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    Asking for Feedback

    Sales assistant takes feedback from customer

    No matter what walk of life we are in asking for feedback is crucial, as without knowing how other people perceive us, we are unable to know what we need to improve in order to grow professionally and personally. The same can be said for businesses and their customers. If businesses don’t really understand what their customers think of them and their views about what they are producing, how can they truly deliver the products and services that they are demanding. This is where the value of collecting customer feedback becomes evident.

    So, what is customer feedback?

    Customer Feedback Definition

    At its most basic level customer feedback is focused on obtaining information from customers about their experiences with a product or service. The aim of this is to help businesses get a better idea about their level of satisfaction, as well as what improvements they need to make in order to enhance the experience for customers and prospects going forward.

    In this blog post we’ll explore everything you need to know about this subject including why feedback is important, it’s advantages and disadvantages and how to ask customers for their feedback.

    The importance of customer feedback

    While you might think you know your product or service inside and out, having discussed its features and benefits thousands of times with the rest of your team, it doesn’t mean you’re the only authority on the subject and the only one who is able to predict how successful it will be. In fact, when you’re so close to it, you’re unlikely to see the imperfections that others might see, which is exactly why the importance of gaining customer feedback is so crucial.

    It’s important to see your product or service from the perspective of your customers, as only then will you know how much they like or dislike it, how much it has helped them and ultimately if it has met all their requirements. Collecting feedback from your customers can also help strengthen the bond that you already have with them, by demonstrating how much you value their opinion.

    When implemented correctly a system for collecting, analysing and acting on customer feedback, can enable you to make significant improvements to your products and services. It’s also critical for enabling you to build a customer-centric culture that strives to provide the best possible experience for prospects and customers alike, helping to improve your success, which ultimately highlights the importance of gaining customer feedback in business.

    From website feedback boxes, usability tests and analytics of user activity to online surveys or reaching out to your contacts directly. There are lots of ways in which you can start collecting and analysing customer feedback, which we will go on to explore towards the end of this blog piece, but first we will investigate some of the advantages and disadvantages of it, which will help to reinforce why we need customer feedback.

    The advantages and disadvantages of customer feedback

    While we have already touched briefly on some of the benefits of customer feedback, here are some key advantages you stand to gain from implementing a system for collecting your customers’ feedback.

    Advantages of customer feedback

    - Know what your customers want: while you might think you have a great idea for a new product or service, there’s no guarantee that your customers will think the same. However, if you can get feedback from a sizeable sample of them this can help take some of the guesswork out of this process, enabling you to make any changes you need and increase your chances of delivering what they want when you’re ready to launch.

    - Catch developing issues before they become major problems: without feedback, your company is unlikely to notice many of the issues that could be affecting its customer experience, which if left could develop into a more serious problem. This is especially true with customer service issues, which can be picked up earlier if you are regularly asking your customers for feedback.

    - Acquire more customers: think about what you do when you’re looking to buy a product from a company, particularly one you're less familiar with. It’s likely that you will look to get the opinions of others, before you make a decision to buy, whether that’s a personal recommendation or a scan of some online review sites. Either way, as long as the feedback you’re collecting is positive, it’s likely to help your business acquire more customers.

    - Improve Customer Loyalty: gathering and then acting on the customer feedback you collect is one of the most powerful ways to improve your customer loyalty. In fact, customer loyalty statistics show that for 97% of consumers, a company acting on their feedback would make them at least somewhat likely to become more loyal.

    Despite the many advantages that asking for customer feedback can provide, if you’ve not thought carefully enough about the systems you’ve implemented to collect and act on this feedback, you could potentially experience some disadvantages similar to those outlined below.

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    Potential dis-advantages of customer feedback

    - It can be wasteful if you’re not specific enough about why you’re doing it: let’s say you sent out a large volume of surveys, got plenty of responses back, but found out that for the most part, your customers were reasonably satisfied with your company and not much else. Would that inspire you to take a specific action? Probably not. And feedback without action, is meaningless.

    - How to avoid this: always makes sure to set SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound goals), before you attempt to collect customer feedback. They force you to ask why you’re doing this and how you’ll use the info afterwards. When you know what your goals are, you’ll identify the right questions to ask your customers.

    - The most vocal customers are sometimes the most disproportionately represented: sometimes the people you hear from aren’t the ideal representatives of the average customer you think they are – they just have the loudest voices. It’s not uncommon for businesses to ask for feedback, then spot a request for a new product feature or offering and spend months working on this only to find out that the customer who requested it is the only one who care about its release.

    How to avoid this: be mindful to ensure you always have sufficient feedback before you do anything. You could also consider asking your customers to vote for the requests they’d like to see the most. And finally, don’t forget to ask your own team whether they think the idea has potential too.

    - It could turn some customers against you: when you begin taking feedback, there will always be some customers who will assume you will act on their every word and get upset if their requests are not acted on or are shuffled to the bottom of your priority list. In fact, some studies have shown that up to 55% of consumers could potentially abandon a company that totally ignored their feedback.

    How to avoid this: set clear expectations right from the start, such as informing customers that while each of their requests will being given serious consideration and will be reviewed in the order that they come in, only the most popular will be selected. It’s also important to thank every customer that’s sent in a suggestion, even if it isn’t used, as they will see that they have been acknowledged rather than ignored.

    How to ask for customer feedback

    Having investigated some of the benefits and potential pitfalls of collecting customer feedback, you're now ready to start exploring ways of how to get customer feedback.

    - Surveys: when it comes to methods of how to obtain customer feedback, then one of the most effective places to start with is a customer survey, as this will help you to better quantify and understand what your customers want, need and expect.

    When it comes to your business, your customer service and support teams are one of the best places for collecting this feedback. Subsequently, the customer service survey, is one of the most popular customer survey types, underlining the importance of feedback in customer service. Why not take a look at our customer service surveys page to see how you can use these surveys to better measure how well your own support teams are performing and ensure improved quality and consistency in your service going forward.

    With today’s digital tools it’s quick and easy to reach your customers, analyse their responses and produce professional reports that will empower you to make smarter decisions. And the best of these online survey solutions will also offer the ability for you to keep collecting responses when unforeseen circumstances mean you find yourself in locations without access to the internet. It’s a capability we can offer our own customers, who can load an offline survey to a smartphone or tablet, capture relevant data in the field and then download these responses automatically as soon as a connection is re-established.

    - Feedback boxes: if you’ve got a reasonably significant online presence then having a feedback box on your website is a no brainer, as it can help you to improve your customers’ experience on that platform.

    From customers’ views on new designs or functionality, to bringing any website bugs or broken links to your attention, getting feedback in this way, can enable you to spot and fix issues earlier and help keep your customers happy.

    - Usability tests: offer another more practical way of gaining customer feedback. Usually involving a product or a website, their aim is to evaluate how easy something is to use.

    Users will be asked to complete a series of tasks, typically while being observed to see where they might encounter any problems or experience confusion. Then if enough people are experiencing the same issues recommendations will be made to help overcome these usability issues.

    While previously this could be a very costly venture, requiring the efforts of a specialist research firm to support you, the price has become much lower is recent years due to the emergence of a number of smaller digital players such as UserTesting.com.

    - Online user review sites: many of us will have visited these sites to check out the views of others before deciding to make a purchase with a company. Subsequently, registering with online review sites can be a very effective way for businesses to reach out for customer feedback.

    As long as you manage them in the right way, there are a lot of benefits to be gained through having a presence on these sites, including free advertising and content for your business on another website. The online reviews can also help to improve customer trust and confidence in your business, while providing another tool for you to use to improve your SEO rankings.

    - Reaching out directly: another valuable, but often overlooked approach is to reach out to customers directly. While surveys, feedback boxes and online review sites are great, they’ll struggle to pick up some of the more contextual information that a phone call, video call or face to face meeting would pick up.

    Often it isn’t completely clear cut what a customers’ pain points are, or what they need solving, which can only be picked up by digging deeper and listening to the sound of their voice and watching their facial expressions. Therefore, even if you don't have enough time to talk to all of your customers, it could really pay dividends for your business, if you could reach out directly from time to time with some of your key customers.

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    About Author

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    Phil Cleave

    Phil is part of the Content team at SmartSurvey and has over 20 years experience in the PR and Comms sector writing for Tech Companies.

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