Every business is reliant on customers. Customer feedback, both positive and negative, has become loud and very public, but it gives you the opportunity to demonstrate exactly who you are and how well you value the clients who contribute to the strength of your bottom line. Often the key between a successful business and a failing one may be entrenched in whether or not you’re paying attention to what your customer is saying. But how do you leverage these customer raves and rants to build up your business’s value? For many companies, it is not the listening that is difficult, it is coordinating the feedback across multiple channels and capturing it in a way that enables and encourages action within your enterprise that matters most.
Find the Channel and Own It
Customers want to be able to communicate with you, and you should want to communicate with your customers. And despite the variety of communications channels that modern technology opens up, you’ll find that most of your customers will gravitate to a select few—social media, user forums, local communities, chat, etc.
Find those channels, prioritize them and own them. Dedicate staff to learning each of these channels’ social norms and etiquette, and integrate yourselves into it as smoothly as possible. You will want to be so much a part of each channel landscape that people have no qualms about opening up to you. This will allow you to collect all sorts of unstructured customer feedback, while also inviting people to give structured feedback in the form of surveys and customer response forms.
Capture Every Comment and Response
Positive comments are great and should always be treasured, but negative comments should be cherished just as much, if not more. Why is that? There are several reasons. One is because unhappy customers are often the people who have the best ideas on how you can improve. Giving them a method to speak to you, and then acknowledging their input immediately, establishes that they are an important part of your value chain, often turning a negative experience into a positive perception.
By responding promptly, you will also be meeting expectations. A recent global survey conducted by author, speaker and customer service evangelist Steven Van Belleghem found that 55% of customers expect a response within four hours of a complaint posted via social media, while Hubspot reports that 72% of Twitter users in particular expect a complaint to be responded to in one hour.
There are proven tangible benefits to being responsive. The Van Belleghem survey also discovered that if the brand replies quickly enough, 49% of respondents said that they’d recommend the brand, while 34% said they’d buy more products.
Use Feedback as the Foundation for Change
Of course, all this data is useless if you don’t have a formal process for you and your employees to act upon. Enabling methods for collecting both structured and unstructured feedback needs to be a critical part of your process. An interactive web presence, user forums, chat and easy to understand online feedback vehicles that can be used from any type of device – mobile phones, tablets, laptops, etc. - are now the expected norm. Customers don’t have patience with companies who are difficult to reach.
Parallel activities such as implementing a series of workflows that ensures all feedback is responded to quickly and appropriately, while at the same time consolidating multiple data sources into business intelligence vehicles that support real-time interrogation, lead to better understanding and opportunity for improvement. Gaining insight into trends as they happen is just as important as being able to drill into specific conversations or exchanges to learn how well your organization is connecting with your customers.
In the landmark book “Good to Great”, author Jim Collins examined how 1,435 good companies became 11 great companies over a 40-year period. In his findings, he concluded that the truly great companies did a lot of listening, no blaming, and were willing to change as a result:
“It was an inherently iterative process—consisting of piercing questions, vigorous debate, resolute action, and autopsies without blame—a cycle repeated over and over by the right people, infused with the brutal facts, and guided by the three circles.”
With the right mindset, all customer feedback – both positive and negative - can very well be the vehicle that enables you to:
- introduce better processes;
- unleash product innovation;
- streamline service improvements;
- introduce your company to new markets.
And beginning is simple. Even a business drowning in negative feedback can turn things around and become a superstar for their customers. All you need to do is pay attention to what your customers are saying, have capture vehicles in place and instill a corporate culture that values customer feedback along with the issues they raise. If you can do that consistently, the value of your business has the potential to skyrocket.