Customer Feedback is overlooked by small businesses but absolutely integral to real growth

Every business manager can see how important it is to resolve customer problems, but very few integrate customer feedback with product/service evolution. Yet long-term changes, designed to increase perceived quality, are the key to increased customer satisfaction, customer advocacy, and long-term growth.

Did you know that 24% of customers continue to seek out vendors two or more years after a good experience, whereas 39% try to avoid vendors for two or more years after a bad one (Zendesk, The impact of customer service on customer lifetime value)? Meanwhile, the impact of stellar service is also felt in new customer acquisition, as 88% of respondents have been influenced by online customer service reviews when making a purchase decision (Zendesk).

This is not news; many entrepreneurs value customer reviews; they even make an effort to resolve issues favorably. But they can get stuck in the weeds of problem-solution, fire-fire extinguisher, when there is much more value in taking a proactive stance toward customer feedback.

We’ll outline the general process, metrics, and tools that small businesses are using to get ahead in the long game.

Creating a Thorough Customer Feedback Process

As a small business, your customer feedback process does not need to be overly complex. You just need the basic elements in place to ensure that you:

  • Receive real feedback from your customers, and plenty of it
  • Can derive meaningful direction from feedback
  • Follow through with sustainable changes

The following are some cornerstones to help achieve these three objectives.

Provide anonymity

There is no doubt that small business owners are closer to customers than enterprise CEOs, but it is a mistake to think that knowing a customer personally is the same as knowing that person’s real opinion of your business offerings. In fact, personal relationships can get in the way, preventing sensitive friends from “rocking the boat.” Being close to customers is not the basis for objective feedback. Instead, provide a way for customers to deliver opinions anonymously. Find customer feedback tools below.

Encourage feedback, and make it convenient

We gravitate toward glowing customer advocates and fiery declamations of shady business practices, but the majority of the value lies somewhere in between the extremes. Customers who overall enjoyed your service might have a comment or two about how you might make it even better. But it is easy for customers in this middleground to forget about writing a review. Encourage everyone to provide feedback, and give them an easy way to do this.

There are many different ways of collecting feedback, each with its own uses. We found this Help Scout useful for understanding and choosing the right feedback mechanism, whether it be social analytics, post-experience surveys, or others.

Process feedback appropriately

Processing is the real hurdle for business owners. How do you decide what feedback is useful versus what isn’t? Larger businesses like to use Net Promoter Score to assess the overall satisfaction of their customers, while others might conduct tactical experiments, asking more targeted questions about specific aspects of service.

Act on feedback

Large, complex organizations have trouble when it comes to taking real action, but small businesses can change as soon as the owner makes a decision. Based on feedback, create a measurable goal to determine success of the campaign, then make changes to try to hit the target.

Track results

No matter what metrics you choose, make sure to run a full campaign, using the same metrics to benchmark and track results. This allows you to see if your action is working in the way you want. Once you hit your target, you are ready to close the campaign, and start a new one.

Broadcast changes

Not many companies can boast about the changes they are making to positively influence customer satisfaction! Be sure to market your changes, so your network knows you are working to improve.

Restart the Process

Once you have successfully changed, start the next feedback campaign to keep the process going. The second time is always easier than the first.

Customer Feedback: Takeaways

Creating a value-driven feedback mechanism is not easy, but it separates the long-term winners from the pack. Business owners who empathize with their customers, and who manage to increasingly satisfy them, retain a more loyal customer base, also acquiring more advocates, receiving more positive online reviews, and acquiring new business. All of these outcomes are directly tied to valuable business growth.