The gift of feedback.

Sometime ago I went on a date. It lasted about two hours (half of which I was trying to escape!), he talked a million miles an hour, drank two jugs of margarita and then went halves on the bill. Impressed? No.

When he asked me on date #2, I politely declined. What he did next surprised me – “Do you mind giving me some feedback?”

I thought this was pretty strange, but in hindsight I reckon it takes a fair bit of guts to ask that question.

Like my date, businesses also shouldn’t be scared of asking for feedback. It’s absolutely vital to their future success, but generally they’re scared of what they’ll hear.

So here’s some tips to take the sting out of its tail.

Don’t go into it blind – clearly define why you’re seeking feedback. My date wanted feedback to ensure his future dates were more successful and he got to date #2.

Make it easy for customers to respond – an SMS number, a managed Twitter page, help forum with feedback included. Turn it into something fun – a quarterly survey where customers are incentivised for a few minutes of their time.

Be open – talk about it with your customers. Summarise the good and bad and what you’re doing about it. Use imagery or infographics to make the feedback interesting. It doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom.

Contact customers who have had a complaint resolved in the past – ask them about the experience, the perception of the company now, what could have been done better. It could prompt a sale or even settle someone who is disgruntled.

Find out what makes them tick – ask them about specific parts of your business and processes to help you refine your offering:

  • inquire about habits and attitudes
  • construct smart, open-ended questions
  • ask one question at a time
  • make rating scales consistent
  • avoid leading and loaded questions.

Get smart – people’s lives are manic, and not everyone wants to engage with your business in the same way. Trial a short SMS, email, survey or a good old phone call. Test the response across your key customer segments.

Do it regularly – feedback needs to be timely, constructive and acted upon. Organise your feedback into key themes, prioritise it against your business objectives and find one or two ways to prove you’re listening. If it means calling a bunch of customers to clear a few things up, do it. Feedback is invaluable to designing more customer-centric processes, creating new products and ditching what’s not performing well.

So go ahead – don’t be shy.  Ask for some feedback.  It’ll ensure you get to go on a few more dates – who knows, you might even find true love.

Author: Nathalie Philippsen