Stop Ignoring Customers: Are You Making These Costly Mistakes?

What’s holding back your business growth? Is it poor sales, poor people or poor systems?

I want to challenge you and say it’s not any of these. Instead, it’s because you are failing to create happy customers.

As we bring in the New Year, we will again be at the mercy of our customers. In 2014, we saw customers voicing their power, unafraid of switching providers and quick to share their opinions on social media sites.

To keep customers and limit their negative opinions on social media, we need to strive to consistently create happier customers by delivering products and experiences that meet and exceed their expectations.

But this isn’t as easy as it sounds. Most companies are making a lot of customer feedback mistakes. Let’s look at three of the common mistakes I want you to avoid in 2015 and explore how leading customer-centric companies are using customer feedback systems and tools to create happier customers.


1. Not listening to customers

The biggest mistake you can make is to ignore what your customers are saying. The world’s best companies like McDonalds, Disney and Amazon didn’t magically create a product or service that their customers love.

They listened to their customers and made continuous improvements to get to the point where they are now.

Listening to customers is important because feedback gives you insight into what your customers like – and hate – about your products and service. To create happier customers, you need to improve your product or service so that it exceeds their expectations.

When you exceed expectations, you create advocates. Advocates are your marketing assets: they sing, sell and shout praise about you to all their friends and colleagues. By creating more advocates, you will drive more revenue and growth simply because more people will hear about what you do and buy from you.

Identifying unhappy customers is another benefit of listening to feedback. You should use this feedback to win back unhappy customers and nurture these relationships back to good standing. This will help reduce customer churn and minimize negative word of mouth that might affect future customers’ purchase decisions.


Advice and takeaways

Stop ignoring customers and start implementing customer feedback loops. Feedback loops are systems you can put in place to listen to customers. You should have at least three in place to ensure you give customers plenty of ways to voice their opinions, concerns, praise and rants.

You can get feedback from customers through multiple touch points during your relationship with them. Common feedback loops include web and email surveys, spontaneous calls after-purchase surveys, periodic surveys (e.g. every three months), reviews, Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys and in-store or onsite chats.

You can use Client Heartbeat to gather feedback via periodic surveys, Delighted to ask NPS surveys and Bazaarvoice to handle reviews.


Learning from Best Buy

Best Buy is a great example of a company that does listen to their customers. The company is listening to their customers now more than ever, primarily through customer reviews. The retailer has a systemized process in place that asks for a review after each purchase. Check out this email I received from Best Buy after purchasing a MacBook:

Best Buy passes this feedback onto vendors and uses it internally to make changes to their product range. Customers can also view the reviews directly on product pages via Best Buy’s website.

By listening to customers, Best Buy is able to continually improve their products and services, whilst simultaneously identifying and empowering their happiest customers to share feedback online.


2. Not learning from feedback

If there’s one thing worse than not listening to customers, it’s not learning from and acknowledging the feedback you do get.

Customers want to feel listened to. If they leave you feedback and you ignore it or don’t make improvements, then they will feel like you don’t care or value their business.

Think about it. If you go out of your way to leave feedback for a company and it falls on deaf ears, how will that make you feel?

Probably even more infuriated.

You are running your business in a competitive business world. To stay competitive, you need to be constantly improving and adapting to what your customers want. If you neglect to learn from customer feedback, you will fall behind and lose customers to more innovative companies who do use their customers to guide product and customer experience improvements.


Advice and takeaways

You need to appoint someone internally who is responsible for listening to and acknowledging feedback. It must be their job to organize this feedback into an easy-to-digest format so that key decision makers can interpret it and use it to improve.

Make sure they respond to each and every piece of feedback. This will show that you care and value your customers’ business. Sometimes this can be difficult for bigger companies, but if you’re smaller – and more agile – use this to your advantage. Build stronger relationships with your customers who do leave you feedback.

Since this can get time-consuming, you will need to systemize your feedback process using technology. Tools like Client Heartbeat can help you send surveys and analyze and interpret customer feedback. Delighted and offer alternative solutions if you just want to use simple NPS questions to gather feedback.


Learning from Help Scout

We use Help Scout internally at Client Heartbeat. Help Scout offers a great solution to help us deliver customer support via email. I recently read a blog post, written by cofounder Nick Francis, who shares his thoughts on how Help Scout used customer feedback to place customer needs front and center when they redesigned a big part of their product.

In the article, Nick says, “Customer feedback critically informs the design process, but only when it tells you why something should work better—not how.”

I certainly agree with Nick on this point. You need to remember that each of your customers uses your product or service in their own individual way to meet their specific needs. When serving hundreds of customers, you need to listen to the ‘whys’ not the ‘hows.’

Nick suggests that the big lessons that you can apply if you want to improve your product are:

  1. Always start with research. Make sure you get solid research to make informed decisions.
  2. Gather data from several sources. Feedback comes in all shapes and sizes. Use a range of sources including surveys, email and phone interviews.
  3. Keep iterating. Even after you have implemented a change based on feedback, spend time continually iterating on that change. “The last 20–30% is definitely the most important,” Nick says in the article.


3. Not improving and not creating happier customers

I’ve touched on this lightly, but it deserves further attention. The final mistake I see businesses make is they do not use feedback to improve and create happier customers.

Improving your product and creating better experiences for customers is essential to success in our technology-driven world. Technology is changing everything. If you’re not constantly improving, you’re falling behind. You only have to look at the rapid rise of internet use via mobile devices to see that technology is impacting your business. Two years ago, you could have been forgiven for not having a mobile-friendly website, but now, you risk losing customers and new business opportunities if you don’t have one.

Customer expectations are constantly changing. Customers want to browse your website, read your articles and purchase your products via their mobile devices.

It is only through customer feedback that you can identify – and stay ahead – of these changing expectations. If you are late to improve and accommodate these changing needs, you risk annoying customers.

On the flip side, if you stay ahead of the trends, you will exceed expectations and create happier customers. These happier customers will fuel growth because they will tell others about your product.

More of these happier customers = more positive word of mouth = more referrals and more positive brand awareness.


Advice and takeaways

The person responsible for customer feedback at your organization must ensure that the feedback is being used by decision makers to make product and customer experience improvements. To make this process easier, you’ll need a system that can prioritize feedback based on the needs of your customers.

Use a tool that can track customer satisfaction and then use that data to set key performance indicators for your company and for your individual employees who manage client accounts. Client Heartbeat can help you with this or you can try one of these customer satisfaction tools.

You’ll also want to use this tool to identify your happiest clients and create an advocacy program so you reward and leverage them. Since these customers love you, they will be referring new business to you and spreading positive word of mouth. Reward them with incentives where necessary, but most importantly, make sure you nurture these relationships.

Your happiest customers (i.e. your advocates) are your biggest marketing assets!


Learning from Uber

Uber is a company that relies on feedback. Primarily, it’s the feedback from customers and drivers that fuels its business model, but this feedback is also what drives its growth.

Uber wants “you and your driver to have a great ride, every time.”

After every ride on Uber, customers and drivers are prompted to leave a review via the Uber app. Real-time feedback about drivers means Uber can ensure only the best drivers stay on the road. Drivers are deactivated if they get consistently poor ratings.

Uber relies on customer feedback to offer a product that meets and exceeds expectations.

And it seems to be working. Uber’s growth over the past two years has been unprecedented. Uber is valued at $40 billion and has grown net revenue by 300% from 2012 to 2013, with experts expecting them to have done the same in 2014.

This growth has been fueled primarily by word of mouth via their raving fans and customer advocates. Uber harnesses their happiest customers by incentivizing them to share the Uber app with their friends. As a reward, the company offers free and discounted trips to customers for each and every friend they refer.

CEO of Uber, Travis Kalanick, says the company relies “almost exclusively on word of mouth, spending virtually nothing on marketing.” In fact, he suggests that 95% of all their new customers have heard about Uber from other Uber riders. In 2011, for every seven rides Uber gave, their advocates generated one new customer.

Here’s a quick screenshot that shows how Uber’s referral program incentivizes happy customers to share the service with friends:


Create happier customers by listening to and learning from customer feedback

Do you know what Best Buy, Help Scout and Uber have in common?

All of these leading companies use customer feedback to improve their products and service. This has helped them all to create more happy customers, which has assisted them in growing revenue and brand awareness.

Your customers now have the power. They can switch to competitors in a heartbeat and they can tell hundreds of their friends about your business in seconds. To succeed in 2015 and beyond, you need to focus on your customers. Focus on creating happier customers.

Creating happier customers starts with listening to them. It starts with customer feedback.

Gordon Tan

Gordon Tan is an entrepreneur based in Australia who has started and sold multiple technology companies with a combined value of $150m. This included a client satisfaction benchmarking platform which gave him first hand insight into the best practices of over 6,000 businesses. After retiring at 35 he is now a recognised thought leader on winning and retaining clients - His two passions: making clients the heartbeat of a business no matter what the product or service and this blog.

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