Practical methods to improve the volume and quality of customer feedback for your business. Learn about your customer's needs, their expectations and their overall impression of your service faster. Keep it up over time to ensure standards don’t slip.
This guide is for managers who provide services in the real world e.g. gym, hair salon, cafe or restaurant.
So we’re all on the same page, we define feedback as:
Information that is both specific and clear, given or sought exclusively to help improve a customer experience.
There are two important parts to this definition.
First, feedback must be specific. This helps us take action based on the information we receive.
Second, it must be focused on improving the customer experience (CX). When we encourage customers to think ways to improve we learn much more than if we simply ask for an opinion. Remember, we're looking for ideas and guidance on what your customers expect and what we could offer in future.
Does it really help to know that your food is a 3 our of 5 if you can’t say why? This guide will show you how to avoid this type of data.
When one of your customers shares their opinion or gives you advice, they’ve given up their time to help you. This deserves thanks - not an automated message - but a personal reply.
The volume of feedback you can get is very important to allow you to spot trends. One opinion is great as it helps you empathise with individual needs but we don’t recommend ripping up your menu unless you are begin to see a pattern emerge.
Ask continuously. Not only will this ensure you’re getting a healthy supply but it also helps you compare over time. What are people talking about now that they weren’t before?
Whether you’ve asked for feedback or not, being prepared to receive it is a skill in itself and an important thing to consider before you continue to implement the things we advise here.
Hearing negative things about your organisation, staff or yourself can be difficult, especially if you’re a big part of the customer experience. Many small business owners and managers face this challenge, you are not alone. Here we look at the ways you can prepare yourself to receive feedback and use it to improve your customer experience and build loyal customers.
Being proactive in the way you ask for feedback will help avoid unhelpful or negative responses that are a direct result of a relaxed approach without structure (more on this below).
Feedback is not the measure of success of your organisation, that’s (probably) profit. It’s just the perspective of one of your customers, which means you’ll hear some negativity sometimes. By adopting a ‘growth mindset’ we believe that we have the ability to learn new things and improve our service (more on growth mindsets here).
Anything your customers share in public can magnify the effect it has - good or bad. That’s why we encourage feedback to be shared in private as a first option. If you don’t offer this option easily then customers will be forced to share in public, even if they don’t want to. Positive feedback can always be channelled to a public forum later.
Negative feedback can spark an emotional response that clouds your judgement and could escalate a situation unintentionally. It’s always better to take some time to process comments before responding if you can.
The more feedback you have the better feel you’ll have for the way your customers see your organisation. Anything negative is likely to be balanced out by some equally positive things, or proven to be an anomaly altogether - just someone having a bad day.
Asking the right questions will give you actionable insights about specific aspects of your service. It’s easy to do, just use an open style (that can’t be answered with a yes/no) that force a response with some detail e.g. What one thing could we do to improve our service?
If you aren’t specific about the feedback you want, you won’t get it so you could tailor your ask depending on what it is you want to learn about e.g. What one thing could we do to improve our appointment booking?
Don’t ask too many questions. Think about the effort needed to reply, if it’s a lot of effort you’ll get less replies which weakens the strength of your data overall. You want to identify trends which is only possible when you have enough responses.
In a world where the opportunities to leave feedback are everywhere it’s amazing how starved of good customer feedback many of the managers we talk to are.
Here we cover the channels you should be thinking about using to make sure you get enough to learn and grow. You’ll probably have to use a few of them to find out which ones your customers prefer and what’s most effective for you!
We don’t recommend asking for feedback through review platforms, although they may offer some insight into your customer experience they are intended as a peer to peer service for recommendations which often excludes you from the conversation. Nobody wants to have a discussion in public about something that’s gone wrong, it doesn’t provide the right conditions to learn and repair. Your customers are well aware of services like Yelp, Tripadvisor and Google reviews and will use them when they feel very happy and want to pass on that gratitude socially or where you’ve failed and they want to prevent new customers reaching you so they don’t suffer the same fate.
Here we cover the ways that we would recommend using:
Asking for feedback in person shows that it’s something you care about and are open to, which is powerful. Some customers will be happy to share then and there (consider manually entering this into whichever system you use to store feedback so you can review later), others won’t so it’s important to also provide a way for them to share that suits them. A card with their physical receipt is a good way to signpost them.
You can use tools like Typeform or Survey Monkey to inexpensively setup a form that will work on your customers mobile phones or laptops. This survey link can also be placed in multiple places - your website, social account profiles, email receipts, email footers or around your premises.
Every social channel now offers this, and the majority of websites also have a support bubble you can click to connect with someone via chat, so get familiar with it because it’s going nowhere. Your customers may want to reach you via one of these because its convenient to them. If this sounds overwhelming, there are lots of new tools like Zendesk or Zoho that help you manage these in one place. Not all of them begin with Z.
There are also services which offer a ‘turnkey’ solution to capturing customer feedback. They typically provide a unique link for your business address, QR codes to access this link quickly on mobile and the option of using other channels like text or email - all of which can be triggered by other things like digital receipts and result in a dashboard that tracks anything your asking over time. Sounds great right? Yes, this option is comprehensive but it’s expensive and when there are so many great free services out there, it doesn’t make sense to pay for this option unless you’re gathering A LOT of data, which most organisations aren’t.