someone insulted a family member, you may be inclined to fight back or reject negative feedback that your business receives. But ignoring criticism limits your ability to grow and improve, and that puts your future in jeopardy.
So in order to use customer feedback in a positive way, you have to be open to the negative stuff. Embracing and accepting all feedback sends a great message to your customers: it shows them you're listening, that you value them and that you care.
Demonstrating that is one of the easiest ways to set yourself apart from competitors, who don't always make their unhappy customers feel heard and acknowledged.
Bottom line: every business makes mistakes, and showing that you're open to receiving negative feedback can only help you improve. Remind yourself to approach all customer feedback with that in mind, and with an openness to receive it all.
2. Reaching Out
How you approach your customers can dramatically impact the kind and number of responses you get. Think about who your customers are and how they like to communicate.
Are they largely young and tech-savvy, preferring texts to phone calls? Do they work full-time and are therefore unreachable by phone during the day? In that case, email might be preferable.
But the reality is often different than you might think. If yours is like most businesses, your customers are probably a diverse group with differing preferences.
Try a little experimentation by reaching out via different methods at different times of day, and keep track of which method yields the most responses.
Some (even most) customers won't respond to your first contact, but be diligent about following up with the people who do respond and give you negative feedback. Reaching out again after you've addressed their concerns will make them feel valued and show your willingness to improve. In fact, it often turns your biggest complainers into your biggest champions!
Once you have all the data in front of you, it's time for some brutally honest analysis.
You might want to sort the feedback into three areas: positive, neutral and negative. All of those areas are useful, and you may find things you can improve on in the neutral and positive feedback to keep those customers coming back.
But the negative stuff is the real goldmine. Look at every scrap of criticism as an opportunity to improve and win over a new fan. Analyze the feedback for common themes and complaints to identify the areas that you can improve.
Time to get to work! This step involves making changes to address your feedback. You identified your core problems in the last step, so now it's time to come up with actionable ways to fix them.
Did customers complain that your prices are too high? Maybe you need to look at adding some less expensive options to your offerings, or offer detailed price breakdowns so customers can understand you've priced certain services and products fairly.
Did customers complain about long waits for service? It might be time to expand your workforce, add additional checkout points or even open another location. Or you may just need to work on setting expectations upon arrival (example: "We'll be with you in about 10 minutes, Mr. Rogers.").
Be careful not to make too many changes at once or you risk alienating customers and spreading yourself too thin. Work on just one or two improvements at a time to keep the process manageable.
As you implement changes, continue to collect and monitor new feedback to see how customers are responding.
Collecting, analyzing and addressing customer feedback shouldn't be a one-time or annual exercise.
As long as you continue to serve customers, they'll continue to have feedback, and it's all useful. Make customer feedback outreach and collection a standard part of operations in order to continuously improve your quality and grow your business.
There's one more (optional) step in systemizing your feedback collection: the one that automates most of the other steps...
Using an automated system like ReputationStacker, you don't have to reach out to every customer individually to solicit feedback.
You can customize the way you use the system: focus primarily on gathering useful customer feedback, getting more positive reviews on sites like Google and Facebook, or do a mix of both.
With ReputationStacker, you don't have to put in the time getting feedback; you can skip all those steps and directly implement the feedback that the system collects for you.
Final Word on the Five Easy Steps
If you're not collecting and analyzing both positive and negative customer feedback, you're leaving money on the table.
The positive messages can boost morale and help you build on what's working, while the criticism allows you to identify areas that need improvement.
And taking feedback seriously shows your customers you're always listening. Use an automated system like ReputationStacker to collect that feedback so you can work on growing your business.
Ian Kirby has been working in digital marketing for over 15 years. Having worked both with and for digital marketing agencies and in-house with multiple companies, he has a specific interest and expertise in online reputation management, online reviews, and the implementation of business systems. Ian’s writing, videos, and interviews have garnered millions of reads, views, and listens.