How do you make your strategic business decisions? The importance of customer feedback.
When you have a small business or startup, you make a lot of decisions. Customer feedback can help make better, more informed decisions. Let your customers help lay down a roadmap for the endless number of choices you make everyday.
Before getting into the granular questions, like "How much should I be charging for this class?" or "Do I need to hire another instructor for evening classes?" begin by asking yourself the the most important question of all, “How are you making those decisions?” Are you making business-altering choices based on your gut? Your assumptions? Or, are you making decisions guided by real information collected from your customers?
Obviously, you can’t make all of your decisions based on customer feedback, and you shouldn’t! Some matters are too time-sensitive or expensive to consider alternatives. But for those decisions regarding changes to your products or services, a little Q&A with your clientele can help you make better decisions for your customers and your bottom line.
"It is wiser to find out than to suppose."
- Mark Twain
Why you need to make information-based decisions for your business.
Data is tangible, your gut-feeling is not. It’s easy to make decisions based on your assumptions, but the problem lies in the fact that each of us suffer from perspective-bias. We shape perspectives based on our experiences, the things we “know”, the problems we’ve solved for, and our opinions. This doesn't always influence customer-centric decisions accurately. At some point in time, it's natural for business owners lose sight of what it's like to be a customer.
This is why customer feedback can be so powerful.
As business owners, your perspective is much different from the customers you serve, so trying to think like a customer can be difficult. When we try to see a situation from another’s point of view, we often don’t come to the most accurate conclusions. This can be pretty damaging to the business when you’re making decisions that affect the experience your customers have.
Without asking the customer for feedback, you can’t identify what they want. If you don’t know what they want, how will your business remain competitive in the marketplace?
Customer feedback can help improve your current products and services
Your customers like what you’re doing, otherwise, they wouldn’t be your customers. However, most people tend to be polite and aren’t bold enough to share their opinions about how you can make your services better. This doesn’t mean that they don’t have complaints or suggestions.
Reaching out to them for feedback opens a channel for them to tell you their thoughts and suggestions they would otherwise keep to themselves. Make sure you either follow up with customers regarding their feedback, or make changes in light of thier insights. Otherwise, you risk appreaing that you're only pretending to care by asking for their opinions, then doing nothing about it.
You can measure how happy/satisfied your customers are with their experience
Surveying client satisfaction allows you to set a benchmark. You can measure this overtime to see how your business is doing in making your customers happy campers.
Improve your Customer Experience
With markets becoming more saturated, differentiation between competitors is getting more and more difficult. Creating an exceptional customer experience is one of the best ways to differentiate your business from your competitors.
In order to create an exceptional experience, you need to ask your customers about what’s important to them. What are their goals when they purchase from you? Once you know what's important to them, you can begin closing any existing gaps between their expectations and what you're delivering. You can use that insight to create a delightful and consistent experience that will keep them coming back for the long haul.
Speaking of getting those customers coming back, expressing interest in their opinions will increase customer retention! If your customers aren’t thrilled with your services, it’s easier for them to look for a substitute than it is to complain. By reaching out to them, your clients will feel valued. They’ll tell you what’s up if you just ask. They feel important and you get honest feedback to make your biz better…win-win!
Get a competitive upper hand
You can’t please them all, and as a result, some customers leave. It’s the nature of the free market. Salvage value out of losing a client -- ask them why they’re leaving. You can gain an incredible amount of insight about your competitors, your shortcomings, and your opportunities with this simple question.
Find your advocates, even in your biggest haters!
When you send out surveys, the customers who give you awesome 5-star ratings are you biggest advocates. Find out who absolutely loves your business and continue to strengthen your relationship with them. They are most likely to make referrals to friends and family.
It can be a tough pride pill to swallow sometimes, but do your best to change your perspective about your haters. Now, some people just can’t be pleased, but they can provide you with some great feedback. If you’re getting poor online reviews or negative survey responses, start searching for patterns. One irate customers’ rant session on Yelp does hurt the ego, but it doesn’t justify huge changes to your business. When you do spot a pattern in those reviews, that’s an indication that you can do something to improve the customer experience or product. Now that’s customer feedback gold! You can make good business decisions based on that.
Any feedback is better than no feedback at all.
Data is stronger in numbers. The more customers you can poll, means better insights to base your decisions on. On the flip side, don’t let a lack of data points discourage you from objectively looking at your feedback and listening to what it’s telling you. Use it to get your gears turning. A little bit of feedback is better than none at all.
What tools do you use to collect customer feedback? Tell us about the wins your business has celebrated because of insightful customer feedback in the comments section below!
Updated February 10, 2016