For every business interested in actively engaging with trends to stay fresh and current, connecting to customers and clients and what they want is essential. Consumer trends may appear arbitrary and confusing if the context and values behind those choices have not been identified, but you can anticipate and keep up with trends better if you do.
Even if you have already identified those values when starting up your business in the first place, it can be good to stay connected with your audience. Their values can shift over time, and even the simple act of opening that dialogue can inspire you to refresh your approach in beneficial ways. How you approach customers for feedback and how you respond to that may vary.
You may have an email list through which you can prompt customers to complete a feedback survey. This doesn’t have to be complicated to create, as many websites, including Google or Survey Monkey, provide free services for creating feedback forms that are easy to use. Tutorials for creating those are easily accessible, and once you’ve completed creating the form, you can add that link to your next e-newsletter encouraging customers to respond.
If traditional methods suit your business more, you may prefer to create a small paper form to print out multiple copies of and set up a feedback box to sit in your business’ front of house area, allowing customers to fill the forms out at their leisure. Physical feedback forms also offer an opportunity to collect emails for an e-newsletter list as well, if you are interested in creating one or growing its reach.
Some businesses encourage customers to engage by using the forms as a raffle for a competition of some kind, tailoring rewards to suit the business branding and resources. That isn’t always necessary to get responses, but it can guarantee greater numbers.
When it comes to the forms themselves, a good starting point can be to ask your customers what drew them to your business in the first place. Were they referred by a friend, another business? Were your core values a part of that referral? Besides the quality and reliability of the end product or service that you provide, is there another factor in their choice regarding which business they access to fulfil their needs?
It may also be useful to ask what encourages them to come back, and whether your customers would refer others to your business. You may wish to provide a space for suggestions on how you may improve. Pick and choose your questions according to what is most important and relevant to you. It is important to ask the right questions, without overwhelming your customers. Forms that are too lengthy may be discouraging and reduce your response rate.
Look for common themes across all the responses. If you are using an online form system, answers can be relatively easy to sort through, as many services will automatically gather the data and display it in easily digestible graphs. It can be worthwhile putting together the answers to hard copy forms in a similar manner, as getting an overarching view of the data can provide stronger conclusions than looking at answers one at a time. They may provide you with ideas on how your current services can be improved upon, identify key strengths and weaknesses; and if your feedback is overall positive and suggests nothing new, it can be a good method of confirming that your relationship with your customers is on track.
If you use social media platforms to connect to customers you may already be aware that it presents very different challenges to other forms of feedback as there are many different approaches to take, and what you receive from each method will change. If you do not already use social media, however, do not feel pressured to rush into using it. Poor social media management can have more drawbacks than no social media at all.
The question of how to get feedback in the first place shifts here to become a question of how to identify useful feedback, as social media can generate a lot of noise which is not necessarily useful to your business. It can be more unstructured and anecdotally-based. The conversation may look very different based on the methods of social media management you already use, such as short term creative campaigns versus long term community building exercises.
These methods are also a visible and active demonstration of your values and may affect the results of your questions. A community may have more reliable feedback to give regarding any recent changes, as they will often have more experience with how that has changed their interactions with your business in the long term, and will be useful for measuring customer retention. Whereas if fast growth is relevant to you, the response to splash campaigns will be far more noteworthy.
There are risks in tapping into social media as a resource here, as a wide range of issues – including a lack of filters and unpredictable trustworthiness, and the presence of bias – mean that it may take you significant labour and time to draw out relevant information. However, it does provide you with more spaces to ask customers for feedback directly.
Whether you are sharing a survey, measuring social media ratings or inviting unstructured feedback on your processes, the last thing to remember is to thank your customers for their time. It’s an easy thing to add to the end of any form or post, and always contributes positively to the exchange.
Ultimately, if you have already built solid groundwork for your company you may find that this process does not outline anything new for your business. But regardless of the route you take, the core value that you display by inviting your customers to engage in giving feedback is one of taking your customers and their needs seriously, and that value will always remain current.