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20/9/2018: The Power of Customer Feedback

Customer feedback enables you to see yourself the way your customers do. The following comments are from people who have discovered for themselves the power of gathering regular feedback.

"We use feedback to make sure our resources are concentrated on the things that matter most to our customers.”

"Feedback has improved our image with customers. They value and respect the fact that we care about what they think.”

"Our competitors can’t understand why their customers keep migrating to us. The reason is simple. We use feedback to learn what their customers really want – then we provide it.”

"All our staff are now totally focussed on customers because every month, feedback tells them how customers rate our performance.”

"If I had known then what I know now I would not have invested so much in our delivery system. Feedback has shown that customers just don’t value it.”

"Competitive advantage comes from learning about customers’ needs, wants and dreams, and then making them a reality. Feedback is our starting point.”

Customer Feedback

"Any company not continually generating feedback is likely to spend more and more time and money on things that have less and less interest or importance to customers”.

In today’s fast changing markets, with customer perceptions, trends and requirements changing ever more rapidly, the only way to ensure that what your company offers is exactly what your customers want is to organise a continual flow of customer feedback. This will enable you to see your business through your customers’ eyes and so operate in ways that produce the desired customer responses.

How is customer feedback generated?

The six key ways of generating customer feedback are:
  1. With every purchase or delivery.
  2. By mailed questionnaires.
  3. By e-mail or Web Site
  4. By telephone surveys.
  5. In personal meetings and interviews.
  6. Via a third party
These different feedback channels each create different types of feedback and they generally operate as follows -

Feedback generated with every purchase or delivery

This feedback channel is best used for the simple analysis of customers’ views after purchase or receipt of goods. It can also be used for on-going ‘exception’ reporting (i.e. to enable customers to tell you when think something is really good or bad). Examples of this kind of feedback include -

  • Feedback cards in hotel bedrooms.
  • Response sections on invoices or delivery notes.
  • Feedback sections on guarantee or registration documents.
  • Comments cards at retail check outs.

Feedback by mailed questionnaires

This type of feedback is suitable for the occasional use where more detailed information is required. For many businesses it makes sense to gather this type of feedback at least once per customer per year.

Mailed questionnaires can also be used to provide regular monthly feedback for on-going tracking and comparison purposes. This may be done by randomly dividing your customer database into say 10 or 12 segments. Then you can mail a segment every month or so with a questionnaire designed to gather their views on key issues. The resultant feedback will then provide monthly comparative customer perceptions that can be plotted to show any trends and the effects of any service initiatives.

Feedback by e-mail questionnaires or on a Web Site

E-mail provides a quick and easy way for customers to provide you with feedback. You can have feedback forms on your web site that are general and may be completed any time a customer wishes, or specific ones that need to be completed within a certain time after experiencing your product or service. You can also send e-mail questionnaires to customers with a request for them to complete and return them.

Some organisations create a web site or a page on their web site where customers may leave feedback.

But however you use it, you should be able to find some way to gather feedback by e-mail or via a web site.

Feedback by telephone surveys

Telephone surveys can be used at any time, as appropriate. They are a good way to gather all types of feedback, from general to specific, quantitative and qualitative, single facts or great detail.

Because the telephone allows two-way communication with customers it is the ideal and most cost effective way to gather qualitative information. This enables you to learn not onlywhat customers think but also why they think that way and how you could influence their thoughts or perceptions.

The ideal frequency of contacting customers by telephone varies from customer to customer and industry to industry. It also depends upon many factors. For example –

  • there are holiday companies that contact a high percentage customers by telephone within a couple of weeks of them returning home.
  • there is a vehicle repair company that tries to contact every customer within 72 hours of a repair being done.
  • there is a computer supplies company that contacts every customer on a monthly basis.
  • there is a manufacturing company that lets the customers choose the frequency of feedback calls which vary from weekly to six monthly.

You would therefore need to find the frequency of customer contact that was most appropriate for your product or service and your customers.

Feedback by personal meetings and interview

Face to face feedback is always the best for many reasons, but the main ones are –

  • It allows the greatest amount of information to be gathered.
  • It enables body language and expressions to be observed and considered.
  • It allows the best forms of two-way communication to be used.
  • It can be done with groups of customers which may be the most appropriate for certain types of feedback.

This is however usually the most expensive means of generating feedback so it should be used carefully. The various ways of gathering face to face feedback include –

  • One to one customer interviews.
  • Group customer interviews (focus groups)
  • Customers’ staff visits to your premises.
  • Your staff visits to customers’ premises
  • Mystery shoppers
  • Customer conferences or feedback workshops
  • Customer advisory boards or panels

Feedback via a third party

Most people agree with the obvious logic of generating customer feedback but many find it difficult to organise it themselves. There are also some situations where customers are happier or more confident providing information to a third party than directly to their supplier. That’s when it makes sense to engage a specialist organisation.

You can use such firms to help in many ways. For example –

  • You can use them to advise on the best means of generating feedback for your particular business and market.
  • You can engage them to create for you the most cost effective means of collecting the feedback from your customers.
  • You can have the feedback presented to you in ways that enable you to easily see the actions you need to take.
  • You can use them for advice and assistance in implementing your chosen action plans

If you wish to speak to a specialist organisation about third party research we have a business called The Feedback Factory that would be pleased to help you decide how best to proceed.

Which method of generating customer feedback should you use?

There is no easy answer to this. It all depends on the type of business and customers you have. However one thing that is common to all organisations is that the more you have the better. Also the more different channels you use to gather the feedback, the more valuable it will be to you. Therefore the best approach is usually to test all the different types of feedback generation that it is possible for you to use, evaluate the result and then decide which are the most appropriate for you.

Alternatively you could use a specialist organisation like Feedback Factory to advise which channels are likely to be the best for your situation

How does all this feedback help your business?

Having this feedback enables you to do many things you would find difficult or impossible without it. The following 10 are just a few of them.

  • You can match your product or service offerings exactly to your customers’ needs.
  • You can use information from your customers to outmanoeuvre your competitors and steal their best customers.
  • You can find ways to differentiate your product(s) or service(s), in your customers’ eyes, in ways that your competitors won’t notice or understand.
  • You can ensure that your organisation is continually focused on the things that really matter to your customers.
  • You can discover opportunities for new products or services that your customers will value.
  • You can find ways to add value to your business without adding cost.
  • You can generate recommendations and referrals for new customers from existing customers.
  • You can find ways to sell more of your existing product(s) or service(s) to your existing customers.
  • You can create a continual dialogue with customers that shows you are interested in, care about, and will act on what matters to them.
  • You can build the type of relationships with your customers that are based on genuine partnerships and lead to lifetime customer loyalty.

The overall result is a constant flow of ideas and perceptions from your customers that you can mix with your own to create the very best ways to continually improve your competitive position and business success.

Where to go for specialist advice about feedback

Because so many of our customers are keen to use customer feedback but are unsure where to begin or don’t wish to do it themselves we have formed a specialist business called The Feedback Factory.

You should consider using The Feedback Factory if you want to be sure that you are getting the best possible feedback, in the most cost-effective way, but haven’t the time, experience or resources to do it yourself. Our skill and experience in this field will ensure that the information you receive will be absolutely accurate and presented in a manner that will enable you to use it to improve your business results.

The Feedback Factory team have been involved in this type of work for over 20 years so you can be confident in our ability to deliver the right advice and services.

The feedback we’ve gathered from existing customers tells us that they use us for the following major reasons –

  • We’re specialists and therefore know the best ways to gather the feedback they need.
  • We have a devoted team and can usually do it quicker than they could themselves.
  • We already have the systems and experience to analyse and present the information gathered in ways that allow them to make informed business decisions.
  • We will actually do it. (Many customers admit that although they intend to do it themselves if they didn’t use us it would never get done).
  • Once they have given us responsibility for it they can focus their attention on other things knowing that we will ensure they are always aware of all the important customer issues.
  • When all costs are taken into consideration we can often do it for less than it would cost them to do it themselves.

If you feel our service might be of help we’d be pleased to arrange a visit from one of our specialist team. Or if you’d rather talk over some ideas on the telephone first, then feel free to call just for a chat. Either way we’re pleased to help.

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