As a business owner, you probably find it hard not to feel bogged down by all of the numbers, statistics, and analytics that fill your brain every single day.
Yes, those numbers provide insight into how your average customer feels about your products and services, but no matter how hard you crunch the numbers, raw data can only tell you so much.
At the end of the day, your business is all about your current and potential customers. Instead of treating a spreadsheet like a crystal ball that has all of the answers, take some time to get into your customers’ heads. Instead of making assumptions about how your customers feel, ask them. Direct feedback, straight from the customer’s mouth (or keyboard), will go far in developing your brand, reaching your sales goals, and improving your customer retention rate.
Customer feedback can help you understand why customers are buying what they’re buying, and what is fueling them to choose your brand over your competitors (or vice-versa!). With this insight, you will be better able to correct problems, communicate effectively with consumers, and, most importantly, build consumer trust in your brand.
Here are 3 ways to get actionable feedback from your customers:
Online Customer Reviews
You may have devoted customers who are bothered by or unhappy about some aspect of your business, but they are too polite to say anything. You may have customers who just stopped doing business with you for no apparent reason — they have their reasons, they just didn’t tell you what they are!
Encourage your customers to write online reviews and give them permission to tell you honestly what they think: the good and the bad. Keep in mind that even negative reviews can provide helpful feedback, if you’re willing to hear it. And if you do get a negative review, post a public response that shows you’re making a good-faith effort to fix the problem.
In addition to providing you with valuable feedback that can help you improve your business, customer reviews serve a second very important purpose. According to a recent survey of US consumers:
- 92% hesitate to purchase if there are no customer reviews.
- 97% take reviews into consideration when making purchasing decisions.
- 94% of consumers typically read written reviews to find out specifically what customers liked and didn’t like.
Consumers are quite skeptical about purchasing something with only the seller’s information. They want to know if people who made the decision to invest in the product or service are happy that they did. Make it a habit to ask your customers to write online reviews.
The first step here is to build a list of your customers’ e-mail addresses.
- Provide an “old school” sign-up sheet in your store and ask customers to give you their email address to get notifications about, sales, promotions, and special events.
- Ask customers and prospects who visit your website to sign up for your notifications. You may want to offer an incentive – something like 10% off your next purchase (you’ll get an email address and perhaps even persuade the customer to buy just by virtue of offering a small discount).
In addition to sending out the notifications, send a personal email to customers and ask them to tell you about their experiences with your business. This is also another opportunity to ask them to post an online customer review.
Surveys are one of the easiest ways to collect and analyze customer feedback. Some services, like SurveyGizmo and SurveyMonkey, offer free trials. You create the survey and using the email addresses you’ve collected, send the survey link to your customers.
Some tips to follow when creating your customer satisfaction surveys:
- Keep it short: As a rule of thumb, keep it to 10 questions or less so that it takes no more 10 minutes to complete.
- Ask questions that will capture useful information: Decide what you want to know and why you want to know it, so you will get actionable information from your survey.
- Use open-ended questions: Limiting your survey to multiple-choice questions may limit your customer’s ability to give you a comprehensive review. Open-ended questions provide opportunities for customers to truly express their feelings.
Once you get your responses, run a survey report and analyze the data. Follow up with any unhappy customers and treat their survey comments much like you would a negative online review: try to find a solution that will make the customer happy.
Make sure you set up a Google alert for mentions of your business, and regularly monitor all of the relevant review sites you’re listed on. Consider using a review management tool like ReviewTrackers so you don’t miss a thing. Then respond to all your reviews, both negative and positive.
(Infographic credit: Fan & Fuel)