Customer feedback is a tricky topic; many businesses choose to avoid gathering customer feedback, as it can be difficult to take criticism and it is not always as constructive as you might hope. Others invite it but don’t make good use of it; instead using it to give the impression that their customers’ opinions are important to them. However, overlooking the true value of customer feedback is a mistake, as it can help you to grow your business exponentially, in fact, statistics show that companies that lead in customer experience outperform laggards by nearly 80%.
No matter how much faith you have in your business, whether it’s a new start up or has been in existence for a few years, there will always be potential for improvement. It’s important to see this as a positive, as improvements lead to growth. Customer feedback is a key way in which you can gather insight into customer experience, and an outsider’s perspective on how your business operates. It can be difficult to predict this yourself, especially as your opinion will be warped by the knowledge of how and how much you have already invested.
So, what are the ways in which customer feedback can help you to improve your business? We’re here to shed some light on this intriguing topic and encourage you to bite the bullet; facing the facts and boosting your business as a result.
The Feedback Loop
The term ‘Feedback Loop’ relates to the process of gathering customer feedback, using it to improve your processes, products and services, and, in turn, improving future feedback while using any new issues highlighted to make further adjustments. It’s a continual cycle of improvement that would benefit any business, large or small.
How many times have you experienced a company as a customer yourself, and thought of simple ways in which their processes could be improved? It’s easy to overlook the smaller elements when you’re responsible for the company as a whole. Particularly when you’re just starting out in business, you can’t afford to hire staff to give the responsibility of overlooking operations on a more intricate scale. Asking customers for feedback is a far cheaper alternative, which can also be said for larger, more established companies.
For example, let’s say your company offers a delivery service that you have outsourced to a third party courier. The delivery workers provided by them are going to come into close contact with your customers, without a representative from your own company to oversee the transaction. They will, instead, be acting as the company interface; reflecting the values of your business.
Hopefully, they will behave with professionalism, but what happens when they don’t? In this day and age competition is fierce in every sector, so something as simple as the unsatisfactory manner of a delivery driver can be enough to make a customer switch to a competitor. Delivery workers, being the only face to face contact a customer has with a company, often have to handle complaints and confrontation. This can be difficult even for experienced members of staff who are trained for such an eventuality, so there is a high chance that it may not be handled as your customer would like.
If you don’t provide your customers with the option of leaving feedback on their experience, an issue such as this will go unnoticed and it will be difficult to identify the resultant reduction in customer numbers. This can be especially damaging if the delivery workers are repeatedly missing the mark. With the insight that customer feedback provides, you can quickly pinpoint potentially destructive aspects of the customer experience and make improvements. Perhaps you need to outsource to a different courier service, or maybe you can provide delivery workers with a script to follow that will help them to minimise confrontation and direct customer complaints to a specialised department within the company.
The Feedback Loop translates to any aspect of business in any field, whether you need insight into how easy it is for customers to navigate your website, or how helpful they find your customer service representatives. 42% of businesses don’t collect feedback from their customers, but ignoring this lucrative tool can result in the needless failure of your business which can so easily be avoided. In contrast, paying attention can help you stand out from the crowd.
How to Gather Customer Feedback
So, how does one go about gathering valuable customer feedback? Well, there are many platforms already available that you can make the most of. For example, trustpilot.com is a website dedicated to providing a space for any customers to leave feedback on any companies. It was mainly designed for the benefit of those considering using a company, but who would like to check out other people’s experiences before making a decision. However, it is fully accessible to the public which means business owners can also check out the kind of reception their business has been getting.
It can be daunting to face the full brunt of customer opinions on your business, especially as, for many business owners, their company is their pride, joy and livelihood, but it is crucially important that you do so. That said, be prepared to take some opinions with a pinch of salt; just like with any public platform that invites opinion, they can attract those who may not have the best intentions.
If you’re unsure as to whether you can handle feedback of this kind, another option is to provide your own platform. For example, you could create a customer feedback page on your website. This allows you to have more control over the kind of opinions that are being shared, as you can provide customers with ready-made questions to direct their thoughts. This is also useful if there is a particular area of your business that you feel is under-performing, as you can focus your questions accordingly.
You could ask customers to rate certain elements of their experience, such as how their complaint has been handled, out of ten. This allows you to identity areas in need of improvement, without having to face potentially offensive detail. Alternatively, you could provide tick boxes or sliding scales through which customers can voice their opinions in a non-combative way.
Using Customer Feedback to Promote Your Company
Using customer feedback to encourage new interest is an equally important part of the Feedback Loop as making improvements. There are many ways in which you can use feedback to promote your business, but a particularly popular option is including customer case studies on your website.
Customer case studies are examples of positive experiences that your customers have had. For example, you could provide a quote from an email you have received from a happy customer, that shows just how effective a product or service is. Case studies are also a great way to encourage customers to leave feedback, as it makes them aware that it is something you welcome.
When choosing which case studies to include, it’s best to opt for experiences that most of your customers will find relatable. For example, the average customer will be most interested in things like the quality of your products, how quickly they can be delivered and how easy it is to ask for help if needed. Just think of the kinds of things you look out for as a customer yourself. Buyers require an average of at least 40 reviews before believing a business’ star rating is accurate, so make sure you include as many as you can.
Another way in which customer feedback helps to promote your business, is through recommendations. For many people, part of the process of purchasing products is researching what’s on the market. Through this, and through the impression you put across with the help of things like customer case studies, you can catch their eye and stay in their memory as a potential contender. In turn, they could mention your company in discussion with others looking for similar products. Word of mouth is one of the most powerful marketing tools out there, and it’s completely free!
Reliability of Reviews
It is important to consider the existence of false reviews when it comes to choosing which of your own to display on your website. Unfortunately, some companies hire the services of businesses that specialise in creating fake reviews; posing as real customers and saturating the review platforms with unrealistic reflections of products and services.
However, it can be quite easy to spot false reviews. For example, they are often overly positive, word perfect, and offer no real insight into the product or service in question. While it is possible to receive real reviews like this, try to share reviews that do offer what false reviews lack, in order to avoid being mistaken for their deceptive counterpart.
And don’t be tempted to opt for false reviews yourself. While they might seem look like a good idea on the surface, all it takes is for one review to appear suspicious and the entire reputation of your business is at stake. People tend to assume that if a company is dependent on false reviews, it must mean that authentic, positive reviews are not something they often receive.
Hopefully we’ve shed some light on the many benefits of gathering customer feedback, and the many ways in which you can go about it, no matter what your preference is when it comes the kind you’d feel most comfortable receiving. Although it can be a daunting prospect; facing the opinions of your customers on a company you’ve worked so hard to build, every business has room for improvement. Through welcoming and acting on the feedback you receive, you can become a progressive and enlightened company that is a step ahead of its competitors at all times. The more improvements you make, the more positive your customer feedback will become.