Channels for Gaining Customer Feedback

“Feedback is a gift. Ideas are the currency of our next success. Let people see you value both feedback and ideas.” – Jim Trinka and Les Wallace

Customers can provide feedback in any form and through a number of channels. These ‘reviews’ can be detailed or short ones with a few words – each effective enough to drive home their message. However, depending on how a company may have treated their customers, gaining customer feedback could be either a boon or a bane. Happy customers would provide sound feedback that would help a company, and add to its value. Disgruntled customers on the other hand could provide feedback and post scathing comments that would most likely ‘color’ the perception of other readers and prospects. Given these facts, it would be imperative for companies to choose wisely the channels for gaining customer feedback, and ensure that they have the internal capability to manage and respond to customer reviews.

It is not enough to use channels for gaining customer feedback, but it is important to use that feedback and let customers know what your company may have done with their suggestions. This shows customers that the company values their opinion and their business, while providing companies with a great way to improve and enhance their business. Consistently and effectively using channels for gaining customer feedback and incorporating it to provide better service and higher quality and customized products, is a sure way to enhance for companies to enhance their reputation. In addition, the more value customers can see from associating with a business, the more likely they would be let others know of their experiences – which in turn provides increased exposure and awareness of a brand. It makes sense therefore, for companies to optimize the use of the available channels for gaining customer feedback. Obviously, companies must first be aware of the possible channels through which they can interact with and hope to receive feedback from customers.

We have mentioned that one of the best ways / ‘channel’ to for gaining customer feedback is by asking them directly for their opinion. As many times as possible, it would be great to have face-to-face interactions and meetings with them, asking them pointed and specific questions with regard to their experiences and expectations of the company. In order to ensure that these direct interaction opportunities are not wasted, companies must ensure that the questions they ask revolve around their business long-term goals, to make sure that the customer would stay with them for a long time, and that, over time the customer would become a profitable brand ambassador. One of the flaws that experts mention about this method of gaining customer feedback is that customers tend to hold back information or speak ‘half-truths’, which could skew their message / feedback, giving the company an incomplete view of the customer’s opinion and experiences with it. This aspect of such a method of gaining customer feedback must be taken into consideration while formulating the questions and duration of the customer interview – focusing on gaining issues that require the customer’s perspective for improvement / enhancement.

Another method of gaining customer feedback is through email message requests – this is especially useful for regular customers. However, these email feedback requests must be timed well and should never be too frequent. The simple reason being that customers are constantly ‘bombarded’ with such ‘requests’ by almost every company they associate with, and it does become quite an onerous task for customers to respond to all. In order to gain customer feedback through this channel, it would be wise to ensure first that your company would have created and sustained a strong emotional bond to its brand. Random messages to all customers could actually have quite the opposite reaction – customers could actually choose to opt out of receiving any messages from your company in the future. Using email as a channel for gaining customer feedback is most effective when those in the ‘mailing list’ are people with whom your company would have formed a strong communication link, and who would be happy to hear from your company in any manner or through any channel.

In today’s digitized environment, companies cannot ignore the utility of communicating with and gaining customer feedback via social media. It is important to ascertain which social media platforms the company’s customers prefer, and which of the sites they would rather stay away from or use minimally. The rule for all social media interactions is that they should be two-way conversations, where a customer is able to respond rather than being mute listeners. If a customer may seem irate or ready to provide poor feedback, it would be better to take the interaction offline, or online to another medium that would not be public. It is never a good idea to argue with a customer, especially on social media – irrespective of whether the fault lies with the customer, companies that argue or respond rudely to customers always find themselves getting unwanted attention and attracting the ire of prospective customers as well. Managing customer experiences via social media does affect business – positively or negatively, would depend on their management. Establishing a sound social presence, and building a positive image would precede gaining customer feedback through this channel.

Everyone knows that an increasing number of people have begun to shop online, and before they do so, they read existing customer reviews about the company and its products. It would be necessary therefore, for a company to optimize the feedback via this channel by constantly monitoring the comments, and instantly responding to reviews, especially the ones that can potentially damage the reputation of your company. Responding instantly lets your customers know that you care about them and their opinion, while also providing proof to prospective customers of the kind of service they can expect when they decide to engage with your company. As a channel of gaining customer feedback, social media can prove to be highly favorable and effective, if a company monitors and manages it well and constantly.

Gaining customer feedback is imperative for any business and size of company. It is the only way to know what your customers think about your company and its products, and is the shortest route to ensure that your company gives its customers exactly what they need and expect. Whichever channel a company decides to use, ensure that the tone is friendly, and each customer feels valued, important, and special. The more a company can enhance these feelings with each customer, the better its chances of gaining great reviews, and over time customer loyalty. It would be prudent to encourage customer feedback by offering them incentives and offers – while this may not be a sustainable method, at least your company would gain some insights into what your existing and potential customers expect and need. Of course, it would be necessary to make it easy for customers and others to provide feedback, and treat every feedback as an opportunity to enhance your business reputation by serving customers better. Customers are busy people – hence if they do take the time to provide feedback, it would be in the best interest of the company to respond and use the words of the customers wisely. Companies that do this well and consistently, will find themselves on the fast track to success and outrunning their competitors at all times. Do you know how good your company is at gaining customer feedback and using it to gain a competitive edge?

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