Understanding the needs and feelings of your customers is fundamental to running any successful business. The comments, suggestions, or even complaints your customers offer can provide an enormous amount of valuable information for improving the overall customer experience, allowing you to deliver a higher level of satisfaction to your valued clientele.
Without actionable feedback, businesses can quickly find themselves out of touch with their customer base, which can lead to lower sales revenue, reduced customer retention rates, and stagnant growth. Eventually, neglecting to accept or respond to feedback can create a massive disconnect between businesses and their customers, often creating an adversarial relationship that doesn’t need to exist.
Encouraging customers to share their thoughts and opinions doesn’t need to be a challenge. There are several simple and effective ways to gather feedback throughout the customer journey so you never miss a beat on how your business is performing.
How to gather customer feedback effectively
There are many ways to solicit customer feedback, and your chosen approach will depend on the type of business you run. For example, ecommerce brands may prefer to gather feedback through email or social media. And brick-and-mortar local businesses may use an old-fashioned suggestion box or simply talk to customers in person to hear their thoughts.
The following are the best approaches for gathering feedback from your customers.
Set clear objectives for your customer feedback
You want to start by considering the goals you hope to achieve from gathering customer feedback. These objectives may include streamlining the user experience for visitors to your main website or improving customer service inside your physical storefront. Alternatively, you may want feedback to determine which products and services your customers need that your business isn’t currently providing.
You’ll also want to set benchmarks for the volume of feedback received each month so you can accurately gauge the performance of your business and the internal teams who keep daily operations running. Once you clearly understand what you hope to gain from your customer feedback, it’s much easier to craft questions that will yield the insights you need.
Choose the right feedback collection methods
Next, it’s important to select the ideal approach for gathering feedback that best matches your business model. While an internet-based business may rely on email surveys or embedded feedback forms on its website, smaller mom-and-pop stores may have better success with speaking with customers face to face to hear their honest opinions.
Combining several feedback collection methods may be the best option for some businesses. If you’re unsure which feedback collection method to use, look at what other companies in your industry are doing to help generate ideas.
Here are some of the different types of customer feedback methods that businesses rely on today.
One of the best ways to gather customer feedback is to collect surveys. But what is a survey exactly, and how should it be structured?
Essentially, surveys are brief customer experience inquiries sent to individuals directly, usually through email. These customer feedback surveys can be short questionnaires, post-purchase product feedback requests, or generic customer satisfaction email surveys sent to people who already use your services regularly.
Ideally, surveys should be short and sweet to ensure your respondents don’t lose interest. If your questions feel more like a homework assignment, you’ll likely see much lower survey response rates. If your customer feedback survey is meant only to gauge customer satisfaction, consider using a simple sliding scale that allows respondents to assign a numerical value to their overall experience.
A multiple-choice format may work best for more in-depth feedback on specific aspects of your business, such as how often customers visit your website each week or the quality of customer service they receive. You may also want to include a comment box at the end of the survey where customers can offer unique questions, suggestions, or concerns.
Speaking with individual customers directly can also provide valuable information about what your business is doing right and what could be improved. Customer interviews can give you a unique opportunity to learn more about your customer base’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in a more personal, authentic way.
Conducting interviews with actual customers via video conferencing software or over the phone also establishes a bridge of trust between you and your valued clients, clearly demonstrating your willingness to take their feedback seriously.
Loyal, repeat customers are often the best candidates for these interviews since they likely already understand your business thoroughly and can provide a wealth of objective suggestions for improving products or services. For best results, conduct interviews among a broad cross-section of your customer base for a more fruitful variety of insights and recommendations.
Aside from seeking customer feedback, it’s also important to provide feedback forms on your website so people can share their unprompted thoughts. Although feedback forms should contain a few simple questions regarding the customer’s recent experience with your business and their overall satisfaction, it’s a good idea to include a text box where individuals can put their suggestions or complaints into their own words.
Feedback forms are best embedded at the bottom of your landing page or mobile app, but it’s also possible to create a standalone feedback form that can be easily shared on social media with a link.
Encourage open and honest feedback from customers
Make a concerted effort to ensure customers know their thoughts are appreciated. Gathering honest customer feedback relies on your ability to make customers comfortable sharing what they think, even if their feedback is neutral or negative. For example, take some time to respond directly to online reviews on your Google Business Profile.
When a negative review comes in, thank the customer for their comment and make it clear their concern is in the process of being addressed. Likewise, don’t hesitate to thank customers for any positive reviews you receive. Remember, unfavorable feedback is bound to occur as your business grows, and responding emotionally to customers’ negative opinions will only discourage future honest feedback.
Create a safe and welcoming feedback environment
Make it clear to your customers that all feedback is acknowledged, valued, and respected. This primarily comes down to messaging and the language you use when soliciting feedback or responding to a customer’s complaint.
Responses to all feedback — either positive or negative — should be consistently friendly and thoughtful. Avoid becoming defensive even if your business receives an unfair, scathing online review from a disgruntled customer. Instead, reply to their feedback by first thanking them for their thoughts, followed by a brief summary of the issues or concerns they’ve mentioned. Next, discuss various actions your business intends to take to find a solution.
In short, customers will simply withhold their feedback if they feel it will only be ignored or resented. Do everything possible to illustrate to customers that their ideas and suggestions are always welcome, whether good, bad, or ugly.
Offer incentives and rewards for providing feedback
Sometimes, customers need a little motivation to share feedback about your business. Consider offering a $5 voucher for your ecommerce storefront or a free trial of a software service you provide.
You can also consider enrolling respondents into a customer loyalty program once they have completed one or more surveys. Offering gift cards or sweepstakes entries is another way to help encourage higher response rates on your feedback forms and surveys.
You can also explore giving respondents swag bags that include t-shirts, stickers, pens, buttons, or other items. Providing branded gifts like these can also be good, free word-of-mouth advertising to the friends and family of those who offer feedback, helping to spread awareness about your business to more potential customers.
Leverage technology for seamless feedback collection
Take advantage of technologies that can assist in streamlining or even automating the feedback collection process. Utilizing chatbots on your website can be very helpful in taking a record of comments from customers or answering some of their most common questions with pre-programmed responses.
Adding a live chat feature to your business website is another option that can encourage customers to give their thoughts. It offers a more personalized approach to feedback collection that can be essential for businesses that rely heavily on cultivating close relationships with clients.
Use customer feedback software and tools
Various customer feedback tools are available for creating customized surveys and feedback forms on the fly. Software solutions like Qualtrics, Typeform, or SurveyMonkey are ideal for gauging the customer experience by simultaneously deploying multiple surveys across several engagement channels. Collected feedback is then relayed to a centralized dashboard where you can analyze responses en masse.
You can then analyze the information gathered to identify user experience issues, customer journey gaps, or other problems. Using customer feedback tools can drastically reduce the time and labor needed to make sense of all the data while ensuring that no comment, suggestion, or complaint from a customer is ever overlooked.
Integrate feedback mechanisms in your platforms
Aside from adding feedback mechanisms to your main website or ecommerce storefront, you’ll also want to look for ways to deploy surveys, feedback forms, and user experience questionnaires as the customer journey progresses. For example, add a customer effort score poll to a recent app or product your business rolled out to get a pulse on user experience.
Information gathered from these polls can help inform product development teams moving forward. If a repeat customer recently subscribed to a new service or app, integrate a feedback feature that automatically sends an email asking if they would recommend this product to others.
Deploying several different feedback mechanisms across all your platforms will make it easier to identify where in the customer journey individuals are experiencing issues, what those hang-ups are, and why they’re occurring.
How to utilize customer feedback to improve your business
Once you’ve developed a robust system for gathering and collating feedback, it’s time to convert this information into something more tangible. Hidden between the lines of customer feedback is a wealth of helpful data waiting to be accessed and put into action.
Here’s how it’s done:
Analyze and interpret customer feedback data
Take some time to scan over customer feedback to identify respondents’ prevailing sentiments. Examine the proportion of customers who respond positively to your products and services to those who have a neutral or negative response.
From there, narrow down which topics are most often mentioned in feedback responses to clarify where there could be room to improve a product or the overall customer experience. If your feedback seems neutral or mixed between positive and negative responses, you may want to consider adjusting your surveys or feedback forms in the future for greater specificity.
Identify trends and patterns for actionable insights
After analyzing the feedback you’ve received, you should be able to recognize when specific themes or keywords crop up across many different customers. For example, if you notice multiple customers using words like “confusing” or “complicated” when providing feedback on a new software platform, this could signal that the product’s user interface needs some fine-tuning.
In addition, you’ll want to compare and contrast the sentiments of long-term customers to those of recently converted leads. Seeing discrepancies between the feedback received from these cohorts could point to an issue with a recent product release or a more systemic problem that newer customers have yet to encounter.
How to create an effective customer feedback strategy
At this point, you’re ready to develop a comprehensive customer feedback strategy that works to elevate your business. After all, feedback is only as valuable as the practical changes it produces both in customer behavior and the performance of your internal teams.
Follow these three steps to create a customer feedback strategy that makes a positive impact on operations:
Set up a feedback loop for continuous improvement
After using customer feedback to identify fixable problems, addressing their concerns is essential. Send a follow-up survey to previous respondents requesting their opinions on changes made to your website, app, or product. Doing this creates a loop that brings the entire feedback process full circle and demonstrates to customers that their thoughts are heard.
As continuous improvements are implemented, subsequent customer feedback forms and surveys should reflect the efficacy of your efforts by signaling steadily lower rates of negative responses.
Train your team to handle customer feedback
Ensure your team members are adequately trained to respond warmly and openly to any feedback they receive. Provide your employees with guidance on interacting with customers in a way that facilitates open communication and continual feedback.
Encourage workers to respond to customer comments quickly and take steps to record correspondence for training purposes in the future. To ensure consistency, consider creating a dedicated team of friendly associates to exclusively manage the customer feedback cycle
Share feedback success stories and best practices
When the feedback you receive lends itself to meaningful, positive changes within your business, make an effort to share this experience with others. For internal teams, you might create a monthly newsletter highlighting recent success stories and the employees responsible for making them happen. Meanwhile, you can consider contacting select respondents to surveys or feedback forms to conduct a follow-up interview and potentially ask for a quote from them discussing their positive experience with your business.
When shared on your website and social media channels, these testimonials can help bolster your business’s reputation. As more customers see how your company turns feedback into meaningful change, they will be far more likely to offer their thoughts or opinions going forward.
Empower your business with customer insights
While customer feedback can sometimes feel like a double-edged sword, the truth is that every survey or poll that receives a response is an opportunity to strengthen your business. Aside from yourself and your team, no one understands your business better than the customer.
Your customers’ objective insights are vital to building a resilient, adaptable organization that can thrive in the face of any challenge. By inviting your customers to get involved in your company’s product/service development, you’ll build a stronger reputation among your loyal patrons while attracting more leads to your business.
To get started, create and send a generic customer satisfaction email survey and explore the various other approaches to encouraging greater customer feedback. Given time, the insights from customer feedback will reveal many ways to improve your products or services.