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Making the most of customer feedback

Failure to retain 85% of current customers will mean that you are spending more on prospecting for new customers than you do on the current bedrock of your business. Find out how listening to customer feedback can help you create a more loyal client base.

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Failure to retain 85% of current customers will mean that you are spending more on prospecting for new customers than you do on the current bedrock of your business. Find out how listening to customer feedback can help you create a more loyal client base, so you can concentrate on growing your business. Typically, 70% of businesses change suppliers simply because they are receiving adequate (rather than poor) service. Whilst, on the consumer side, the rise of comparison and deals websites has changed our buying habits so that customers more likely to shop around for the best deal and switch suppliers with less brand loyalty. So how do you encourage people to stay with you? One way to minimise this is to analyse customer feedback to monitor the feelings of your customers and how you can improve your service in the future to create greater value and higher profits. A good customer survey is an extension of a continual conversation with customers. If you sell to other businesses, this should be used alongside regular calls to understand more about how your clients perceive you. Make a plan Planning is crucial and can be the difference between improving your customer relationship or alienating a future source of revenue. Ask your suppliers, staff and other business owners to help assess the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to your business. Define what you are looking for from the questionnaire; do you want to test out possible products, get testimonials or even get an emotional reaction to various questions? Assess where you are in the market compared to your competitors, what are they doing and how might this affect your trade? If a competitor is advertising a low price, then looking at cost and value separately may be helpful to find it they are Look at trade associations and other businesses to see if there are any reports that you can use to benchmark your performance. Decide what information you want from the exercise - this will help you decide whether you want to get customers to tick one option from a list, more than one option or to type in their own response. Rank your needs and then limit the questionnaire to a small number of highly focussed questions. See if there are any characteristics that you want to analyse the information with – length or relationship, frequency of sales or profitability of sales. What incentive you are looking to offer or what is in it for the individual. Fieldwork - collecting the results Choosing how to ask the questions is also important – telephone and face-to-face interviewing will allow you more scope and the option for more questions. This does come at a cost though; online questionnaires are cheaper but have a lower response rate. If you have a small number of key clients then asking a third party to contact them may be far more instructive (and cheaper) than doing the research yourself. What questions should you ask? In questionnaire design, the key requirements are questionnaire length, clarity of the questions and relevance of the questions. Using a survey package that routes the questions so that a customer is not asked to evaluate a service they do not use is worth investing in. Some useful questions that are always worth considering are: The Net Promoter Score, where customers are asked how likely they are to recommend your service to friends, family, etc. and then defined as promoters, passives or detractors. Paired questions on importance and satisfaction with key customer service indicators. These might include courtesy or friendliness of the staff, knowledge of staff, speed of response and after sales service. Hygiene factors – these are factors that could lose your business its reputation overnight (e.g. health and safety for a building subcontractor) An opportunity for the client to type in suggested improvements An emotive response to the brand. In most cases if you need to help in planning a customer service review, most market research companies will talk you through the process in greater depth. About the author Thomas Parry is the owner of market research company Ask Your Staff - you can call him on 07885 888085 or email thomasp@askyourstaff.org.uk to help you with any research issues that you face.

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