For many small businesses, this is as far as their customer feedback process goes. Many small business owners believe they already know what their customers think; after all, they do speak to them every day.
Unfortunately, feedback given in person won't always be honest or complete. Honest feedback is exactly what small businesses need if they are to learn, adapt and grow. But you won't get it unless customers think you really care about their answers.
So here's how you can ask your customers for feedback like you really mean it.
Get the right tools
Establish a process for collecting feedback. This could include comment cards, a feedback webpage or an online survey. You can do this yourself or join an online feedback network, which will give you integrated tools and access to feedback channels as well as online surveys.
Advertise your feedback process to your customers
Unless they know it's there, how can customers give feedback? If they cannot find a way to give you feedback, customers will just assume that you're not interested. Advertise ways of giving feedback on your premises, newsletters, website or wherever customers contact you. If you're a member of an independent feedback network, you could display their logo. Make sure customers know you are actively interested in what they have to say.
Ask in different ways
Continue to ask your customers in person how your service is, but if they say "fine", don't just leave it there. Ask again, but in a different way. You could do this by saying, "I'm glad things were fine but if there's any way we could have served you better, please let us know when you think of it". That way, they'll know you're genuinely interested, and they'll know exactly what to do, and won't feel pressured to give their feedback face to face.
Invite anonymous feedback
If you really want to maximise useful feedback, allow customers to give feedback anonymously. Online feedback can hide the customer's identity but still allow you to read it and respond to it without seeing their personal details. Letting customers know this option is available could increase their honesty.
Make it worth their while
The promise of a voucher or reward, or even entry into a prize draw, will encourage customers to take the time to tell you about their experience. It also indicates how seriously you take their feedback. Don't think that just because you're close to your customers, you'll hear everything they have to say about your business. The good news is, small businesses have the advantage of greater flexibility to adapt if they discover customers want something different. Plus, customers tend to be keener to help smaller businesses as they want to see them survive and thrive.
So if you ask for feedback like you really mean it, customers are likely to respond, giving your business the edge it needs.
About the author
Helen Cammack is one of the founders of Niggle, the UK's first online customer feedback network. Niggle is free to join, and gives small businesses the resources they need to get really useful customer feedback. Visit www.nigglebusiness.com for more information.
Once you’ve collated your feedback you will need to make the most of the information to improve the customer experience. Here we give you tips on making the most of customer feedback.
Last updated 8th June 2016
Is everything OK? asks the waiter. "Yes, fine thanks", we reply automatically.