What we're talking about

Customer feedback is exactly what it sounds like – feedback from your customers about the product and service they bought from you. There are all sorts of ways to elicit it: from standalone, detailed surveys to single-questions embedded in emails or on websites. The key, of course, isn’t just to ask for assessment and evaluation, but to react and respond to what you find out. To make your feedback as useful as possible, it’s important to think about the what, where, and how when it comes to asking for it. That’s the focus of this guide.

Why it's important

Making sure your customers are satisfied is obviously key to getting repeat purchases and recommendations of your business to others. And customer feedback is vital to customer satisfaction: if you don’t ask people what they think of your product and service, you won’t know whether they are content, or what it will take to get them there. A study by ThinkJar suggests just one in 26 unhappy customers complain – the rest just don’t come back.  A smart business is one that uses customer feedback to drive impact across the business: from developing marketing strategies and aiding product development, to deciding on pricing and improving your product education.

Things to note

Surveys aren’t the only way. When we think about customer feedback, surveys are often the first thing that come to mind. They’re a great tool for collecting feedback, but there are other options as well: having a feedback form on your website; reaching out to select customers by phone or email to get direct feedback; or a usability testing service to get a recording of someone using your website or (digital) product for the first time – to see what they’re drawn to and where they might get confused.

It pays to ask at the right time. Resist the temptation to roll all the questions you have for your customers into one, long feedback opportunity; instead, make smaller, more specific asks at relevant points in their customer journey. For example, you might ask for feedback on your website as they’re browsing it online, for feedback about the product by email a few weeks after you think they’ll have started using it, and about your customer experience right after an issue has been resolved.

There’s a trade-off between depth and reach. People are much more likely to give you feedback if it’s quick and easy for them, so a single, multiple choice question will get many more responses than a 15-minute survey full of open questions. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t ask for detailed feedback – just decide in advance whether the quantity of responses or quality of insight is more important for the case you’re considering.

You can measure customer satisfaction with a single question. The Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a tried-and-tested metric for customer satisfaction that can be calculated using responses to the question: ‘On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely is it that you would recommend our product/service/organisation to a friend?’ Customers are categorised as ‘detractors’, ‘passives’ or ‘promoters’ based on their rating (0-6 are detractors, 7-8 are passives and 9-10 are promoters) and you can get an overall NPS for your business by subtracting the percentage of detractors from the percentage of promoters. Any positive score is considered good (because you have more advocates than non-advocates) but companies renowned for customer satisfaction tend to have scores over 70.

How to make sure your customers are satisfied

1. Decide what feedback you’re looking for. You should only gather feedback that you plan to use. Start by looking at the various parts of the customer journey (from first impression to purchase to onboarding) and identify which one(s) you’re hoping to improve. Then, identify aspects that make up that piece of the journey that you’d be open to changing based on the feedback you’ll receive. There’s no point asking what people think of your packaging if you know you’re not going to change it.

2. Figure out where and how to ask for that feedback. Work out what format makes sense for your feedback collection and where you should make your ask. You’re aiming for a format that’s easy to engage with, positioned in a place where the customer is likely to already be thinking about whatever you want to know. So, don’t ask about your website on the phone or about your product before someone has had the chance to use it. 

3. Develop only the questions you need. Make sure you have a specific plan in place for what you’ll do with the responses to any question you ask. This will help you make sure you’re only asking essential questions – which saves your customer time writing answers you won’t use, and you from sifting through data that isn’t actionable.

4. Get the right tech in place. There are all sorts of tools out there to help you get the customer feedback you want – from simple survey builders, to website forms, to remote user-testing services. Review your options and test things out to make sure they are easy to use and integrate well into whatever platforms (email, website, social, etc) you need them to.

5. Collect and analyse results. This should be the easy part. If you’ve got the right questions, the right tech and a plan for how you’ll use the data, you should know exactly what you’re looking for – you’ll just need to wait until enough data comes in to give you the insight you need.

6. Act on the insights. Based on the insights and the patterns that emerge in the data, it’s time to put that feedback into action to improve your offering – depending on the specific area of the product or service you chose to focus on. Remember: this is why you bothered collecting it in the first place!

7. Communicate changes. Once you’ve acted on any feedback, let your customers know you’ve taken their input into account – you can do this with emails or calls if you gathered feedback from a small group of people, or through your social media, email marketing or website if the change reflects feedback from a broader audience.

Key takeaways

• The benefits of customer feedback aren’t solely limited to product development. It can play a big role throughout your business: from improving your marketing and sales strategies to product education and even customer service. 

• You’re not limited to surveys – you can use forms, direct outreach and tech tools to ask for feedback at relevant points in the customer’s journey.

• You should make sure you’re collecting feedback around things you’re willing and able to change – otherwise you’re wasting your own and your customers’ time.

Learn more

Perspective. Marketing consultant Patrick McFadden explains why it's essential for successful marketing. 

Example. PaySimple’s list of survey questions provides great suggestions for how to gather both immediate and longer-term customer feedback.

Tool. UserBob offers affordable remote usability testing – you can pay a small fee to receive screen recordings of users trying out your app or website to help you identify opportunities to improve it.

Tool. Delighted is a tool that makes it easy to gather customer feedback and automatically calculate your NPS.

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