Encouraging Customer Feedback – Clear, Precise, Useful

Every company must solicit customer feedback. That is probably the easy part. The challenge lies in encouraging customer feedback on the survey questions. The reasons for this could be many – lack of interest / time, a customer may be unable articulate expectations, the questions could be poorly structured such that elicit only yes or no answers and a plethora of other such reasons. The fact is that unless a company is successful in receiving customer feedback – clear, precise and useful they would be unable to assess their performance against that of the customer’s expectations. Over time, this could lead to low customer satisfaction levels and ultimately customer churn.

  1. Encouraging Customer Feedback would imply that a company first asks questions. The questions must be open-ended that would elicit self-explanatory answers by which a company can understand how customers perceive their services, products and brand value. In case the previous feedback questionnaires got you yes or no answers, rephrase the questions to ensure that you get clear answers and qualitative inputs from the customers.
  2. Ask questions that will enable customers to tell you why they chose your company instead of your closest competitor. In addition, create opportunities for them to provide suggestions as to what you can do better such that each experience they have with your company is memorable.
  3. Interact with your customers consistently through all the available channels of communication such that there is an emotional connection with them. This builds trust and dependability and anyone running a business knows that customers tend to stay with a company they like and trust.
  4. Connect with them via their most preferred channel of communication. Doing so will encourage them to ‘speak’ with you and it would be easier for them to ‘share’ their positive experiences with others. This is turn would spread the good word about your company with the least possible effort and use of resources from your company. They will be encouraged to provide you with clear answers since their understanding of your company will increase.
  5. To ensure that you elicit clear, precise, and useful feedback and will not be confusing your customers, avoid industry jargon, highly technical terms and company specific acronyms and terminology. This behaviour irritates customers, as they perceive it as the company’s attempt to dupe them or even show off their knowledge. In order to elicit clear answers from customers, use the words and phrases that they seem to use often – especially when ‘speaking or discussing’ your company.
  6. Using interactive videos, descriptive material, pictures and great content, will lend a better impression for your company. This first impression will ensure that your customers provide you will clear answers on their objectives and how your company can help in meeting those objectives. A proper understanding of what a customer needs will enable your company to put together customized offerings and solutions for them.
  7. The basic step to encouraging customer feedback is to listen attentively. Customers need to know that your company is interested in listening to them first rather than trying to make every interaction a sale. With this confidence, customers are more amenable to providing a lot more information and would be happy to engage with your company when you do require some more clear answers to move forward. One of the main reasons that customers refuse to respond or complete feedback surveys is that the questions seem to focus only on the interests of the company. For encouraging clear, precise, and useful feedback, ensure that the survey is customer focused and is a genuine attempt to gain knowledge from them.
  8. In order to gain from the answers and informal discussions provided by customers, it would behove your company to put all the ideas and suggestions on paper. This written information will prove to be indispensable to predict future customer behaviours.
  9. Customers love to share their ‘knowledge’ with others. By providing them with an outlet such as an online discussion community or forum, a company would not just be encouraging customer feedback, but would also become extremely popular with customers. Of course, simply gaining this feedback will not suffice – continuous monitoring and tracking would be extremely essential. It would be prudent to assign a small team for the purpose, such that they can encourage discussions, coordinate between ‘responders’, regularly update the information on these forum, respond to customer queries and feedback – essentially handle effectively and efficiently the entire gamut of ‘conversations’ via the discussion channels. When customers see the active involvement of the company, they would be more likely to provide candid feedback, become engaged, and be more inclined to build a relationship with the company. To encourage further, such discussions and value-added customer insights, a company can look at incentivizing customers for sharing and providing reviews.
  10. The mistake some companies make while trying to gain feedback and reviews from customers, is remaining confined to their own websites, social media sites, and discussion forums they manage. This is an error since, irate customers for example, are unlikely to vent their annoyance on a company’s ‘sites’, but would rather use the other channels and forums to do so. By not tracking conversations about their brand or products on these other sites, a company could be leaving a lot of customer feedback ‘unheard and unattended’, which further irritates customers. In addition, these ‘out there’ sites could prove to be a great source of customer feedback on a company’s competitors. Knowing what customers have to say about competition enables a company to further strengthen what it does well and remove its inadequacies – making it even more attractive to a wide customer base.
  11. If your company is encouraging customer feedback, it must also ensure that it displays this feedback on prominent and highly visible places and online platforms. Positive customer feedback when displayed encourages customers and others to provide even more insights and contribute valuable information, giving a company access to invaluable data with very little effort. Anyone running a business ought to know that customers love companies that make them feel important and valued – by displaying their ‘words of wisdom’, a company ensures their cooperation and support for the long-term. However, in order for customer feedback to appear genuine, a company must remember to post the customer’s name, company they represent, and other details.
  12. Work towards consistently building a rapport with your customers. A strong relationship with them will ensure that they are happy to provide you will feedback and clear answers and would be happy to give ideas and suggestions for new products and services. Being able to encourage customer feedback is an indicator of the relationship your company has been able to forge with them.
  13. If your company expects its customers to provide unambiguous answers, it must also avoid being vague in the terms and conditions. If your company representatives answer with words or phrases like “it depends or maybe”, your customers might also begin to follow suit. Not being able to elicit clear answers from customers is just as detrimental as no responses.

The world of business is a challenging one. It does not make good business sense to complicate it further by ambiguity and lack of customer support. Give them great service, listen to them, be trustworthy – just some of the ways that customers will trust you and be more open and clear while answering questions, responding to surveys or simply providing great feedback that your company can use.

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