Everyone seems to be gathering feedback these days: by email, the web, and (occasionally) by phone. In fact, it’s becoming a bit of a bore… not only is it tedious for customers, it’s often confusing and annoying for you.

The reason for this is simple: in the old world where ‘marketing drives sales’, feedback is an annoying, extra step you could do without. It’s believed that with great marketing, branding and placement, at attractive prices, the sales will come streaming in … so why bother to muddy the waters with feedback?

The problem is, this model is no longer working effectively.

In a brave new world, simply focusing on marketing to drive sales may soon become extinct. As empowered customers communicate about you with each other behind your back, and could crucify you for all the world to see if you put a step wrong- the power is in their hands.

What is going on and how can you deal with this effectively?

The answer is to recognize and accept that your world has either already turned upside down, or is in the process of doing so. Customer experience is now driving your brand.

And the only way you can get a grip on this (properly) is to engage and empower your customers … through truly professional and effective feedback, engagement and continual improvement systems.

You have to FUEL it – because Feedback Underpins Engagement and Loyalty.

This is the new ‘marketing and sales’ for the world of the empowered customer.

Yet, as at the time of writing, most feedback systems are limp and simplistic at best, and very annoying at worst.

It is true systemizing proper professional feedback sounds daunting. Is it really what we want to hear? What if it isn’t complimentary? How will it reflect on us and our team?

With these concerns, most organizations defer to the default position of:

‘Let’s just create a quick ‘net promoter’ type survey so it will be easier to explain the results, because we don’t want to risk being misjudged or misinterpreted, and anyway, that’s what everyone else does, so it must be right’.

If you don’t put honesty, structure, timeframe and personal investment into gathering and systemizing feedback, you are in denial.

You need to understand:

  • What type of feedback systems will work best in our market: do we have a ‘transactional’, ‘emotional’ or ‘partnership’ relationship with our customers?
  • If simple, open and customer-focused questions will empower them to tell us what they really think, loudly and clearly (and efficiently)
  • How to structure questions and how to listen emphatically
  • How to deal with the inevitable issues that will arise (and turn them into triumphs): remember, there’s no such thing as ‘bad feedback’: only feedback responded to badly (or, worse still, not responded to at all)
  • What to do to follow up and develop the relationship for the future.

The process should add value to the customer experience in itself and prove that the organization does care.

The questions on your check sheet should seek to find out:

  • The most important things to your customers?
  • Why they chose you?
  • What’s happening in the market? (and how do you fit?)
  • What next? How do they want to engage with you going forward…

This will allow you to improve and innovate inch by inch, through knowing what to STOP doing, what to START doing and what to CONTINUE doing.

Your feedback system objective is to enhance the relationship with your customer through it’s process, and then use this knowledge and engagement to:

  • Continually improve your ‘remarkability’
  • Develop your brand’s genuine reputation
  • Start systemizing up-sales and cross-sales from what you hear
  • Brand and product innovation and development from this continual market research (with little risk)
  • Cut unnecessary costs
  • Engage teams effectively
  • Systematically build customer loyalty and referrals.

Now, you may think: well, some customers will just ‘try it on’. Yes, of course: but we’re not interested in the 2% that might do this , we’re interested in the 98% who actually want you to get it right and are willing to be loyal to you!

  • Treat every customer as a VIP – not easy if they have been unfair, scurrilous or even libellous!
  • You must respond, otherwise you will be branded as not caring
  • The quality and style of your response defines your business. It’s both PR and one to one loyalty building.

Consider using an independent professional third party to obtain feedback (who specializes in this type of work. You need someone who really knows what they are doing, not someone you happen to know (you wouldn’t let your stationery provider do your accounts, so don’t let a non professional loose on your most valuable asset … your customers!).

An independent professional third party will give you objective, straightforward feedback, mixed with professional perspective and advice, whilst also building customer relationship and loyalty. This can generate more business that they’d ever cost you: which is not a cost, it’s an investment.

You need to be an ‘Investor in Feedback’.

Don’t just read this and say ‘That was interesting’! Stop, have a good, old “Thinkabout”, and start working on your Feedback Systems.

  • Invest time in designing the best possible system for your situation
  • It does not need to be expensive, just genuine
  • You are gathering feedback, not solving problems
  • Treat existing customers just as well as new ones
  • Respond effectively to all feedback, as a separate step: this is the bit that will blow their socks off!
  • Invest the appropriate amount of money and time – it’s more cost effective than marketing to new customers
  • Think about using a third party.

There are no shortcuts to a place worth going! Invest first, then manage.

Remember what Jeff Bezos was quoted as saying, 20 years ago: ‘Your reputation is what your customer says about you when you’re NOT in the room’.

If you like would like to know more about how to improve your customer feedback system, please email support@salesthroughservice.com and we will be happy to help.