We all talk about how important our customers are to our businesses. But the most effective businesses integrate this into the way that they work. Being customer focused is not just about listening when customers talk, it’s also about taking a measured approach to customer feedback that allows you to react appropriately to what you hear.

So how do you ensure that your customer is at the heart of your business? Drawing on the insights from clients we’ve seen go from strength to strength, here are a few of our top tips.

customer feedback - Customer feedback drives small business success

Loyalty is key

In everything you do with your customers; loyalty is key. It’s important to make sure that they are both happy with you and that they don’t perceive that they might be happier elsewhere. As a first step in generating loyalty, listening to customers is a great way to make them feel valued. Whether your customers are happy or not – listening to them will create an important connection between them and your company.

What do you think?

Formalising a feedback process is a great way of turning general customer feedback into a tangible business tool. It can start over the phone or face-to-face; and you can add in other tools like online surveys and feedback cards as your business grows and when you feel it’s appropriate. Gathering customer feedback doesn’t need to be expensive, but it should be consistent.

Be consistent

Whatever the method you use to capture your customer’s thoughts, take the time to compose some questions that will yield the information that would be really valuable to your business. Think carefully about what is important to both your customers and your business success, then make sure you use these questions again and again. Changing questions will change responses, so if you want to be able to track feedback over a long period of time it’s important that they don’t change. If you discover in the future that you’re missing a key piece of information, you can consider adding additional questions at that time.

Track the changes

By using the same questions over and over, you can spot trends and changes in your customer’s feedback. These can allow you to measure the impact of business improvements or challenges, competitor activity, and can be also used to drive change in themselves. Consistently asked questions and related answers can also be built into company metrics and performance measurement to ensure that your team is also measured on making customers happy and achieving business targets.

Spot the opportunities

Customers are a great source of ideas. Asking them for their thoughts on how you can do things better can yield great opportunities for improvement. If you can, try to stay focused on exploring their needs rather than communicating solutions – this will make it easier to manage their expectations. It’s always important with customer feedback to stay realistic about what you will do with their ideas.

Find out what you do well

Almost as important as opportunities to improve, are opportunities to recognise your successes. Positive customer feedback can identify business strengths to use in promotional tools, areas to reward your staff and suppliers, and create opportunities to share feedback online.

If you like it – Like us

If customers tell you that they like you and your product or service, ask them to share their thoughts in a public space like LinkedIn. Positive testimonials and feedback are a great way to drive new business

The good, the bad and the ugly

There will be unhappy customers that you ask for feedback, but at least by listening to their issues you can reduce the chance of them sharing their negative opinions elsewhere. Listening to negative feedback and responding to it positively could help you to retain a customer. There could be other customers who feel the same way but haven’t spoken up, or you may find that you need to develop or enhance a product or service in order to maintain customer satisfaction. As long as you have an open line of communication with your customers you can try to deal with any issues and turn negative feedback into positive experiences.

Goodbye need not be forever

If you do lose a customer, getting in touch to find out why they left could help you to bring them back – in the short or longer term. And certainly using their feedback could be what you need to keep your remaining customers with you and happy.

Customers give businesses a reason to be, and it is important that business do everything they can to understand the opportunities and the issues that they face in keeping customers happy. There is a reason why people say “feedback is a gift”, so why not make the most of what feedback could do for your business?

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