It’s so easy to get sucked into the day-to-day operations of running your business. And on the surface, there’s nothing wrong with that. You wouldn’t have a business without a strong product; you need to deliver high quality, so your customers return and refer friends who refer friends, and so on.
But, how much time do you spend understanding and exploring how well what you’re doing works for your customers? Are you giving them what they really need and want and is it enough to keep them from walking, or running, to one of your competitors?
Of course, we all believe that when we ask, they’ll tell us we’re perfect. But do you know for sure? Would they say you need to make small adjustments to your product or your customer service? Or worse, would theysay you need a complete overhaul and the only reason they’re not jumping ship is that you’re the only game in town?
Good or bad,you need to know exactly how they feel, in order to react appropriately. Gathering this information regularly is the only way you’ll get an idea of what’s working well, while also revealing potential issues, problems and trends that could be keeping you from giving them exactly what they need.
However, most won’t tell you how they truly feel unless you ask them. They’re probably as busy and distractedas you are. Research shows that a typical business only hears from 4% of its dissatisfied customers.
In addition to gathering the hard data you need to make any necessary changes, asking your customers for their feedback can improve their perception of you (which in turn can help your business). Good business is about strong relationships, and asking your customers for their opinion goes a long way toward showing you are truly interested in them, as customers and as people. Make them feel validated and they’ll be more likely to give you their honest feedback. And they’ll be more likely to stick around, even if there’s a problem, because they know you’ll really be interested in what they have to say about the experience.
What you should be collecting…
Here are three areas you should be keeping an ear on:
- Their experiences –You want their honest feedback on your products and services as well as their experiences with your staff. Is your widget easy to use? Is your instruction manual missing steps and pushing them to call your Help Desk? Is your staff responding empathetically and in ways that will solve the customer’s problem? Perhaps some of your customer service staff could benefit from a product refresher or a customer service training session. Are your customers satisfied, but you’re missing an opportunity for them to love you? There’s no way for you to know for sure, unless you ask.
- Their view on what you could be missing:
- Do they know all you have to offer, or do they only know about the bits they use? If not, you risk them going to a competitor if they’re looking for a related product or service they don’t know you have.
- Do you have a good picture of them, including all of what they do and all of their departments and divisions? Maybe there are some areas of their company that could benefit from learning more about your services. But you don’t know about them.
- Their knowledge of your competitors – This is a critical area you can’t ignore, and you can’t be scared to ask. Knowing who they would be working with if it wasn’t you can give you an edge and help you better differentiate your organization. You can learn from their mistakes or you can just do it better – maybe by being more price competitive or offering more bells and whistles. Have your competitors come up in conversation with your customers? These conversations can validate that you truly are the best in the market, or tell you where you need to pivot.
…and how you can collect it
You can’t put this exercise at the bottom of your to do list. Make it a priority and your customers will make you a priority. But give your customers the sense that you don’t value their input, or even worse, that you only see them as a dollar figure, and watch them run, not walk, to one of your competitors.
(Here’s the thing: just collecting this information won’t do you any good. You need to review the results in detail and develop a plan for reacting to what you learn. But that’s a post for another day.)
This task might seem overwhelming. You’re probably asking how the heck you can possibly fit it in, in addition to everything else you need to do. Even if you operate a high volume business that doesn’t leave time for one-on-one customer calls, there are many strong, fairly passive ways to collect meaningful feedback you can act on.
Subscription services like Survey Monkey, Client Pulse and iPerceptions let you reach out electronically and ask customers specific questions about your services and/or their experiences. You can automate your process to follow up after a sale, product return or customer service call, and customers can respond when they have time. Or, you can reach out regularly with surveys that will help you in the short and long term. Whatever path you take, make sure the survey/questionnaire is easy to complete and available both on desktops and mobile devices, so customers can complete them at their convenience.
You need to be intimately familiar with your presence on social media. And we’re not talking about what you’re posting. With its immense reach and ability to affect behavior, you must spend time reading what people are saying about you. Customers may not want to call and talk to you, but you can be certain that in our (almost) instant gratification world, they’re talking about you on Facebook and Twitter. And depending on what you offer, they might also be talking on LinkedIn or posting pictures on Instagram. You can stay on top of this pretty easily, by setting up Google alerts for your company or your product or use services like Sprout Social and SocialBro to notify you every time your company, product or service is mentioned.
Get the details
Make the assumption that you know what your customers are thinking and you’re leaving yourself open to big surprises. And they might not be the ones that make you happy.
Be less worried about those quiet customers by reaching out and asking them to be honest with you. Only once you truly understand their wants and needs, and how you’re responding to them, will you see what makes you great and where you could improve, and make you more comfortable talking to them as well as potential new customers.