Building on the first point that customers are the biggest stakeholder, the next thing to do is collect their input and feedback. The medium for collecting feedback will be different between industries, but no matter the domain, the act of collecting feedback can be the difference between staying in business or not. Assuming there is a difference between online and brick and mortar businesses, let’s look at some different techniques for collecting feedback.
Online or tech businesses have a small advantage over physical stores in that they can connect with customers that are in any location around the world. This advantage translates into more opportunities to collect feedback via their own website, email, social media, automated texting services, or Google forms. Submittable forms on a business’ website are a simple way to collect feedback. Ask a few pointed questions and allow for customers to write their opinions in a free form box as well. Dedicated groups on social media platforms to discuss current or future products can be a great way to collect feedback quickly. Basically an online focus group. After a customer makes an online purchase, an automated email can go out asking customers to fill out a 2-5 minute questionnaire about their experience. Having a reward system in place that gives customers points or discounts for sharing their opinion can boost participation as well (more on this below). In a similar vein, if customers input their phone number when making purchases, an automated texting service can send them a message with a link to a Google form that has a few questions about their experience.
In the tech world, being able to view, either in person or with a screen share, how someone interacts with your platform, app, or product will produce feedback you might never get from asking questions. By shining a light onto what features are most used, which are ignored, and what is confusing, you’ll learn more than asking them to tell you what they like. If it takes someone more than one click or attempt to find the button they need, that’s a signal for the design team to rethink the layout. If there are certain features that are not used, maybe it’s a sign to remove the feature (or make it more accessible). Conversely, a most used feature should be the basis for directing improvement energy on the product side (i.e. build on your strengths). Capitalizing on the best features by making them even better to use will delight power users. Speaking of delighting users, try and go out of the way to delight 30-50% of customers, especially in the early days. Maybe that means a free juice, a free upgrade to a pro version, bringing them an unsolicited coffee, etc. Being more thoughtful than needed creates fans, who will be customers for life.
Brick and mortar and onsite service companies will need a slightly different approach compared to internet first companies. Restaurants, salons, retail stores, automotive repair shops – any place that primarily does business in person – will likely be better able to collect feedback with a suggestion box. Good old fashioned pieces of paper that get submitted into a box. A half piece of paper with a few questions and room for comments is really all that’s necessary. Occasionally (once a month, say), the suggestions should be reviewed and discussed as a team. The more frequently something is brought up, the more urgently it should be acted on.
Another approach here is using an automated texting service to send a premade survey via text message. Services like SimpleTexting (not affiliated) allow a business to create a “code word” that customers can text to an automated system. The service can be set up to automatically respond with a link to an online survey (Google form, Mailchimp, Airbase) that customers can fill out.
Finally, just call customers to ask for their feedback. Be clear that you’re calling to learn in order to improve. You’re not calling to sell anything new. If a change is made in copy, website, design or service based on customer feedback, let that customer know how they helped. You’ll make a fan for life.
Incentivizing reviews is a common practice, but it needs to be done with care. Buying positive reviews is bad; the internet will eat you alive for it. Offering a future discount, a sticker, or some small incentive after someone has provided feedback is acceptable, but buying positive reviews is not. It’s a fine line to walk, but it needs to be thought about prior to collecting feedback.
It’s also important to think about your online presence, regardless of your business domain. Reviews on Yelp, TripAdvisor, Google Business Pages, Instagram, Twitter, etc. are a large source of feedback and viewable by the public. As more and more businesses are discovered online, it should be a priority to be noticeable by having positive reviews. Make it a point to respond to as many reviews as possible, good or bad. Offering an opportunity for upset customers to help prevent their bad experience from happening to anyone else may turn them into a fan. For example, respond to their criticisms by acknowledging the issue and sharing a direct phone number they can call.