Technology may have changed the way we do business, but it’s still customers’ needs that drive demand and decide market share. Rather than obsess over competition, prudent brands focus on effective feedback processes to identify customer expectations.
An effective feedback mechanism is:
- Planned to meet clearly specified objectives.
- Designed to elicit honest responses without bias, prejudice, or errors.
- Collected authentically and without haste.
- Collated to consolidate raw data into categorized information.
- Analyzed to prioritize value from different stakeholder perspectives.
- Disseminated across the organization in a contextual and timely manner.
Always test feedback in person
Though feedback today is not restricted to personal interactions alone, it’s always best to include it when you test at the design stage. This can be valuable when your sample audience includes diverse customer profiles. It’ll also give you the opportunity to meet and/or greet more of your customers personally, by name. If you can do that well, it’s always a win.
It all comes down to timing. The customer’s and yours. It’s never a good idea to request feedback when either of you are pressed for time. So whether you are testing your feedback mechanism or formally collecting data in person, you must let the customer take the time they need.
When time is a constraint…
- Miss a lot of the facial or non-verbal cues the customer sends out.
- Pay less attention to the customer.
The customer might:
- Feel like you do not value their responses.
- Compromise the feedback process with unreliable data.
On the other hand, when you both have time, you will find it easier to connect with each other. When you are listening to understand them, the customer begins to trust you, and opens up to give you vital information, without bias or prejudice.
Five steps to get effective feedback:
- Respect the customer for agreeing to answer your queries, and thank them for it.
- Let them know you care, with your attitude and approach.
a. Adopt a competent and empathetic demeanor.
b. Consider your voice—maintain a polite tone, medium pitch, and moderate rate of speech.
c. Listen to understand.
d. Never interrupt the customer.
- Stay focused to add value with follow-up queries when possible.
- Maintain eye contact with the customer so they know they have your attention.
- Put your phone on silent and do not look at it, except to check if you’ve taken up more of the customer’s time than planned.
Get creative with your feedback process.
When the objective of feedback is to gather honest opinions about products or services, you need fresh ideas. Consider ways to refresh the mundane Q&A most people associate with feedback. The right opportunity and best methodology don’t matter if your customer isn’t interested. Boring feedback mechanisms can also make your customer change their mind about your business. Most importantly, maintain records of the different kinds of feedback you run and who your sample was. Avoid revisiting customers with the same information or feedback.
Recognize opportunities for feedback
Each time a customer contacts your business, it is an opportunity to connect, as well as to collect feedback. They could be contacting you about a general enquiry, a product or service issue, or in total outrage. A good support professional is trained to engage, as well as to deal with the emotions, calm the customer, and collect vital information that can help your business.
In case of a product or service issue, listen carefully to the customer to understand the issue from their perspective. Get the customer to evaluate the efforts your business has taken so far. This adds perspective about how customers feel about your business in general and what difficulties a specific issue poses for them. This is an effective way to garner information with clear objectives and a carefully selected sample group.
In the SaaS sector, this is especially vital because it’s not possible to tweak a product feature for just one customer. Yet it would be foolish to ignore even a single customer, even if you can’t give them exactly what they want at the time.
Mix it up, for better results.
Customers today are aware of how feedback works. So when presented with boring forms or surveys, they tend to ignore the details or the truth and simply go through the motions instead. But should you surprise your customer with a new idea, you may hear the truth about the things you want to know. Which is the point of all feedback in the first place. It is about collecting information, free from errors, so it can be collated and shared within your organization to improve customer experiences.
Customers are not all the same.
From geographical locations to lifestyle choices, customers are never entirely alike. Which is why different customers respond differently to varying modes of feedback.
Customer segmentation is a process where customers are categorized based on aspects they have in common. Sometimes it’s location, age, or gender. Other times it could be lifestyle choices like investments, exercise routines, or eating habits. This information comes in handy while planning and creating feedback for diverse customers and markets. Awareness and understanding of which segment your customer is a part of can help you tailor your queries for more quantitative and qualifiable responses.
Customers don’t seek anonymity.
Gone are the days when feedback was collected with the assurance that customer identities will not be disclosed. Today’s customer is already posting and sharing on social media and has no qualms about being known. Truth be told, if your customer has a story worth telling about your brand, he or she is going to do it the first chance they get. Why not be that first chance and present them with an opportunity to tell you the story first hand, with no pre-conditions?
Customers like to know how they helped.
Always get back to customers to let them know how their feedback helped. This could be through a variety of campaigns your business uses to communicate with customers. From big-budget advertising campaigns and focused marketing strategies to a simple personal email, your customers appreciate it when you respond to feedback. It is an assurance that your business is focused on meeting customer expectations.
Just remember it can only work out well for you if you take feedback seriously, internalize it, and act on what is mutually sustainable for both the customer and your business.