Customer feedback gets a bad rap (perhaps because of sites like Yelp that give customers what many business owners say is just a platform to air grievances). But it's important to remember that feedback is an integral part of any business's development. As Bill Gates once said in a speech about Microsoft, "Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning." In other words, feedback – especially negative feedback – can help you make key adjustments and create a service or product your customers will love. Consider this: What's much worse than hearing client complaints is having a valued customer leave for a competitor without saying why. So how can you encourage clients or customers to give you feedback that's actionable? Here are a few ways to get useful client feedback:
Use Surveys and Feedback Forms
These two methods of getting feedback are tried and true, and companies use them because they're easy for businesses to create. Plus, either method can provide answers to even the most specific queries as well as yielding more general feedback. Surveys can be done in any number of ways, including in person and over the phone, but these days, both surveys and feedback forms are largely completed online. The key to creating a survey that will provide you with useful information is to make it short and simple. Use fewer than five questions, and opt for mostly yes-or-no or scale formats, with just one or two questions that require a written response. Feedback forms can be useful for Web-based services when they allow users to rate their experience directly after using the site.
Pay Attention to Social Media
The advent of social media has helped businesses in numerous ways, not the least of which is that companies can now receive unprompted feedback from larger audiences than ever before. Pay attention to the comments and messages you receive. You can also use Facebook or Twitter for small surveys to gain an idea of the overall positive or negative reaction to something your company is implementing. Say you're considering rolling out a new feature or service. Ask your Facebook network something along the lines of, "Would you use this service?" or "How would this change your opinion of the company in general?"
Especially if your company works with a smaller pool of clients (as opposed to a customer base in the hundreds or thousands), a great way to get feedback you can use is to reach out to clients yourself. Pull out your business cards and call or email a few clients to see if they're willing to answer some questions or tell you about their experience. The one-on-one interaction is more likely to yield good results as well as detailed and personal information than a quick online survey.
If you request feedback from someone, no matter what format you're using, it's essential that you take the time to respond. Many clients don't like complaining, so tell them you appreciate any critiques because they'll help you develop a service more people will want to use. It's also important to respond immediately to unprompted negative feedback from unhappy clients. First and foremost, unhappy clients want to know their complaints are being heard and understood.