As someone who markets entertainment experiences--meaning I get to watch audiences react in real time--I find the power of human expression and poignant feedback is often far more meaningful than spreadsheet data.
That's why I say that the next time you have the chance (and it should be as soon as today), you should pull a client aside and ask specific questions related to how you're doing.
There is always some improvement to be had in your organization--and if you are proactive, you can turn a potential threat into a golden customer service opportunity. To ensure that both your client and your company get the most out of the exchange, follow these four rules for when you look your client in the face.
1. Be Prepared to Hear the Worst
There is nothing worse than when someone asks you for your honest opinion, you give it to them, and it looks like they swallowed a lemon whole. We have to assume they are giving feedback, no matter how critical, because they care. So, if negative, take their criticism and ask a simple "why do you feel that way?"
Your goal is to hear the "what" with a supporting "why" so you can improve upon it in the future. Whether negative or positive, remember that these conversations are priceless for your business.
2. Ask Meaningful Questions
The odds of doing everything great are very slim for any business, so avoid broad questions like "how are we doing" which is most likely to yield a "great." These open-ended questions are too vague to get any solid feedback.
Instead, aim for something specific so you have a shared point of reference. Instead of "how did you like the product?" reframe the question to ask about a specific feature.
No, I mean really listen. One of two things must happen when getting feedback. You are either writing down what they are saying or looking them in the eyes showing you are listening – ideally a combination of both. When you are talking to a customer and, specifically when asking for their feedback, there is no room for interruptions. In other words, don't take phone calls, have side conversations or check email. If multitasking, you are at risk of losing a customer.
4. Show You've Heard
Make it a point to show customers that you have taken their feedback to heart and into action. It can be as simple as an email or a phone call referencing your last meeting, with some of the steps you've gone through to improve it.
Even if they shared positive feedback, still follow up. There is something very nice about saying, "Thank you for shining light on something we strive hard for everyday. It's customers like you that appreciate the way we operate and it wouldn't be possible without you."