Researchers say that as many as 1 in 8 people suffer from at least one phobia, which is described as a strong, usually irrational fear. Some of the most common fears are glossophobia, demophobia, and achluophobia, which involve public speaking, crowded places, and darkness, respectively. One of the main symptoms of a phobia is that the sufferer has an excessive, unreasonable desire to stay away from the object of her fear.
What does this have to do with running your business? Just this: too many businesses have a strong irrational fear of finding out what their customer is really thinking. (Call it “feedbackophobia.”) That fear causes them to stay away from getting customer feedback. But businesses that are truly customer-focused need to know what their customers like, what they want, and where they are going.
Incorporating customer feedback into your regular business activities doesn’t need to be scary. Used wisely, feedback can help your company go from good to great. Here are 5 ways to get honest feedback from your customers, and use it to your advantage:
1) You’ll never get it if you never ask for it. Often, your customers see your strengths and weaknesses more clearly than you do. Ask them to show you what they see from the outside. What could make your product design better? How can you make the order process easier? How easy is it to get technical assistance when they have a question? Ask for honest answers, and your customers will be happy to oblige!
2) Be open to criticism. The main reason so many companies don’t ask for feedback is that they don’t want to hear what they are doing wrong. Yet, the fastest way to improve is to find out where your weaknesses are. You may be losing customers and sales, and not even realize it. Those weaknesses may be costing you money!
3) Keep your surveys quick and easy. Don’t bog your customer down with long, involved surveys. Use a few quick “On a scale of 1 to 10, rate us” type questions to gauge your customers’ satisfaction level. The idea is to have an ongoing picture of where you are in terms of product quality and customer service. Surveys that are more detailed have their place, but they take longer to complete and compile the results. Quicker, easier surveys allow you to correct problems as they arise.
4) One survey question you need to ask. “What can we do to make our (product, service, delivery) a 10?” This question is great for 2 reasons. First, it tells your customer that you are serious about making your company better. Very good isn’t good enough. Excellence is expected. Second, customers take this question seriously. Their input on this question makes them partners in improving your business, which solidifies the bond between you and your customers.
5) Make changes, and let your customers know they’ve been heard. The purpose of customer feedback is to find ways to improve your company. You need to implement the best ideas that your customers have. Make it clear that the changes you’ve made are in response to customer suggestions. That makes your customers even more bonded to your business. It identifies you as a company that really listens to its customers. That can give you the edge you need to stand from your competitors!
You don’t need to fear your customers’ opinions. Once you’ve made the commitment to being customer-focused, your customers can be your greatest allies. Learn to listen, cultivate their thoughts, and implement the best of their ideas. The result will be greater customer loyalty and increased profits for your business!