Asking your customers for feedback seems obvious, right? HubSpot research has found that up to 42% of companies don’t survey their customers or collect feedback. Do you? If not, it’s time to start.
Many service-based businesses are driven by customer relationships, making it easy to assume you know what your customers are thinking at all times (especially if you’re the one engaging with them).
But what if your customer has a pain point that your product or service CAN solve, but doesn’t in its current state? Or what if your customer has been meaning to share feedback with you about their experience, but hasn’t felt the timing has been right?
Don’t leave feedback up to chance. You can learn a lot about what your customers think by asking them.
No matter how strong your relationship is with your customer base, or how much you think you already know about them and their problem/needs/wants, establishing a strategy and process to capture regular feedback is essential for business growth. Not only will it help you better understand how your customers think about your products and services, but it will help you identify pain points or opportunities for future development (translation: innovation!)
So, how should a service-based business go about asking for feedback, and how do you know when the timing is right? Once you have feedback, how do you put that information to use?
Keep reading and we’ll explore how you can leverage customer feedback to unlock growth for your business (for more on how to grow your business, check out our blog, How to Create a Solid Growth Strategy for Your Business).
3 ways to ask your customers for feedback
There are three primary ways you can solicit feedback from your customers, each of these options has its own benefits and limitations.
We recommend leveraging more than one of the following in your overall feedback strategy and process:
Surveys can be either anonymous or not, and can include quantitative (numbers-based, countable, or measurable) and qualitative (language-based, open to interpretation, and descriptive) questions.
Typically, quantitative questions are yes/no, multiple choice, and ratings-based, and qualitative questions are open ended. Surveys are great for capturing large data sets, establishing baselines for data-based metrics such as NPS (net promoter score), providing data sets that can be used for analyzing trends and correlations, and creating anonymity for customers so that they will be more open with their answers than if they were in person.
The biggest limitation with survey-based feedback collection is that you don’t get any non-verbal cues, and you can’t immediately ask follow-up questions or dive deeper into answers outside of follow-up open-ended questions.
2. Focus groups
Focus groups are typically small groups (we recommend around ~6 people per focus group) brought together by a facilitator who guides them through a discussion around a series of questions.
Not only do facilitators listen to the actual answers and comments made by the participants, but they look at their behaviors, the group dynamic, and other non-verbal communication. The great thing about focus groups is that participants tend to build on each other’s responses.
Focus groups are great for testing new business, product or service ideas, and gaining in-depth information on perceptions, insights, attitudes, experiences, or beliefs by a group of people. The biggest limitation with focus groups are usually time and resources, as they require planning logistics, coordinating schedules, and facilitating in realtime.
3. One-on-One customer interviews
One-on-one customer interviews are similar to focus groups, but rather than facilitating a discussion with a group of people, a facilitator (or an interviewer) is asking questions and facilitating discussion with one customer at a time.
One-on-one customer interviews are great for digging deeper into how the customer feels about their experience with your product or service, and can be an effective way to identify new or unaddressed urgent and expensive problems.
Similar to focus groups, one-on-one customer interviews are time-intensive and require scheduling and coordination with the customer.
There are several ways you can encourage your customers to participate in the feedback process like offering incentives or making it quick and easy (like adding an easy-to-access form on various pages of your website).
The best way to ensure you get responses? Ask your customers directly, tell them why it matters, and tell them what you plan to do with the information (improving their product, service, experience, for example).
How often should you ask your customers for feedback?
You don’t want to bombard your customers with feedback surveys and constant requests for information. Don’t forget – they’re busy too!
If you have regular contact with your customers, seeking feedback once every six months is the ideal time period, however this is totally dependent on what type of feedback you’re looking for and what type of engagement you have with your customer.
If you lose a customer, that can also be a trigger for when you should reach out for feedback.
NOTE: if you are creating new products or services, talk to your customers FIRST! Don’t spend the time and resources developing a solution without having proof that it’s going to solve an URGENT and EXPENSIVE problem for your customer!
How to use your customer feedback to grow your business
Customer feedback is useful in a variety of situations, but four scenarios we see that require lower effort and have high rewards are:
- Improving your products or services
- Improving the customer experience
- Increasing customer loyalty
- Increasing customer retention
Your customers know what they want, and they’re not shy about expressing their needs. If a car dealership hears that their customers want more personalized options, then why not expand the sales approach? Similarly, if the customers complain about post-sale service, improving communication and being more proactive can help keep them satisfied.
There’s a lot of information out there about customer feedback, but what it really comes down to is this: if you want to improve your business and grow as a company, then you need to know what your customers think.
And the best way to do that is by asking them!