Customer Feedback: Your Key To Service Excellence

Customer feedback is essential for businesses looking to offer a more personalized customer experience. Without receiving customer feedback, there’s no way of knowing what’s working for customers and what needs improvement. Gathering customer feedback regarding a product or service not only improves business process, it makes a customer feel valued and involved. Such involvement brings your customer back and makes them loyal to your brand. And although we don’t always like hearing it, even negative feedback is useful.

The way we do business has changed dramatically.  When before customers had businesses telling them what they need and why they need their products, customers are now telling businesses what they need and how businesses can improve what they’re selling.  So acquiring customer feedback is a necessary step to personalizing every customer experience, regardless of the size of a business. The quality of the relationship between an organization and its customer base is the now a crucial indicator of its overall well-being.

How to Obtain Customer Feedback

There are several ways to receive a customer’s feedback, and it is recommended to use as many methods as possible. It’s important for customers to have mutiple ways to contact a company, and for communication to be effortless. Here are a few successful methods:

1. Employee Interaction

Anyone in a customer- facing role should understand that they are an ambassador of the company, and proactively encourage customer feedback by asking customers about their experience.  They should be well-versed in how to handle praise or constructive criticism, viewing both as ways to help improve their company. Any feedback should be carefully noted and reported to the appropriate managers or departments.

2. Live Chat

Having a live chat function on a company’s website is a popular way to not only assist customers in real time, but address any concerns, questions or feedback.

3. Social Media

Customers want to be able to connect with and provide feedback to a business using the method they feel most comfortable with, and that includes messaging on social media. It’s important to have active social media channels, and to carefully monitor them for important messages or feedback from customers.

4. Email Outreach

Email is still one of the most valuable tools businesses have to gather candid customer feedback. Email is at its most effective when communication is easy, and an organized system is created to collect, manage and consider customer feedback.

5. Online Reviews

Review sites are an easy and effective way for businesses to obtain customer feedback. It should always be encouraged for customers to leave ratings and reviews so businesses can determine if their products and services are meeting their expectations. In addition to enhancing a company’s online reputation, reviews are a great opportunity for businesses to be transparent with their customers, thereby building trust.

6. Phone Calls

Although not the preferred communication tool for millennials, the phone remains the most personal and intimate communication tool.  Phone conversations make it possible to have an authentic conversation about a product or service. Hearing a person’s voice opens up a whole other, more human dimension, which can provide a lot more insight into the customer and their experience.

7. Suggestion Boards

Whether an old-fashioned suggestion box or the online version of it, a suggestion board or forum is a quick,  easy way to obtain valuable feedback.

8. Satisfaction Surveys – Still the Golden Ticket

Surveys continue to be invaluable, especially online surveys, and that’s simply because they work.

To keep the survey focused, only ask questions that serve your company’s purpose. Start with an open-ended question, meaning something that’s not multiple choice, but make sure it isn’t a closed “yes or no” type of question.

“Never ask a customer a closed question if your goal is candid feedback” – Chip Bell

However, multiple choice questions are more efficient for obtaining data. Customers should be given the option to complete a survey online, in person or on the phone. When surveys are kept short, customers are more inclined to complete them, and often provide very useful feedback. It’s a good idea to offer customers an incentive for completing a survey, such as a gift card or a discount on a product or future service,  as a way of thanking them for their valuable time.

Studying Feedback

Customer feedback is the one thing that gives a business a clearer view of how it is doing. But this is just the first step. Proper analysis of the feedback provides a business with a better view of what is going great, what needs to improve, and what needs to be changed, in order to retain and grow revenue and profit. In line with this, it is important that a business be equipped with the right strategies and tools to analyze customer feedback.

Whether a small business or larger organization it’s important to maintain a database such as a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, so that feedback can be noted and analyzed. Here are some important ways to analyze customer feedback:

Look for Patterns and Categorize Them

Reading through customer feedback would enable managers to not only get to know the inclinations and needs of their customers, but to also observe any recurring patterns in comments – positive or negative –  from customers regarding their experience. If a pattern or particular service need is observed, a corresponding category can be created These categories could include areas such as the efficiency and speed of product deliveries, before and after-sales service, the helpfulness of the customer service department, the satisfaction with the product, etc.  This strategy enables anyone in a customer service role to look for any complaint or satisfaction trends and note them accordingly.

Create Sub-categories

Once the feedback has been sorted into categories, there’s likely to be some points made that deserve their own category. This can be done by creating sub-categories. A lot of businesses have seen the benefits of this particular attention. Creating sub-categories would help define the seemingly subtler aspects of business operations that are actually very significant to the overall customer experience.

Negative vs. Positive Feedback

Genuine customer feedback will contain both negative and positive comments, which are equally important. The positive comments provide a concrete idea of what is going well. Thanking customers for their positive feedback is very effective in building customer loyalty. In the same way, any negative comments would reveal aspects of a business that customers aren’t so pleased with. A careful follow-up to resolve any problems, followed by immediate action to implement change, will go far to retain customers.

Improved Customer Service in Action

After all feedback results have been carefully reviewed and analyzed, successful companies make a plan of action that reinforces positive experiences and quickly resolves any issues causing negative experiences. This strategy is a never-ending learning process, which teaches a business how to best obtain and utilize customer feedback for their particular sector and customer base, thereby ensuring continued service excellence.

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Customer Service Institute of America