To deliver a great experience that builds ‘sticky’ customers, you must listen to customer feedback. Your customers are a wealth of information, more than you probably think. They can help you develop a better product, help you provide a better service, and help you offer more value.
Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning. – Bill Gates
By listening to your customer’s feedback, you can build stronger relationships, increase customer satisfaction and reduce customer churn. Before getting stuck into 19 actionable strategies you can use to gather customer feedback, I want to set the scene and explain a little further as to why it’s important to listen to customer feedback and some tangible benefits your business can see from doing so.
Why gather customer feedback?
Customer feedback helps bring purpose to your product or service offering. Let’s face it, it’s your customer that pays you, so make sure you listen.
Here are some reasons to start getting customer feedback:
- Actionable feedback guides better business decisions. Whether it is decisions about your product or the way you deliver a service, your customers will give you the best advice. They’ll tell you if what you’re doing sucks, and praise you if you’re doing it right.
- Identify ‘at risk’ customers. By gathering customer feedback you can identify your customers that are not 100% happy. These customers will tell you how they really feel about your company. It is this feedback that is so valuable.
- Stop reoccurring problems. Customers will tell you like it is. You can use their feedback to quickly and proactively solve the problems that are causing an unhappy customer. Use this feedback to implement systems to stop the problems occurring again and potentially affecting other customers.
- Increase customer satisfaction and reduce churn. Listening to your customers is one of nine customer retention strategies that are proven to increase customer satisfaction. It shows that you care, and goes a long way to building a healthy business relationship. People do business with people they like, know and trust – by keeping the two-way conversation open, your business can create strong, long-term relationships that provide lifetime revenue.
- Discover potential advocates. Customer satisfaction is a key indicator as to how happy a customer is with your company. By gathering customer feedback, you can identify who your happiest customers are, and look to nurture them into raving advocates. Customer advocates are people who will rave about your product or service and recommend it to friends and colleagues. Imagine a world where all your new customers came from business referrals? That world is a reality, providing you know who your advocates are.
So there are some benefits of why customer feedback is important to your business, now let’s take a look at 19 actionable strategies to get feedback from customers.
1. Customer Surveys
Customer Surveys are a great way to start the customer feedback process. They offer a medium that your customer is familiar with, and they give you the chance to ask specific questions that you want answers to.
JBS Bookkeeping uses customer surveys to find out what their customers ‘really think about their service’. They found that although they previously asked customers for feedback via friendly phone calls or during customer visits, sometimes customers would just say yes, everything is fine, but deep down there was a problem.
By doing customer surveys, JBS Bookkeeping is able to get more accurate customer feedback that they can actually use to improve their business.
Unfortunately it is often feedback on the performance of the person that they have the relationship with that we are most interested in, which makes for a real catch 22. Client Heartbeat has solved these issues by allowing us to be proactive in monitoring customer feedback and addressing concerns before they become real issues. – Kate Kuhle
JBS Bookkeeping uses Client Heartbeat to send customer surveys and gather customer feedback.
2. Behavioral Insight Surveys
Behavioral insight surveys offer businesses the ability to conduct customer feedback on a personal, behavior-driven basis. Qualaroo has created the first unobtrusive survey that can help you understand your customers’ needs on a unique, individual level.
Chris Hexten from Vero uses Qualaroo on his blog to conduct personalized customer feedback surveys based on specific actions his visitors take on the blog. He asks simple questions that are based on the content his readers are viewing, then depending on the specific answer given, re-directs them to more value-adding content and collects the data for follow up.
By asking the right questions you can do two things: you can learn more about what regular readers want and offer new readers the chance to subscribe. – Chris Hexten
This strategy is not just for blogs, you can use it on your company website as well. When visitors are viewing specific pages that are important to you, use Qualaroo to ask personalized questions to get feedback and then offer a solution to help.
Listening to your customers in their own environments is a great way to get better response rates to your surveys. Qualaroo lets you do that, but you may also want to try Google Consumer Surveys as an alternative solution to get behavioral insights from your customers.
Qualaroo’s on-site survey tool alone increased conversions by 25% on the Vero blog.
3. Telephone Surveys
Surveys conducted via the phone tend to give you higher survey response rates because they are more personalized and give you better reach to your customers. The challenge with telephone surveys is they are expensive. Conducting a telephone survey to gather customer feedback tends to cost a lot more than if you used an online survey tool.
According to research by B2B International, the advantages of telephone survey interviews include higher control of interviewer standards, higher control of sample, easy to contact and quick turnaround. The disadvantages include the surveys being very tedious for respondents, some consumers are hard to access via phone and it’s often hard to explain questions without visuals.
At Client Heartbeat, we only use the old telephone survey when following up with specific customers. Initially, we send customers out a simple customer survey that they can complete online. Using the data collected from that survey, we identify customers that we’d like to speak with further and follow up with a phone call. This phone call includes some more detailed and deeper questions that help to get more customer feedback that we couldn’t collect from the online survey.
4. Mobile Surveys
With 47% of your customers now opening emails via their mobile device (24% change from last year), combined with studies that have showed people look at their phones an average of 150 times a day, mobile surveys need to be a part of your customer feedback process.
I’m an advocate of making sure your customer surveys are responsive, to ensure your customers can choose what platform they like to give you customer feedback.
In saying that, it’s hard to ignore the ‘mobile-only’ platforms available on the market. One that I came across when attending Digital Summit Brisbane, was mPoll.me. This platform gives you the ability to build and deliver stunning mobile surveys that are distributed via a simple text message.
With the event I attended, the facilitator told us we would be receiving a customer survey via text message at the conclusion of the event (good tip: educate your respondents about surveys prior to distributing them). At the end of the event, I got the text message with a simple link to complete the survey. It was easy, simple and pretty well designed. All in all, it was easy to give feedback to the event organizers.
This form of customer feedback is so valuable because you can tap into your customer’s feelings right at the point of delivery. No longer do you have to wait till the next day when you’re back at the office to send the survey and hope to get responses from busy business professionals, you do it in real-time.
If you run events or are involved with expos, conferences – definitely look into mobile surveys.
Side note: most the traditional online survey tools on the market now offer responsive surveys that look beautiful on mobile devices too, so definitely don’t rule them out.
Research from Client Heartbeat shows that out of the 10,000+ surveys we recently conducted for 100 companies in your industry report, 11.9% of the surveys were completed on a mobile device.
5. Feedback Forms
Hard copy customer feedback forms that can sit around the office or be used during business meetings, offer a great means to gather feedback from customers. This is one of my favorite ways to get actionable feedback because it brings back the human element. Too many times are we expected to fill out surveys online.
You actually lose that ‘real-life’ reason as to why you want to be getting a customer’s feedback in the first place.
To do this correctly, there are some guidelines I’d like to recommend you stick by. These guidelines have been compiled from research we’ve done at Client Heartbeat.
- Keep feedback forms under 10 questions and try not to ask more than 3 open ended questions.
- Use a rating scale whenever possible, this helps keep the survey simple and lets you track customer satisfaction changes from one survey period to the next.
- State a clear purpose as to why you are asking for their feedback.
- Put your brand on the feedback form, make it reflect your business… this builds trust.
- Ask for personal details (name/phone) to bring perspective and credibility to the feedback.
- Thank everyone for their feedback and follow up with customers who have given you scores that are below average.
6. Focus Groups
A focus group is a form of qualitative research in which a group of people are asked about their perceptions, opinions, beliefs, and attitudes towards a product, service or company. These are an important tool when it comes to collecting customer feedback. They are commonly used in marketing during the early stages of product or concept development, when a company is trying to determine who their target market is, and where the product-market fit is good.
The benefit of a focus group is it brings the customer feedback offline, into a real-world environment. As the researcher, you control the setting, can open the room up to discussion and learn what your customers really think while they are discussing the questions at hand. Focus groups are generally conducted in an unstructured, informal and natural way, so you are able to cut through the noise and get down to what your customers really feel.
What really holds companies back from doing more focus groups is the cost. They tend to be pretty expensive once you start paying someone to do them and paying each of your respondents for their time.
When it comes to running your own focus group, I recommend you keep the numbers below 10, invite local customers to come in for a couple of hours. To encourage customers to come in, you can put on a free lunch and offer some free training on your products/services or offer some free consulting. This way, your customers get something out of it, and you don’t need to reach into your pockets and pay anybody.
At Client Heartbeat, we generally just tee up informal focus groups when we are holding other events. So since our customers are already there, we just bring them together for a quick 30 minutes to discuss some interesting questions and topics. This way we’re getting customer feedback, but it’s not costing us too much, and it’s not inconveniencing our customers.
7. Usability Testing
Usability testing is a customer feedback strategy that is used by a lot of web-based businesses. Software companies and eCommerce sites can benefit a lot from doing usability testing. Think about it, imagine if you could watch your customers use your online product or browse through your website? You’re able to see exactly what your customers are doing and see trends in what pages they spend the most time on and the least time.
At Help Scout, they regularly turn to usability testing to optimize the design process for new features. Gregory Ciotti explains:
It may be 90% finished, but well-run tests guarantee that we get the final (most important) 10% right. We’ve been working for months on a new feature that will launch in the coming weeks, and did extensive usability testing with customers in order to get the details perfect. It went so well that we re-designed the whole thing to better align with customer expectations. – Gregory Ciotti (Gathering Customer Feedback)
Fancy some further reading on usability testing? Check out “Rocket Surgery Made Easy“ by Steve Krug.
For a tool that can help you conduct usability tests on your website, web-based app, or even mobile app – try UserTesting.com. They offer a range of services in which real people actually use your online product or website, actively record their screen and give you actionable feedback.
8. Monitor Social Media
Social media is the ultimate medium to listen to your customers. Customer feedback is a plenty when it comes to sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn. The challenge is how to monitor it effectively and use it meaningfully.
Tools like Sprout Social and SocialBro can help you keep a finger on the pulse of social media mentions. You can setup mentions that you want to track, for example at Client Heartbeat, we would want to track mentions of “Client Heartbeat” or “Clientheartbeat”.
What Sprout Social does then is notify you whenever your keywords are mentioned on social media sites. I can then pro-actively engage customers that are talking about you, and either solve their problems or provide answers to their questions. While doing this, you are gathering customer feedback, indirectly.
I often like to ask customers questions that can produce further feedback so I can understand their problems in more detail, thus give them a more detailed response.
Tesco are a great example of a company using social media to gather customer feedback. A recent study by SocialBakers found Tesco to be the world’s most socially devoted Twitter brand. They’ve accumulated a whopping 75,904 twitter followers, whilst clocking an impressive 65.88% response rate with average respond time of only 81 minutes.
That’s a lot of feedback!
Another tool you can use to monitor customer feedback on the social web is Google Alerts. Often times Social Sprout will miss occurrences of your brand on blogs, discussion forums and Q&A sites. Google Alerts doesn’t miss a thing. You can setup notifications to be emailed to you whenever your brand is mentioned. Same deal as above, use this intelligence to proactively answer questions and address problems. Ask the deeper questions where necessary to get more, detailed customer feedback.
9. Quarterly Business Reviews
Quarterly business reviews give you an opportunity to sit down with your clients, discuss what’s happened in the previous three months and discover ways you can deliver an even better service to them.
Often times, businesses get caught up doing quarterly reviews and talking too much about the numbers and the results. Yes, that’s important for the client, but I recommend you use them to also get customer feedback. It’s the perfect situation to ask the more detailed questions and get really insightful feedback from clients. You have their undivided attention, so why not use it?
To get a bit more insight into how businesses do their quarterly reviews, I chatted to Mimi Tan, Operations Manager at R&G Technologies. Mimi tells me that R&G holds business reviews with each and every one of their clients. They use Client Heartbeat to survey their customers first, so Mimi has the customer feedback from the survey with her at the business review.
Mimi literally prints off the Client Heartbeat results and brings it into the meeting.
By looking at a client’s customer satisfaction scores in Client Heartbeat, I can then determine follow up questions that I want to ask him or her when we sit down for our quarterly business review.
This type of customer feedback is invaluable, R&G are able to dig deep with specific questions so they have a better understanding of what their customer thinks and identify ways to make the customer experience better.
10. Website Activity
Do your customers actually use your website or are they getting stuck somewhere?
That’s a piece of feedback that your customer doesn’t have to tell you, but you can definitely find out. Tracking customer activity on your website is a form of customer feedback that requires very little investment from your customer, but can yield some extraordinary insight. Google Analytics is a free tool that can help you track website activity, but struggles when it comes to what Lars Lofgren from KISSmetrics describes as, customer activity.
For customer activity, you can use tools like KISSmetrics, Mixpanel and Hubspot to actually dig deeper than just page views and clicks, to look underneath the hood at customer activity. These tools let you see how many times a specific customer has visited your website, how long they spend on each page, what pages their spending their time on and how much revenue they are generating for your business.
Hubspot takes things one step further by letting you trigger alerts based on a customer’s website activity. For example, I listened to The Sales Lion discuss Assignment Selling in a video on the Hubspot Academy. What Marcus does inside his business is track ‘prospects’ page views. He knows that once a prospect has visited over 30 pages of his content, he considers them sales ready and closes 85% of them.
That’s more of a sales example, but it can certainly help you with customer feedback as well. If you have a customer that is reading a bunch of blog posts on a particular topic, like customer surveys, you might want to reach out to them for a quick call and see what you can do to help them further. You may find that your customer wants to use your product for something but just doesn’t know how. This kind of feedback is so valuable, because you can to help them there and then, and also use it to formulate future business initiatives, whether that is more content on that problem, or adding some help tips inside your website to guide customers to where you want to take them.
Another great example that Gregory Ciotti touches on is your FAQs section. He explains that if your FAQ pages have a 0.09 average on-page time and a horrible bounce rate, you know that something isn’t being communicated effectively. It’s time to rethink how you display your FAQ content and look at ways to improve the experience for customers.
11. Community Groups and Discussion Boards
Customers love being a part of a community. Online community groups and discussion boards provide a great platform to engage customers for feedback. GFI Max, a software solution for IT support companies, has a vibrant LinkedIn group which they use to get customer feedback. I was recently at the GFI Max Sydney Customer Conference, and Alistair Forbes was discussing how the group has grown to over 3,000 customers, and is a constant source for feedback and learning. GFI Max uses the group to introduce new features, gauge feedback and monitor bugs. It’s been so successful that the group now forms a significant part of the company’s customer development process.
Taking a quick look at the group myself, lots of the posts are engaging with 15-20 comments, all from customers providing feedback on feature updates and recommendations for future enhancement. GFI Max group moderators listen to customers and respond to the comments, while using the feedback to form their product development strategy.
Here is a quick snapshot of one of the conversations going on in GFI Max’s LinkedIn group.
Trello uses an open discussion board to get customer feedback on new product development. Customers can vote on what features they want to see and provide comments to provide more information.
12. Customer Feedback Portals
Customer feedback portals are 24/7 feedback machines that make gathering feedback from customers super easy.
Swiftkey, a developer of award-winning keyboard apps for Android smartphones and tablets, uses customer feedback portal, User Voice, to engage and communicate with their customers. They found that feedback forums provided a great way to communicate with their customers and show them the company is listening and making progress.
UserVoice forums also helped shape Swiftkey’s product roadmap and have influenced how the company decides to prioritize product decisions. – UserVoice Success Stories
To date, Swiftkey has completed more than 800 ideas submitted by customers via their feedback platform.
That’s a lot of feedback!
Imagine if they had to take down all that feedback manually? Customer Feedback Portals help automate the feedback process and allow for customers to submit comments 24/7.
“I’m a big fan of UserVoice’s feedback forum. I love that we can limit the amount of votes people have so they only vote on what is most important to them. It helps us understand what matters to our customers,” said Dr. Charlie Edmunds, Swiftkey’s head of business intelligence and customer insight.
13. Personal Emails
Taking a personalized approach to customer feedback by sending emails can help you get more responses. This is a strategy I recommend if you are looking for more detailed feedback from customers, that goes beyond the basic survey questions or feedback forms.
Recently, I received a personal email from CampaignMonitor, requesting feedback on their services. It was refreshing to get something that seemed like it came from a real person, as opposed to an automated survey email.
The email asked me whether I’d be happy to jump on a Skype call with one of their customer service girls and answer some questions. They incentivized me with some email credits or a $50 gift voucher. Since I’m always looking to provide feedback on products that I use, I said I was more than happy to tee something up.
We got together the next week on Skype and I had a lovely chat to Agata Celmerowski. She went through a bunch of questions, and I gave her my answers, hoping it would help them continue to improve the product towards my needs.
All in all, this was a great example of using customers to help improve a product or service.
At Client Heartbeat, we’ve done a similar thing in the past. We sent some of our early adopters a friendly email asking for some feedback on upcoming product features and new marketing messaging. The responses were amazing and have shaped our vision moving forward.
Here are some quick tips to help you get started with personal emails to get customer feedback:
- Identify your most engaged customers that you have a strong relationship with.
- Send a personalized email with a maximum of four questions (any more than that it becomes a hassle).
- Note a deadline you’d love a response by, but don’t be too pushy – tell them that you respect their time but really value their feedback.
- Follow up if you don’t hear anything after a week.
- Combine all feedback into a Google Doc / Excel sheet. Look for trends in feedback, whether that is product-related or marketing messages – depending on the questions you asked.
- I don’t generally like offering incentives, but if you want to… offer things that don’t cost you anything (free training, free consulting, free credits).
14. Suggestion Boxes
Suggestion boxes are used more when it comes to getting customer feedback in offline environments like restaurants, B2C services, and B2B services in the financial and insurance sectors. This form of customer feedback gathering has been around for decades and still provides a great medium to engage and listen to customers.
Questions like, ‘we value your input, how was the service today?’ are commonly seen in suggestion box questionnaires.
The best suggestion boxes I’ve seen have been at Olive Garden. They have suggestion boxes in all stores and even a page on their website to leave feedback.
Remember to keep questions simple, and ask questions that bring context to the situation. For example, make sure you ask for the account managers (or servers) name, ask for the office location (or store) – so when reviewing the feedback you can follow up accordingly.
15. Customer Feedback Widgets
Tools like UserVoice and Get Satisfaction give you embeddable widgets that you can place on all your pages, so customers can easily provide you feedback.
VolunteerMatch.com used Get Satisfaction to increase customer engagement by placing the widgets on all their pages so that users could easily ask questions and search for answers in the community.
We had seen the Feedback tab before and liked the idea of a customer community, so we started to look into our options.” – Vicky Hush, Vice President of Client Relations & Strategic Partnerships – Get Satisfaction Case Study
The results for VolunteerMatch have been impressive. The company has seen a 40% decrease in inbound support emails since launching the widget and community portal. This has helped the company streamline their customer feedback and organize it more efficiently. Their portal now has 1035 community members and 882 community topics.
16. Customer Reviews
A 2014 study by BrightLocal found that 88% of consumers trust online reviews just as much as personal recommendations. Customer reviews are a form of customer feedback and provide you with great insight into what your customers really think about your business.
They are also a lot more public, so it’s important to make sure you are not only monitoring reviews from a feedback point of view, but also ensuring you are engaging with the customers who leave the reviews by posting follow up comments and questions.
This approach helps to keep the conversation going and shows that you care about the feedback. Everyone else who is passively reading the review will also see that you value their thoughts and take them seriously.
Depending on what industry you are in, there are plenty of review sites that you should be monitoring and responding to customer reviews on.
Here’s a list of the popular one’s to get you started:
- Business Web Apps: GetApp.com, Capterra
- Travel: TripAdvisor
- Restaurants: Zagat, UrbanSpoon, Yelp
- Services: AngiesList, Yellow Pages
- Products: CNET Reviews, Trusted Reviews
- General: Yelp, Google Places, Yellow Pages
17. Live Chat
Forrester Research completed a study called, “Making Proactive Chat Work”, which found that man online consumers want help from a live person while there are shopping online. In fact…
44% of online consumers say that having questions answered by a live person while in the middle of an online purchase is one of the most important features a Web site can offer.
Customer feedback is about being flexible and providing a medium that customers are comfortable using. Studies have shown that your customers do use live chat, with ATG Consumer Trend finding that 90% consider live chat helpful.
So how can you use live chat for customer feedback?
Rushcliff, a developer of patient and practice management software, decided to implement Live Chat into their offering as a way to stay in touch with customers and shorten response times. It gives the company a more efficient way to handle customer feedback with many customers very impressed.
“Implementing Live Chat into our own software has been a roaring success. We didn’t expect to get such great feedback from our clients however it truly has revolutionized the Support desk.” – Rushcliff Customer Story
When using live chat to collect customer feedback, remember to push the data back to your main system. LiveChatInc has integrations with over 50 3rd-party applications. Olark is another alternative which we use at Client Heartbeat.
18. In-app feedback
In-app customer feedback gives you insight into how your customers actually use your product. Intercom.io offers a great solution to help you reach out to the right users for feedback. It works by letting you identify certain segments of users, like “users last visit more than seven days”, then enables you to push messages and engage in conversation with them.
D. Keith Robinson, designer at Heroku says in-app feedback tools like Intercom gives him a direct channel to talk to their users.
As a product designer, building relationships with users and getting input from them is key to being successful in my day to day work, and Intercom is a great tool for that. – D. Keith Robinson, Heroku.
Furthermore, solutions like Intercom give you the ability to treat customers like humans. No longer do you have to rely on robotic auto-responders that have ticket numbers and offer no personalization or context. You can reach out to customers on a first name basis, based on specific actions they are taking inside your website or app.
Paul Biggar from CircleCI used Intercom to pro-actively contact users who had experienced issues during signup. The results were significant, the company was able to increase conversation rates of trial customers by over 40%.
Here’s an example of a popup message that appears inside your app using Intercom.
19. Email and Ticket Closing Surveys
The last customer feedback strategy I want to present today is the use of email ticket closing surveys. This is often a hotly discussed topic here at Client Heartbeat because we feel they don’t get very high survey response rates.
But in saying that, we still recommend them for gathering customer feedback in certain situations. For example, R&G Technologies uses ticket closing surveys after every IT Support job they complete. They use these surveys in combination with our online survey tool, Client Heartbeat.
Ticket closing surveys are great for getting feedback on a project or job basis. So if you want to know what you client feels straight after you have finished some work for them, these are perfect. The down side is they often can get quite annoying for the customer if you’re sending them after every job.
Vodafone Hutchinson Australia (Learning and Development Team) use Zendesk, a popular ticket closing survey system, to help them manage customer feedback and support. This team has five agents and supports approximately 15,000 users, so there is a high volume of support requests that are hard to handle over email and telephone.
Since going live on Zendesk, the team has resolved 50% of its total tickets through Zendesk triggers and automations. As a result, the team is now making better use of its lean staff.
Listening to customer feedback will help you create a better customer experience
Customer feedback is an essential component to a healthy, growing business. To ensure you are continuing to develop your product or service, you must listen to your your customers are telling you. Analysing customer feedback will give you the intelligence to make better business decisions which will in turn assist with creating ‘sticky’ customers who have high customer satisfaction.
Photo credit: Technobuffalo.com