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How to get and use candid customer feedback to improve your business

Written by Russell Cragun on July 7, 2016 in Strategies & Tips
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We all know the famous phrasing, “the customer is always right”. We’ve heard it time and time again, and it’s referenced quite a bit in our world today. However, ask anyone that has had to work retail, fast food, or any position dealing directly with customers and you will find that that statement is not always true. So why the popular quote? Why should we have a mentality built around the customers always being right? The easiest answer would be that the customer is the most critical part to any business, and they can be incredibly valuable sources of information. They will tell you what is bad about your store, and how you should go about fixing it. Now, if you make every change critics recommend, you could risk losing your business. However, it’s important that we make changes, and adapt when we see trending issues and have the opportunity to improve.

There are plenty of companies that are having an especially hard time right now because they refused to listen to consumers, or they started to listen far too late. One of my favorite examples of a company refusing to listen to it’s customers is ESPN.

Over the past two decades ESPN has dominated the sports world, and is a household name. As the years passed they were slow to adapt and listen to their customers. No one wants to spend $10 a month to read an opinion about a certain player when countless other sites offer similar pieces for free. People are also realizing that they don’t want to pay for their other now sub-par programming when they can stream it for free elsewhere. ESPN ignored these huge problems for years, and recently had to layoff a lot of employees, and is bleeding out customers at an alarming rate. Yet, they are still slow to change their ways, and as a result they’ve lost some of their biggest reporters to competitors, and continue to be in the red on a quarterly basis.

Don’t be like ESPN. Don’t be flashy and try to come across as the cool kid at the lunch table. Instead, listen to your customers and make the critical changes that will satisfy customers. It might be a lot harder to do than expected, but it will be the difference maker for you and your company.

You’re probably saying “Okay, okay I get it. But how do I know what I should be changing, and what my customers want?” There are a couple of ways to get the data you need to make sure your site is providing the best experience possible. By using a couple of these techniques you’ll be able to monitor the happiness of your customers.


Surveys

Survey are a common and easy way to obtain customer feedback. You’ve probably taken surveys before, and have seen them all over the place. That’s because it’s a very easy way to get information at a very low cost. It can come through online polls, emails, or on printed receipts. I have received plenty of requests to take surveys from my favorite fast food chain to win a free meal. The bottom line is, surveys are everywhere and that’s a very good thing.

Recently the MLB has been looking for a new way to gain fans and improve the quality of the game for everyone. You may have heard of the new phrase “make baseball fun again”. The MLB is well aware that the newer generation thinks the game is too boring, or slow. While you can’t change the entire game, there are small changes you can make to satisfy some people.

The MLB is leaning very heavily towards the survey side to figure out the changes they can make for their fans. They now have an app where you can rate your game day experience at the ballpark. They offer a chance to win free tickets, and gear for your favorite teams. Just over a short period of time they have made changes to help speed up the game, and make everyone more comfortable. They are currently working on adding mothers lounges to all of their stadiums. The fans spoke, and they listened. All the stadiums are also improving their food situation and prices. Too many people complained that they didn’t want to spend $12 on a hot dog and drink. The MLB listened and now offers a wider array of food, including many local vendors at lower prices. Over the years since the MLB has started to make these changes they have watched their attendance go higher every year. Here is an example of a MLB survey.

While you might not have the money like the MLB to make huge changes to your store or business, the idea is the same. The MLB didn’t change everything overnight. They collected data from surveys over a period of time, found out what fans wanted, and are creating ways for that to happen.

You can run surveys through sites like SurveyMonkey and Qualtrics, among others. You can ask someone to fill it out after checking out through a landing page, or send them an email. Don’t forget you can always follow up recent purchases with these surveys. Especially while using services like eBay, where you can ask for seller ratings, and get customer feedback for every item sold.

Don’t be scared to experiment with your surveys! By changing the questions and length of your surveys you might be able to get more feedback. Just remember to err on the side of shorter, and always ask yourself “would I take this survey?” If you’re asking your customers to fill out surveys, and lengthy answers, you’re probably not going to get much back in return. 

Analytics

While you start collecting feedback through surveys, it’s important to monitor behavior on your site to see how people react on your site. By keeping track of bounce rates, pages visited, and total time spent on site, you can get an idea of how your customers are react. There are services like Domo and Hotjar that can give you increased business intelligence. However, some of these services are expensive if you upgrade to more advanced subscriptions.

When you start to monitor, and record your website analytics you’ll get a better understanding of your customer’s process. If everyone is leaving the homepage without visiting any products, you might want to look into AB testing the layout of your site. Maybe there isn’t something eye catching enough, or the layout is confusing to some. The same things can be monitored and changed elsewhere on your site as well, like the checkout and abandoned carts.

 

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Social media monitoring 

This one might be the most tricky as a new business but will become more valuable as you grow. By setting up alerts for mentions you can see what things people are saying about your company. Another plus to this is that you can watch for people who had a negative experience and work with them to resolve it. By doing things like this you will be able to gain greater customer loyalty, and set the standard that you really do care for your customers.

It might seem hard but responding to every message or tweet will give you a huge advantage. This will give you a positive image, and will help increase your followers which will make some of your marketing efforts easier in the future. Remember to stay calm and always write back in a positive manner. Negative comments, or attitude could blow up on social media, and you never know what could start a trending topic. Remember to take a deep breath and always treat your followers with the utmost respect.


As your company grows over the years, it will get easier for you to collect customer feedback to improve your store. You’ll have more customers to survey and resources to make the changes needed. Collecting customer feedback can be one of the most effective ways to build a great store and returning customers. Remember to always test new methods and not harass customers for feedback. Sometimes, a customer just isn’t going to take your survey and that’s okay. 

 

 

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