Importance of Customer Feedback
Estimated Lesson Time: 5 minutes
As a father of two children, every day I deal with “feedback.” When my daughter says she wants to eat less dinner so she can have more room for dessert, or when my son wants to do nothing but watch movies all day long, I basically tell them what is best for them—and that is that. This technique is fine for small children but does not work too well with customers. Unfortunately, many business leaders today treat their customers just like pre-teen children who have no idea what is best for them. Listening to your customers, and more important, acting on the feedback they give is one of the best ways to transform a struggling business into a successful one.
Not being in tune with your customers is like living in an alternate reality; the way you think your customers feel about your product is not always the same as what your customers really think about your product. Too many business people would rather live in ignorant bliss than accept the reality of their product or business. The fact is, even if reality may be harsh, in most cases it is manageable.
The reasons for accepting customer feedback are quite obvious to some, but not so obvious to others. Your customers are ultimately the ones responsible for your paycheck. By listening to your customers needs and desires, you can tailor your product and service to meet their demands better. This will ultimately lead to greater success.
Below are just a few of the more common forms of accepting feedback. Depending on your business and your customer base, some will work better than others.
- Suggestion box: a physical box with a pen and paper where customers can give feedback. This is great for gyms, retail stores, and other locations where customers visit.
- Feedback form: this can be mailed or delivered with the invoice on the completion of a job. The questions can be structured to prompt the customer for the right kind of information. This is great for service professionals, painters, and other contractors.
- On-line: an e-mail address, on-line form, and interactive forum are all good for feedback. This form of feedback is ideal when the majority of customers are on-line customers.
- Focus group: getting a group of customers together for a discussion about your product is most common with a new product launch but can be used for feedback on existing products or services as well. This form of feedback works best when the customers do not have far to travel.
- Surveys: phone, snail-mail, and e-mail surveys are somewhat annoying to most customers, but they can also be the most informative. Remember that very few people who feel indifferent about the product ever fill these out without some kind of compensation; as in a product discount or coupon, it is either the very happy or very upset customers who invest the time to take these surveys.
Here are the three basic rules for customer feedback:
- Make it easy for customers to give feedback. There is a bumper sticker that reads “Complaints? Call 1-900-COMPLAIN. $9.95 per minute.” This is a humorous example showing how difficult it can be to find an organization willing to accept your feedback. If possible, allow the customer to give feedback anonymously. In cases such as giving feedback, anonymity breeds honesty.
- Thank the customer for the feedback. If a customer is giving feedback, even in the form of a non-diplomatic complaint, realize that you are benefiting from this. Although kind words should be enough, customers feel appreciated more when some form of compensation is given. If giving a gift of some sort is possible and appropriate, then do it.
- Analyze the feedback. Is this feedback based on an isolated incident? Have you received similar feedback before from other customers? Is this customer being reasonable in their requests and/or suggestions? Will acting on this feedback benefit the organization as well as other customers, or just this one customer? You certainly do not have to act on all suggestions, but you certainly should consider them. Customer feedback should be used as just one of the sources of information in decision-making, but not the primary source. There are times when you know your product better than anyone, and your vision and determination will make it work despite public opinion.
Simply making it easy for customers to give feedback can do wonders for the overall attitude of your customer base. Actively seeking feedback, as in offering some form of compensation for the feedback, shows your customers that their feedback is important to you. Acting on the feedback and implementing reasonable changes based on customer feedback is a sure way to win over your customers and increase the success of your business.
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Some discussion questions (some may not apply to this lesson):
- Have you implemented this idea in your life? How has it been working for you?
- Do you have any interesting stories related to this lesson? Do tell!
- What do you admire most about this person? (success biography days)