For a small business owner, information about your customers, including their demographics, preferences, and sentiments on your product, can be extraordinarily useful.
Why should you gather customer feedback? According to this article from Inc., one main goal is to enable communications between you and your customer. Without this communication, it's difficult to understand why your customers are doing what they are doing. Customer feedback can also help you uncover flaws in your business, or new opportunities for growth.
How do you gather customer feedback? The most common means is by survey. Surveys may be via phone, print, or online. Be sure to consider the timing of your survey. If you bombard a customer with a survey as soon as they walk in your door - or as soon as they click on your website - they may be put off and leave. Try to choose a less invasive time to approach a customer, depending on your intent for the survey.
If you choose to use an online survey, here are five tips for creating a good one, courtesy of this article by Anna Lindow for the OPEN Forum:
- Define your objectives
- Work backwards
- Check for bias
- Do a test drive
- Collect results and analyze data
In addition to surveys, you can gather customer feedback via your customer-facing employees, a third-party consultant, web analytics tools like Google Analytics, and monitoring of social media like Twitter and Facebook.
Once you receive the feedback, be sure to act on it. It's also a great idea to "close the loop" with the customers who were part of the feedback channels. This provides an important human touch between your business and the customer.
What happens if you receive negative feedback? This article by Josh Catone for the OPEN Forum outlines four different types of negative feedback:
- Straight problems: Someone has an issue with your product or service and has laid out exactly what went wrong.
- Constructive criticism: A customer has given a negative comment, but with a suggestion attached.
- Merited attack: You or your company did something wrong, and someone is angry.
- Trolling/spam: "Trolls" and spammers have no valid reason for being angry at you.
The first three types of feedback require a response, tailored to the specific situation and always with a positive vibe. (The last type of negative feedback should be ignored and if appropriate, removed as soon as possible.)