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How to ask your customers for feedback

Customer feedback about your business can be difficult to hear - especially if it is critical - however, it is essential if your business is to adapt, grow and become more profitable. But how do you go about getting customer feedback? In this article we tell you how to listen to your customers and why you should. 

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Two of the top goals for many business owners are to improve customer satisfaction and sell more to their current customer base.

The two go hand in hand. After all, you can't expect to sell more or make repeat sales to customers who aren't satisfied with your products or your service. Feedback can be positive, negative or indifferent, and you need to listen to all of it and act accordingly.

Positive feedback tells you what you're doing right, negative and indifferent feedback tells you what you should and could be doing better. Whether you want to hear it or not, honest feedback is exactly what your business needs if you are to listen, learn and adapt your business to your customers' needs, and ultimately become more profitable.

Improve your relationship with existing customers

Asking your customers' opinions demonstrates to them that you're interested in what they think and that you want to keep them happy. Existing customers are one of your most valuable assets because they are more likely to buy from you than new customers, so it pays to listen to them and keep them content. Your survey should give current customers the opportunity to tell you not just what they think of your products and services, but what else they would like to buy from you or what changes they would like to see in the services you offer. If these changes are relatively simple to implement then new sales opportunities could be there for the taking.

Market to new customers

A customer survey can provide you with positive feedback, which you can then use as testimonials when marketing to new customers. Testimonials are powerful marketing tools because they offer a third-party endorsement for what you do, which can add to your credibility.

Develop new products

A customer survey could also help to create new ideas for products or services. If a proportion of clients wanted the same product or service, this might highlight an unfulfilled need or an area where your products are lacking. Could your current product offering be diversified to meet this need and reach new customers?

How to get feedback

Feedback can take many forms, depending on the nature of your business. Methods of collecting feedback could include comment cards at your point of sale, an online survey, a feedback form sent out with every purchase, or – if you speak to your customers regularly – ask them to answer a few questions in person or over the phone.

Once you have set up your feedback process, make sure you let customers know that it exists. If customers can't find a way to give you feedback, they will just assume that you're not interested in their opinion.

You may need to offer more than one way to give feedback to make it easy for customers to give feedback in a way that is preferable to them. For example, some people may prefer to fill out an online survey whilst some might not be familiar with computers and will prefer to receive and return it by post.

A good understanding of your customer demographic should give you an indication of how they would like to receive a feedback survey. If you have publicised your survey well but find that people still aren't giving you feedback, you may need to offer an incentive, for example being entered into a prize draw.

It's also worth bearing in mind that some people may prefer to give honest feedback anonymously, so you should always give them this option.

Getting external help

If you have the skills, time and resources in your business, you could create a survey and carry out market research in-house. However, there are some benefits in employing external expertise:

  • Customers are more likely to participate in a survey and be more honest with a third party
  • You may need assistance to develop an effective survey that asks the right questions in the right order
  • You may need help understanding and analysing the feedback
  • A third party can give an objective perspective on the feedback and provide you with an action plan for how to address the issues raised.

Read more! Members of the Forum can download a free guide to carrying out market research.