If you’re one of those business decision-makers that view collecting customer feedback as a chore, you may be surprised to learn that you are in the majority! Research shows, however, that businesses without even the simplest ‘voice of the customer’ program are three times more likely to fail than those who have. The truth is that businesses don’t die when their last customer fails to come back. The reality is a business dies way before that. It died when your customers first stopped talking about you to their friends and colleagues. Less customers or fewer sales are usually one of the first manifestations for a business that is about to fail. It’s this that triggers most business decision-makers into launching into a customer feedback program. At that point, while the business is far from panic stations, very few people put much thought into the ways to ask for customer feedback. So what starts as a motivated exercise quickly becomes a chore - and chiefly because of the low response rate from customers. Why customers don’t leave feedback?
Honestly, why would they? (…unless perhaps you reward them)
Because time has elapsed and the business is still none the wiser what the real problem is their next step following a poor response rate from an email campaign or a paper form masquerading as a feedback system is often to launch an ‘0800’ or ‘1-800’ Freefone number printed on something like a till receipt - but again customers don’t call it - and again why should they?
If you live in the UK, you might try calling something like 0800 3172437 that a supermarket like Waitrose or Sainsburys may list on all their receipts, hoping for customer feedback. However, it’s hard to imagine a happy customer working their way through all of the automated phone message options, buttons and clicks, and harder still to imagine an annoyed customer being happy to do all of this data processing for them. So interestingly what some supermarkets did next is use an iPad at their customer service desk. It’s a nice start, because at least using amobile feedback app gives their decision-makers ‘point-of-experience’ customer feedback.
Many restaurants and retailers use their till receipts for feedback but this is roughly the equivalent of saying, “Feel free to …”
“Feel free to” is a phrase we use to refer to something that we’re not really fully invested in. It’s a phrase used by the apathetic. Think about it yourself for a moment, “Feel free to let me know what you think” doesn’t inspire anyone to fill in a feedback form, reply to an intrusive email, never mind taking time to calling a Freefone number. So if you’ve been taking this, “feel free” approach, the message you’ve really been sending to your customers is, “yeah right, put your opinion in this box and who knows it might be useful for someone, something, someday, maybe.”
Because few people put much thought into why they’re collecting customer feedback they fail to appreciate that what you’re actually doing is mining for free data and valuable insights from your customers. And actually, ‘feel free to…..’ is a pretty insulting way to do it. So considering that, is it really any wonder your response rates are low when questions are asked with such indifference?
If you only only remember one thing from this article, remember this - if you are going to ask for customer feedback, you must prove that your customer’s feedback – should they choose to give it – will not be thrown into a shoebox and forgotten. If you really want something as precious as honest customer feedback, then you must be genuine and intentional. So that brings us to a few key things to remember:
- Know why you’re asking. Repeat after me: asking just “one more” question can hurt. You must know the purpose behind what you’re asking. Ask a question because you have an action or decision ready to be implemented based on what your customers are willing to tell you.
- Ask only the questions that you’re planning to use. “If you don’t use the information you’re asking for, you’re wasting your customer’s time. You’re also wasting your time when it comes to analysing their feedback. You’ll have a whole batch of responses to look through and none of them will make a difference. Instead, save everyone time and get better responses by including only essential questions. If there’s a question whose answer forms part of a plan for anything other than the immediate future, then that can wait for another time, and so do just that, leave asking the question for another time. One thing for certain is that if you show your customers how you’ve listened to their feedback the first time then they’ll be more likely to give your feedback again.
- Ask fewer questions. Or even just one. If all you want to do is measure the overall experience then try the net promoter score question. That one question hits the nail on the head.
- Ask open questions. Ask ‘what’ and ‘why’. “For example, when you ask, “Do you have any frustrations?” it’s very easy for your customer to default and say “no.” But when you ask, “What ONE thing could we do to improve for you by next time?” that question assumes that you acknowledge that there are things that could be better and are eager to learn. It opens the opportunity for a customer to provide a more honest answer - and encourages there to be a next time, even if just out of curiosity to see whether you’ve actually listened to their feedback and taken action.
- Different customers might use your product or service differently and so your questions should consider that. Think about the way a journalist might interview you if you were a delegate and they were reporting on a big conference. There might be only one event, but each individual’s customer experience varies greatly depending on whether they’re exhibiting, presenting, selling, attending with the intention to learn or simply browsing to pass some time.
The quicker you collect feedback and can process it, the better. That’s where mobile survey apps win against any other feedback system. Like sending a text message on your phone but with the opportunity for you to gather far richer data, a mobile survey app can deliver individual customer feedback within seconds to a business decision-maker anywhere in the world.
As a footnote to the feedback process, if you are one of the smart companies that listens and actions customer feedback, consider what happens currently when the feedback you receive from a customer ends up being incorporated in a product update or a policy change. What do you do next? If the answer is “nothing,” then you’re throwing away valuable ‘brownie’ points if you do nothing. Your customers love to know that they’ve been heard and they’ll love you for letting them know you’ve heard them (even if you do nothing).
The simplest, most underutilized engagement opportunity is a personal follow up note. So what more powerful way is there to increase your customers’ loyalty than telling them how they’ve contributed to your company’s growth story. In fact, it’s pure business negligence if you squander this golden engagement opportunity. Especially because you can follow up easily, no matter the size of your business. Even if you’re a small company, make sure you invest some time to send a personal message to every customer who took the time to respond to you. If their feedback helped you develop or improve something, tell them how instrumental their feedback was to you. If you are a small company, that Thank You note may take some time to process because of everything else in your typical day. So to help you with this you’ll find that some mobile survey apps also enable you to reward customers with e.g. discount coupons or purchase incentives automatically and instantly as a way of saying for their feedback. What could be more powerful than an instant thank you in the form of a voucher which they can use while they are still within your business?
If you want to try a Mobile Survey App that is free for your customers to use then sign up to a 14 day free trial now and get your business ready for 2015!