How do you know when you are meeting the needs of your customers? One sign for many businesses is that the customer will continue to buy your products or services. If this is the only manner in which you gauge your success, you may be too late to salvage a customer who may have already made up their mind to switch to your competitor.
It is critical that your customers have the opportunity to provide feedback and know that you will respond in a timely manner. There are four parts to a complete customer feedback program:
1. Transaction surveys
2. Periodic surveys of complete customer base
3. Executive communication
4. Informal feedback system
This is the most important feedback method to put in place. The goal is to send a survey, preferably using online tools, within 1-3 weeks from the date of the interaction with the customer. This could be a sale of a product, the delivery of a service, or the interaction with your help desk or service organization. In an age where we are all inundated with surveys, it is critical that you design your survey so that it can be completed in just a few
Once a year, you should reach out to all past and current customers to gather their input on how you could better meet their needs. If done correctly, this input could be valuable to your annual planning processes or could help you identify new customer needs not currently met by your company.
Having support from the upper levels at your company will increase the likelihood that your products or services will continue to be purchased. During this feedback method, you should identify your key accounts and then assign them to members of your executive team, not just those normally responsible for sales or account management. When possible, the contact called at the client company should be a member of their leadership team. The other benefit of this type of survey is to ensure those responsible for the normal interaction with the key accounts are meeting the customer’s needs.
As Jan Carlzon once said, every point of contact with a customer is a “moment of truth.” Every member of your team should be trained to listen for feedback and then know how to pass that information on to someone equipped to take action as needed. The key to success with this front line tool is having leadership who are willing to listen to what their employees have to say.
If all four of these feedback methods are implemented and running effectively, you dramatically increase your chance of turning an average customer into a loyal one. How many clients have you lost simply because you did not realize they were dissatisfied until they had already disengaged? Responding quickly to constructive feedback from a customer can save the account!
Once you are receiving feedback from your customers, you must have the process in place to organize the data, recognize trends, respond to customers, and use the information to continuously improve your products or services.
Improving how you collect and respond to customer feedback can make a difference between keeping and losing your customers. Being proactive and offering multiple opportunities to uncover issues will help you become more proactive, rather than responding to issues when it may be too late.
Remember: If you do not plan to respond to customer feedback, you are better off not asking for it in the first place!