Metrics like customer acquisition cost, conversion rates, and even micro-metrics like bounce rate and time on-site are numbers that companies live-and-die by to measure the success of their sales and marketing organizations.
But ultimately, none of these truly matter if the customer experience is lacking or fails to meet customer expectations.
All of the work to acquire the customer is likely for nothing if they are not being retained by the customer success team. Consequently, their lifetime value is greatly diminished, which makes budgets more difficult to attain for acquiring more users and customers. It's a downward spiral which ultimately may result in campaigns being deemed unprofitable or marketing budgets drying up completely -- it's a ruthless cycle.
So what can be done about this? Everything comes down to monitoring customer satisfaction.
All business owners instinctively believe that they have happy, loyal customers -- but is this really the case? Are there any issues with your product or service which you aren't aware of, but may be just a critical element that stops your customers from buying from you again?
Proactively and consistently gathering feedback from your customers is key to ensure that any issues which they are experiencing are not only identified, but can be resolved before too many other customers have the same poor experience.
By having an appropriate complaint management process in place, it may even be possible to turn a customer who had a negative experience into an advocate simply by listening to their critiques and being human when you respond.
Depending on the nuances of your business, collecting feedback from your customers can be done in several ways. Whichever method you use, it's critical that this is undertaken in a manner which can facilitate analysis and action -- otherwise, you risk operating within an echo chamber and subconsciously only acknowledging feedback which reinforces your current perceptions.
Basically, have a goal and an action plan of what you'll do with the customer feedback (for example, response to aggrieved customers, segment customers based on response, inform product improvements, etc.)
1. Email Feedback
The most frequently used method to request customer feedback is via email, once the service has been provided or product which the customer bought has been delivered.
If you have ever shopped online or stayed at a hotel, you have undoubtedly received a request to rate your experience.
Various providers assist companies with automating this process and many will also ensure that reviews are distributed amongst the most important portals, such as Facebook, Google, TripAdvisor, and Yelp.
2. SMS Surveys
Not to be underestimated, SMS is still one of the most powerful channels to request feedback from customers. In an age when consumers are never more than a few feet away from their phones, SMS is still a great way to communicate with your customers. With higher open rates than email, they are a strong alternative to use when only a phone number is known.
3. WiFi Networks
Cafes, bars, hotels and even stores are now choosing to provide free wifi in order to attract more customers to their locations. This also presents opportunities to gain feedback from customers which shouldn't be missed.
Whether requiring a free account to be created in order to access the wifi, then using the captured email address to request feedback shortly thereafter, or simply asking how their experience is while they're there, exploiting free customer WiFi to ask for feedback can be a fair value trade for both business and customer.
4. Paper Feedback Cards
Some companies still prefer to do things the old-fashioned way, by using simple feedback questionnaires with pen and paper. This is undoubtedly the most cost-effective manner to collect reviews, but it can also have a lot of hidden costs when it comes to collating and understanding the feedback given.
In order to be able to extract meaningful actions from the feedback, the responses often need to be tabulated in a spreadsheet and then analyzed -- requiring both significant time and effort. Factoring the salary of a junior staff member spending only 10 minutes each day to enter responses into a database and minimal analysis, this can easily exceed $500 per year.
Although beacons haven't really taken off like the hype predict when they first launched, they are still an interesting technology which can be used strategically to gather customer feedback.
If you are lucky enough to have a mobile app which is installed by many users, beacons can serve a push-notification to users once they arrive in the vicinity of the deployed beacon.
This can be a great way to ask users to leave feedback about their in-store experience while they're still there.
6. Live Chat Transcripts
On-site live chat tools are becoming more and more frequently used not only for user-acquisition but also customer support.
Reviewing transcripts of the chats and categorizing any feedback points into categories can help you identify inefficiencies in your business. Frequently mentioned topics tend to be problem areas for your business which can be improved to not only improve customer satisfaction but also reduce the customer support resources required.
Although qualitative chat transcripts can be cumbersome to review, they also tend to be the most direct feedback from customers which you can receive.
7. Customer Interviews
Interviewing customers doesn't need to be exclusive to major retailers or market research companies who have big budgets to fund these. Frequent and loyal customers are generally very happy to give feedback if you simply ask them. After all, they're the ones who are most invested in your product or service.
Try finding a number of segments which interest you and select various customers who fit these profiles. To increase your potential for success, ensure that the customer is being contacted by a real person as this will not only make them feel like a VIP (and become even more loyal), but will increase your chances that they will provide valuable feedback.
8. Recorded Sales Calls
If you have an outbound sales team, it's likely that they are making potentially hundreds of calls every day, which these logs can be invaluable for not only training purposes, but also as feedback to your product. While they may not be customers (yet) they also tend to give the most direct feedback to your product as they have no vested interest. First impressions last after all!
Even if they haven't completed a trial of your product, listening to what their feedback is on your product and presentation can help you overcome any hurdles which may be putting off other potential customers.
9. Website Visitor Session Replays
Want to know how people are using your website and why they aren't taking certain converting? Then Session Replays could be the way to gather the feedback required to overcome these hurdles.
Providers such as Hotjar and Yandex record user interaction with your website so you can easily see what they are viewing, clicking on and interacting with.
While this may sound creepy, this type of feedback is invaluable and can really help you see the website from your visitor's viewpoint and see issues which you may not otherwise have noticed.
It's clear that customer satisfaction is no longer just the responsibility of customer service teams, but a fundamental element to all departments which have an interaction with customers. If you aren't already exploring ways to gather customer feedback at your company it's time do so.
Not only will you cost-effectively generate more customers for your business, but they will become more loyal to your brand with greater lifetime value -- which, for marketers, means that we can push for even larger budgets to try new and exciting campaigns.
Originally published Dec 26, 2017 8:00:00 AM, updated April 13 2018