Customer feedback is something that all major businesses encourage. Buy why? The customer has used your services, paid for it and left – what other use could they possibly be?
Some businesses fear that encouraging feedback only encourages criticism. But criticism can have multiple benefits to your company. Whilst some customers will tell it to you straight there and then, others may not want to give a face-to-face criticism or simply may need time to mull things over. This is why it’s important to introduce feedback – to give the silent critics a chance to speak up.
There are various forms of feedback that can vary depending on the nature of your business. Companies that do not have your personal details such as restaurants, hotels, and attractions may offer a customer feedback form for their clientele to fill in with a pen. Those that have an email address may send a feedback form by email or an online survey (check out this Red Robin feedback survey for an example).
You then have customer reviews, which are public forms of feedback reserved for the braver companies. With the rise of review services like Trip Advisor and Google Plus, it’s becoming harder to get away from reviews. Some customers may base their entire opinion on which service to use off of a review.
Customers are more likely to leave feedback if their opinion of your services is highly positive or highly negative. Those companies that are afraid of negative feedback are afraid for one reason – they don’t want to hear painful truths that could damage their pride or reputation. By opting for private feedback you shouldn’t have to worry about your reputation, at which point it’s only your pride holding you back. Instead of seeing negative feedback as a negative force – see it as an opportunity of improving your business. There may be some faults that you didn’t know existed. Contrastingly, there may be some parts of your company that you see as faults, but customers actually like. Feedback, after all, can also be positive, highlighting your strengths and letting you know which parts of your business to keep pushing.
Another perk of feedback is that it can encourage return customers. Sending a happy customer a feedback form may remind them of how good your services were and spur them to use your services again. Unhappy customers, meanwhile, can still be turned into return customers. Giving them the chance to rant and rave gives you the chance to make an apology, compensate them and potentially sweet-talk them around. One of the most common tactics is to offer your service to them at a discounted price. A restaurant might agree to offer a half price meal next time, whilst a PR company might offer another campaign at a discounted price. The offer of cheaper services alongside an apology may lure unhappy customers back.
Feedback can also help to pinpoint your customer advocates. These are the customers that love your services, the ones that recommend you to their friends and neighbors, the ones that claim ‘you made my year’. Some of these may already be regular customers, but asking them for feedback could be a great marketing tactic. Their opinion can be used as a testimonial or a reference that can help promote your business. With their permission, you may be able to quote them on your website or shout out to them on social media. You may even be able to get them to write a pleasant review.
This leads to professional feedback – only for the boldest businesses. A professional critic may be able to get you into a newspaper, onto an influential blog, into an award scheme (star ratings and business awards) and maybe even on the TV. Sometimes professional critics will be secret customers, but more often than not they will warn you beforehand or you will have to personally invite them. For a less public approach, you can also hire private reviewers and surveyors. There are professional reviewers that can look at your website and inform you of its design flaws and the things that need changing. Similarly, you can hire health and safety surveyors that can let you know of any potential dangers hidden within your business. These people may not be customers – you’ll have to pay them instead of them paying you – but their feedback and advice could still be valuable.