Customer feedback is one of the most important areas of business development. During the customer feedback process, you'll collect information about an experience with your business and use it to make meaningful changes to your approach. If a customer compliments you on something, you can enhance and preserve that feature of your business, but if they took issue with a different feature, you can figure out a way to improve it (or eliminate it entirely).
Customer feedback has evolved considerably since its origins with informal surveys, according to Vision Critical. Most businesses use a combination of online reviews, annual surveys, interviews, and big data they've collected to analyze customer satisfaction--but technology and consumer trends are always on the move, and if you want to remain effective in your customer feedback program, you'll need to evolve with them.
Where Customer Feedback Is Headed
Customer feedback and satisfaction research should begin to improve and develop in at least the following ways:
1. Shorter questions.
The average customer is busy--or at the very least, impatient. People don't like the idea of taking 20 minutes out of their day to fill out your in-depth survey, and only a small fraction of people will give you their time. That's why customer feedback services like Delighted are opting for much more concise opportunities, such as asking consumers only a single question about their experience. Overall, you may gather data on fewer categories, but the data you gather will be more accurate, representing a larger swath of your customer base. Depending on your needs and suspicions, you can adjust this question to fill in gaps of knowledge that your business currently has.
2. Immediate evaluations.
Third-party review sites like Yelp have been highly influential in developing the customer feedback industry; anybody can create an account and leave feedback for local businesses, which can then analyze those reviews and even respond to customers directly. However, there's a major issue with this format; most customers end up leaving reviews long after they've left the establishment, sometimes days later.
Accordingly, if they walked away upset, they may exaggerate the situation, and in any scenario, they may forget or misremember details about the service. Plus, the more time that passes between an experience and the review, the less likely a customer will be to participate.
The solution is immediate evaluation, or real-time data collection. Customers need to have the power to review services and leave feedback as they're experiencing them. This makes it faster and more accurate, and encourages more people to participate overall.
3. Easier participation.
Most customer surveys and similar forms of feedback collection require significant effort on the customer's part. You may require them to visit a URL, sign up with personal information, and walk through several steps of a process before beginning to answer questions about their experience. Accordingly, only the most polarized customers will tolerate the process, and your data will be skewed.
The solution here is to find easier ways for customers to get involved. If you use a tablet for your POS system or rely on an app, consider adding a brief survey at the end of the payment process, so customers are immediately presented with an opportunity to leave feedback. Don't make your customers wander or take extra time to come up with feedback, because they probably won't do it on their own.
4. Data Breadth.
You may collect overall feedback at the end of a customer's journey, but that doesn't tell you much about what happened throughout that journey. In an ideal world, customer feedback would be collected gradually, over the course of the entire customer journey, from the research phase through the purchase phase.
Each could be segmented, so as not to overwhelm the customer, but over time, you would collect much more specific information about things like information availability, first impressions, and the payment process. This way, you'll know what your customers are feeling and thinking as they're feeling and thinking it, and you can respond to weak points in the customer journey with greater precision.
Making the Ideal a Reality
Some technologies exist that make some (or all) of these tenets a possibility for businesses, but they're not yet in widespread use. Plus, not all businesses will have the same customer feedback needs; a restaurant has very different customer demands than an online necktie store. Your job as a business owner should be to strive for these ideals by cherry-picking the best mix of technologies to help you get the job done, and possibly innovating your own approach to fill in the gaps.
The better your customer feedback collection is, the better your business can become.