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Best Practices for Getting Customer Feedback

Do you have five minutes to answer a survey? Apparently, many people do, as evidenced by the customer feedback requests we receive in our inboxes on a near-daily basis. It’s a proven, effective way to understand your patrons on every step of their customer journey, from their first visit through browsing, purchasing, making returns, and even, perhaps, when they (shudder) cancel their account.

Timing and targeting your surveys appropriately will provide you with insight into your customers’ decision-making process. You’ll understand their preferences and which products or services they’re likely to be interested in based on past actions. You’ll even understand why they’re leaving (if that day comes) based on their previous interactions with your company.

Getting this valuable information in real time can serve as the basis for an in-depth understanding of the customer experience. It gives your audience the chance to engage with you and offer honest input. To maximize its effectiveness, here are a few factors to consider before you launch your feedback initiative.

Identify customer actions that warrant a request for feedback. Most email survey requests seem to arrive at the beginning or end of the customer relationship. But there are great opportunities to engage with consumers throughout their journey. Look for telling actions that would merit you reaching out for their feedback:

  • Have they stopped in the middle of setting up their account?
  • Is this a repeat customer? You’ll want to know what brought them back.
  • Have they visited the same product page multiple times without signing up or making a purchase?

Consider asking them why they signed up for your service in the first place. This helps identify the qualifications used by potential customers in valuing your brand or product’s worth. Prompting this input while they’re newly engaged is a great time to understand their mindset. You might even ask what other products or services they considered before making their choice.

Limit your questions and make them count. The less you ask of your customers, the greater the likelihood that they’ll complete your survey. If you’re promising a quick, two- or three-question survey, don’t tack on supplemental queries as they go. Think about the information you’re asking vs. the information you genuinely need. Do you really need their full name or mailing address to better understand their purchasing decisions? If there’s certain data that doesn’t contribute to a better understanding of your customers, don’t waste their time asking those questions.

Standard tracking info will provide you with some basic data right off the bat:

  • What browser are they using?
  • Are they on mobile or desktop?
  • Are they newcomers or repeat visitors?
  • From where did they navigate to your site?

Your analytics already breaks down your customers into segments. Use this info to target your questions to those segmented users. Design questions that are relevant to those users (you probably wouldn’t ask mobile users if they’ve downloaded the PDF of your latest flyer or product specs). Keep it simple and use the survey to gather sentiment that other customer analytics aren’t able to provide. Aligning your feedback questions can only increase the likelihood of them responding.

Be prepared to act on these insights. When you solicit feedback, there’s an implied promise to take in all suggestions and concerns and work to constantly improve the customer experience. Not only have they chosen your company to do business with, they’re invested enough to want to help you make it as good as it can be. Reward that engagement by always taking action on customer feedback.

This should be an ongoing process. Never stop learning from your customers, as their wants and needs may shift over time. Your response to their suggestions will go a long way toward retaining their loyalty. And when you consider that increasing customer retention by just 5% boosts profits by 25% to 95%, using feedback as a regular part of your customer experience planning makes perfect sense.

Beyond the larger systemic response to feedback, you can offer immediate interaction to show you’re listening. Urge customers offering words of praise to share their opinions on social media, review sites, or on your own product pages or community.

On the other hand, connect customers with criticisms with a support representative who is empowered to make things right — and who will pass on those concerns to people able to bring about change. Looping in decision makers makes it easier for them to recognize trending issues and make necessary adjustments.

Customers responding to your survey are taking a leap of faith. While you may just be asking for “five minutes,” what they’re offering is worth much, much more. But that’s only if you’re smart about what and when you ask, and if you’re prepared to act. Turn that customer’s five minutes into a customer for life.

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