Customers are the life of every business. Your company won’t exist without them. So how do you find out what they’re thinking? You ask them! But there’s a real art in getting them to respond in a meaningful way.
Follow these five steps to meaningful customer feedback.
1. Know your customer
First, you need to know as much as possible about your customer. Identify your core customer. To help figure this out, review your sales figures. In most businesses, 20% of your customers generate 80% of your profits. This is your core customer.
Write down as much as possible about this customer and how they interact with your products and services. How old are they? Male/female? Why do they need your product? Why do they like your product? What are they passionate about? Where do they live? How do they live?
Develop this into a full narrative about your customer. Give them a name.
2. Throw a party
Now that you know who you are targeting, get them to talk. In person feedback is the best way to get nuanced information from your customers. Ask your customer to demo your product. Watching your customer interact with your product will almost always provide incredible insights.
Get a group of customers together. Throw a party. When we were starting PrestoBox, we threw Brand Genie launch parties where we invited people who matched our core customer description to give our software a whirl. We did it on a shoestring budget by borrowing cool space in the penthouse lounge of a friend’s apartment and catering the food ourselves. We watched silently as people went through the process, then talked to them individually and finally brought the group together for a discussion. All the while we kept it light and fun – enticing them with the “magic” of the Brand Genie. The feedback we received was priceless.
The event doesn’t have to be fancy, but it does have to be consistent with your brand.
3. Remove yourself
The “party as focus group” is a great way to dig into what your customers are thinking and feeling. However, customers aren’t usually as honest when you’re right there. You need the brutal truth.
Remove yourself from the equation and do some blind tests. Our favorite source for these types of reviews is UserTesting.com. You define who you want to test your product and then get feedback in an hour with videos of your target customer speaking their thoughts as they use your website.
We tested our product this way and were startled at the results. It was clear after watching the videos that our logo builder product was broken. All of the users said that they needed more variety before they would consider making a purchase. It was the first time we heard this so directly. This feedback immediately changed our priorities and we got to work creating thousands of new logo options.
This service works great for online companies – however it can be replicated offline as well. Just remember to remove yourself from the equation.
4. Send email
Email is one of the most effective ways to get customer feedback. However, you need to do it right. The average person receives over 100 emails each day and is increasingly annoyed by messages they did not ask for. Make your email relevant and more likely to get a response by taking time to craft it.
A request for feedback email is not the same as a newsletter. Keep the email short and leave the graphics out. Start by making it personal. Use the person’s first name and insert a personal message. If the recipient knows you took the time to write this email, they may take the time to respond.
Online surveys can be an incredibly effective way to gather information. However, clicking on a link takes extra time and your response rate may decrease. Try embedding your question in the email and then tally the results by hand.
Use “because”. When you want people to take an action, always give them a reason. Response rates will go up significantly if you tell your customers why it’s important. One word can make a big difference. Try to incorporate a few of the most persuasive words in the English language: you, free, because, instantly andnew.
5. Call them
Reach out to your customers on the phone. In today’s digital era, a personal phone call stands out and can be a great way to get feedback. Handle your calls with care. Make sure you are friendly, professional and uber respectful of their time.
A great time to call is after they place an order. You’ll be on their mind and they will be more inclined to help. Do leave personal messages if your customer doesn’t pick up. Treat these customer calls just like you would a call to a dear friend.
Follow these steps to get meaningful customer feedback. And once you get it, remember to circle back and let these customers know what you did with it. Tell them when you launch your new products and thank them again.
Photo Credit: Eugene Kim/Creative Commons
Sara Conte is a frequent contributor to online discussions about strategy, branding and entrepreneurship.