updated - May 27, 2019 Monday EDT
Getting quality customer feedback can boost your reputation and help you improve your products and services. A Microsoft study found that globally, 54 percent of all customers report having higher customer service expectations than they did just one year ago. Getting valuable feedback requires in-depth knowledge of your customers and the many ways in which you can connect with them.
The best way to learn what your customers think is to ask them. Back in the day, this was limited to mail surveys and often unwanted cold calls. Fortunately, social media and mobile technology make it easier than ever (and less annoying) to find out what your customers like and dislike about your business.
Facebook offers customized business pages where customers can post reviews, ratings and photos of your products and services. Customers can follow your page and like and comment on your posts. The more followers you have, the more feedback you can get through reviews, comments and even direct messages. The platform allows you to reply directly to users' posts and post a variety of content including business updates, videos, surveys, promo codes and links to valuable content. Consistency and engagement are key in using Facebook to its full potential.
Instagram capitalizes on the old adage, "a picture is worth a thousand words." And true to form, posting interesting photos and videos can earn you followers, increase awareness of your brand and get customers talking. Due to the fast-paced nature of Instagram scrolling, you likely won't be able to reply to every comment or question. However, you can have one-on-one conversations with users through DMs. You can also use this platform to make an emotional connection with users, with one Canadian insurance broker offering "selfie insurance" as an April fool's joke.
Twitter functions like a condensed version of Facebook. Posts have a character limit, meaning you'll need to keep it short and to point. Users can follow you and share your posts with other users by retweeting them. It's a great platform on which to post quick updates, ask questions and post links to the content your customers might enjoy.
While not as prominent as other venues, Reddit is another platform that lets you connect directly to your customers. You can post business updates, ask questions, post photos and more. Posting an AMA (ask me anything) can help you learn what customers are thinking and lets you answer the questions that mean most to them. Reddit users can upvote or downvote your posts and any comments made on your posts, which can be an interesting metric to look into.
While social media is definitely valuable, don't overlook the power of traditional email. Far from being outdated, email is more relevant than ever. Instant mobile notifications mean that your customers know exactly when you send them a survey, promo code or a newsletter. But you'll have to tread carefully. Sending too many and/or irrelevant emails can land you in the spam folder. When a customer visits your site or makes a purchase, ask them whether they would like to be added to your email list. Those who willingly opt-in are more likely to give feedback than those whom you add without their knowledge.
Traditional rules of email marketing still apply. Keep your emails personal, timely, relevant and valuable. Address the customer by name and avoid generic greetings like "dear valued customer." In today's fast-paced world, time is more valuable than ever, so keep your emails short and sweet and end them with a clear call to action. If you want customers to give feedback or write a review, reward them for their time with a discount, free sample, entry into a raffle or other incentive.
Beyond the internet and social media, meeting with customers in person can net you more detailed and honest feedback. Conducting focus groups or individual interviews can provide you with insight absent from star ratings, likes and survey percentages. For one, in-person conversations flow more easily and naturally than typing on a screen. Be genuine and open and your customers will reciprocate. You'll learn more about what your customers value, how much they're willing to spend and how your business can serve them in ways competitors can't. Seeing the faces and hearing the voices behind customer experiences is the highest quality of feedback you can get.
Customer experience is how your customers perceive your company's service. Each interaction with your company affects how a customer feels about your brand and their future behavior. Obviously, you want to create positive experiences. The better the customer experience, the more likely customers will choose you over the competition and recommend you to friends, family and co-workers. In fact, a study by Walker, a customer experience consulting firm, found that by 2020 customer experience will outshine price and product as the key brand differentiator.
The goal of collecting feedback is to improve customer experience. Ironically, the act of reaching out to your customers in itself can come across as a positive customer experience. Think of it as insurance for the future.
Getting customer feedback is an ongoing commitment. As your business evolves and new technologies and trends emerge, you'll want to stay ahead of the curve. For example, you might want feedback on potential product features or pricing, or you might want to pick your customers' brains on what's missing from the current products on the market.
People appreciate having their opinions valued. Whether it's a survey, personal message on Facebook, or an in-person interview, every connection with a customer strengthens their bond with your business and gives you greater insight moving forward. You're not just collecting data; you're building relationships and gaining a competitive edge that many companies overlook.
Connect with your customers across multiple online and offline channels and get their feedback on multiple aspects of your business. Just as you provide customers with products and services that improve their life, your customers can provide you with insight to help your business grow and prosper.
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