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How to Gather Customer Feedback & Grow Your Business

Published 09/21/2017  •  Updated 10/08/2020
Using customer feedback to grow your small business.

Getting customer feedback shouldn't intimidate you, it's key for small businesses to thrive. Feedback means insight and, if you do it right, it's an excellent opportunity to show customers you're listening to them.

Here's why customer feedback is important, what to do to get customers talking, and how to use their responses to grow your business.

Why You Need Feedback from Customers

Fifty years ago, business was simple – everything was handled in-person, via phone, or by snail mail. But alas, the internet was born and everything changed. Now, you have the opportunity to interact with customers 24/7.

More importantly, they have the same opportunity to interact with you. They don't have to wait for their letter to arrive or someone to return their call. And they aren't just talking to you. We're constantly connected to email and social media with smartphones, tablets, and laptops.

This means customer service is no longer a single, one-and-done interaction, – it's an experience. A McKinsey and Company survey shows that by improving the customer journey, companies can potentially improve overall customer satisfaction by 20%, increase revenue 15%, and lower service costs by up to 20%.

Though it may have been submitted by someone a million miles away, consumers identify and respect peer feedback. According to BrightLocal, 91% of people read online reviews, and 84% of those trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. Get started collecting feedback from your customers today.

Companies that have caught on are already enjoying exciting growth. Dollar Shave Club, for example, has grown to more than 1.5 million subscribers by leveraging data from its Customer Relationship Manager (CRM) to better understand and engage customers.

How to Collect Customer Feedback

Gathering product or service reviews, feedback, referrals, and more can be as simple as asking. In the connected world, there are even more ways to solicit and use feedback to help your business. You can do it digitally, verbally, or via traditional mail. Keep reading for a more detailed list of ways you can request information from your customers.

Emails

Once customers have received their product(s), send an email with a link to leave a review. If your website has reviews built-in (or you use a plugin), send them there. If not, send them to any of the popular review sites.

Pro tip: Monitor third-party platforms. Customers won't always turn to your platform of choice but it doesn't mean they're not talking. See which sites your business is listed on (TrustPilot, Sitejabber, etc) and claim your profile. Use social media aggregators, too, in case customers are conversing without tagging you directly.

Face-To-Face

If you have a brick-and-mortar business, you're able to get to know your customers and simultaeously respond with follow-up questions that provide additional insight. Here are some opportunities to ask for feedback in your day-to-day customer interactions:

Let's say a customer comes in to your store with a return. Instead of processing the return and simply sending the former customer on their way, ask what would make the product a better solution for them, or discuss alternatives. Talking to dissatisfied customers can sometimes be more enlightening than only talking to happy ones.

Of course, you can and should follow up with happy customers, too. If you've been in business long enough to have regulars, ask them what keeps them coming back. You want to know what it is about your business that makes them choose you above everyone else.

Take note of what they say, and brainstorm ways to serve them even better.

Phone Calls

Calls are somewhere between the anonymity of online collection and the directness of in-person conversation. You may get more honest answers and still be able to ask in-the-moment follow-up questions.

This method is popular for high-value products and services – you want your level of service to match the value they paid. Your conversation doesn't have to take long but can help ensure your customer is happy and you get the information you need.

Surveys

There are plenty of free tools for creating surveys that you can send out to all of your customers. They allow you to reach multiple customers with the click of a button. Tools like Survey Monkey and Quaraloo make this easy.

You can create surveys to address specific products, pose overall business questions, or ask your customers what would have made the process better or easier. Customize them to fit your needs from short to long, multiple choice to free-response, and more. Expand its reach by posting the survey on social media channels for more exposure. Or, place the survey on certain pages of your website.

Make sure to say how long the survey will take in the email, and offer a small reward if possible – 10% off is a good place to start.

Forums

Fostering communication among customers is a great way to get candid feedback. Put links across your website or in email communications. This will help users find support and share resources.

Visit our community label forum to see how it works.

Article Comments

Add a "comment" option to the end of your blog or support articles. People may share different information when they think it's going to other customers versus the marketing team. They may include things they wish they knew or provide their personal feedback on their experience using the product or service.

Product FAQs

Product or service pages are a great place for questions and answers. Including a button for users to submit their input may drum up new feedback.

Review Your Results

Now that you've collected feedback, read through it. Here are great ways you can use customer feedback to help your company.

Identify Trends

What are people suggesting? Are there multiple people complaining about a certain feature, service, or store?

Listening to your customers enables you to create a product or service that they'll actually want to buy. This can help ensure your end product is something that solves their problem or fulfills their need.

Find Advocates

Brand advocates offer tremendous value at very little cost. When you gather feedback from your customers, advocates are the ones who give you high scores. Create a list of these customers to contact later. They can help you build stronger, mutually-beneficial relationships.

How to Respond to Customer Feedback

Answering online reviews, comments, and questions may seem daunting but it's crucial to maintain a healthy online presence and relationship with your customers. A direct line of communication with your customers can help improve your retention numbers and avoid leaving customers unhappy. Read our best practices for handling customer feedback.

Negative Reviews

Try not to take feedback personally or type out a fueled response. Negative feedback may strike a cord, but it's important to write with a level-head.

Try to stay helpful and friendly. Shoot for a response within 24 hours, if possible. Tell your customer that you sincerely appreciate their feedback, then try to fix the problem to the best of your ability. The customer will be pleasantly surprised to see you've addressed their complaint and it's possible you could win them back once you've successfully resolved their issue.

And don't forget to thank them for their valuable feedback!

"Our strategy for handling negative feedback is simple: do right by our customers. Our customer service is an important part of our brand. Even if we may lose money in the process, we want people to leave us feeling like their concerns were heard and resolved."
— OnlineLabels.com CEO, Dave Carmany

If you have an employee monitoring these sites, create a script which directs the customer to an email or phone number to call and voice their concern. You want your company voice to be consistent and match the overall tone of the company.

Positive Reviews

Positive feedback means that someone was happy enough with your product or service to go out of their way and leave a review or comment. This is very exciting and you should respond as soon as possible with appreciation and a personal touch.

Uses for Customer Feedback

Use reviews, testimonials, and quotes in sales proposals, highlight them on your website, or display them on the walls of your office – however you feel is appropriate. Make sure potential customers know that your business or product is loved!

"Once you have the data, the key is to utilize it not only to your benefit, but for the customers' as well. For example, we use crowdsourcing as a way to collect information, then re-purpose that content as articles, videos, and FAQs to help other customers."
— OnlineLabels.com CEO, Dave Carmany



Gathering customer feedback doesn't have to involve robo-calls and walking door-to-door. Anyone can get it once you know how to ask!

For more business tips, check out our article center. You can also find ways to grow your business using your packaging with our article: Using Your Packaging to Create Return Customers.

How to gather customer feedback and what to do with it.

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