Would you rather your first indicator of customer dissatisfaction come to you in the form of accurate and timely feedback or when you notice your sales dropping?
Of course, you want as much advanced notice as possible. Hopefully that gives you time to strategize, determine the causes and take corrective action. It can also give you sufficient warning to be able to shut down negative word of mouth advertising. But it´s not enough to solicit feedback; you must act on it whenever it provides you with a competitive edge, a way to reduce costs, or another way to generate revenue. Eric Mills writes about the importance of acting on the feedback:
On the other hand, deep down, people are dying to leave feedback. We all want better shopping experiences, better meals, and better software. We don´t mind giving feedback if we trust the company doing the asking, or at least feel that our input will be taken into consideration. In fact, if Microsoft asked me what I wanted in Powerpoint, and then added that feature to Powerpoint, I would be ecstatic. I would extol the virtues of Microsoft and become a real product advocate. I would feel ownership in the product and have tremendous customer loyalty.
To carry Eric´s point further, tremendous customer loyalty generates positive word of mouth advertising.
Here are eight (mostly inexpensive) ways to get feedback:
1. We may be in the throes of Web 2.0 but the lowly comment card you see most restaurants using still has a place.
2. Ask your customers when you see them. "What´s one product or service we don´t sell that you´d like to see us sell? Or, " What´s your opinion of our service? Is it fast enough, Do we get it right the first time? What are we doing right? If you (the customer) could change one thing about us, what would it be?"
3. Subscribe to an online survey tool such as Zoomerang or SurveyMonkey.
4. Create a Citizens Advisory Board that meets with you and your senior employees on a quarterly breakfast. Ron Holt runs Two Maids and A Mop, a residential cleaning service in Florida. Check his Web site and his blog for more details.
5. Speaking of blogs, start one and enable comments.
6. Allow your customers to e-mail you through your Web site. Don´t bury the link; it shouldn´t be more than one or two clicks from your home page.
7. Select a small group of customers. Seek an appointment with them (telephone or face-to-face) where you can ask their opinions. Having them agree to an appointment allows you to find a time when they´re not as busy and can give you a higher quality of input.
8. Set a goal of contacting X number of customers per week yourself to seek input.
Continually seeking feedback through a variety of sources can help you identify trends, gain competitive advantages, and cut costs. Failure to seek feedback can cost you customers. And remember, you can´t make a profit if you´re not satisfying your customers.