A green wooden crate that says Tell Us What You Think. - Feedback concept
PHOTO: Adobe

Most brands are customer-centric today, and the voice of the customer is the most important voice in the house. That said, obtaining genuine, honest feedback from customers is never easy, and is progressively harder to obtain, especially if the brand is interested in obtaining actionable insights.

In this article, we will look at 5 ways a brand can obtain accurate, honest feedback from its customers, going beyond traditional Voice of Customer metrics for gaining customer insights.

Social Listening Is a Priority

According to research from SmartInsights, as of October, 2020, there were 3.96 billion social media users worldwide. A GlobalWebIndex report revealed that from January to March 2020, these users were on social networks (and associated messaging apps) an average of 2 hours and 22 minutes per day. The report also indicated that up to 50% of social media members use social networks to research products and services.

These statistics are a good indication of why social media, both via customers’ own profile pages and a brand’s social presence, is one of the first places brands should turn for obtaining genuine customer feedback. People generally say what they mean and mean what they say on social media, they do not feel constrained or limited, and they are usually not worried about being seen as criticizing or complaining when they choose to post something that could be seen as negative or critical.

Social media analytics are used to analyze the data that has been collected from social media through social listening initiatives. Typically, the same software that is used to gather the social data also analyzes it. Platforms such as Brandwatch Consumer Research, SproutSocial, Notified, Talkwalker, MeltwaterSocial, and Mention all have functionality that includes social listening, analytics, and reporting.

Also, don’t forget low-key methods of revealing social feedback, such as using Google Alerts to detect mentions of a brand, product or service. Google searches through all of its indexes looking for new mentions of any keyword or phrase that is requested, and sends an email alert out when a mention is found.

Online Surveys Are Quick & Convenient Sources of Feedback

Online surveys can be extremely useful if they are quick and convenient for the customer. By providing an unobtrusive survey option to customers, brands are offering them the ability to easily provide feedback in a way that will not take much time and effort on their part. There are many survey solutions available, and many of them, such as Survey King, Survey Monkey, Qualtrics and Qualaroo, offer the ability to create free trial accounts to see if their solution is effective for a brand.

Akram Assaf, co-founder and CTO at Bayt, the Middle East’s leading job-search and hiring platform, said that his platform is totally dependent on positive customer feedback, and as such, they have incorporated some effective ways to collect such feedback into their site.

“The first thing you will notice on our website is that we always have some sort of a survey/poll up for obtaining customer feedback. We're always looking to survey our customers and enable them with an easy way to share feedback with us.” Assaf emphasized that the last thing they want to do is to annoy customers with requests for feedback, and surveys are fast and efficient for customers to use. “We also have a feedback request for users that complete certain milestones on our website. When it comes to collecting genuine customer feedback, it's important to do it in a natural, organic way. It must not feel ‘forced’,” he said.

Related Article: Boost Your Voice of Customer Program With These Tactics

Online Communities

Many people think of hosted online communities or discussion forums as something of a bygone era, but for many brands, online communities are still providing an effective place to obtain genuine customer feedback, generate leads, and build a sense of belonging. A recent survey on online communities from community platform provider Disciple revealed that 50% of those polled indicated that they’d join a dedicated community that represents their passion. These dedicated online communities are often used to obtain suggestions and feedback from customers. A report from Vanilla Forums, a cloud-based customer community software provider, indicated that 90% of brands with communities said that they have used feedback from the community to improve products or services.

Beauty supplier Sephora, for instance, created a dedicated online community called Beauty Insider, and at any given moment there are over 60,000 members online.

beautyinsidercommunity

Another brand whose customers actively participate in branded community forums is Native Instruments, a leading manufacturer of software and hardware for computer-based audio production and DJing. The NI Community Forum features forums for the various hardware and software they offer, with over 300,000 members and 256,000 discussions. This forum enables NI product users to help one another, and to discuss anything NI-related. NI also has a Support Community forum that is currently read-only that allows NI users to find solutions to common problems.

Not only are online communities still a valid form of community and communication, some of the most popular sites today are just that — communities comprised of smaller communities, such as Reddit, which in the last six months has received 1.74 billion visits.

Khoros Communities is one such digital community solution that features Slack integration, real-time analytics, advanced moderation tools, and robust content management. Other digital community solutions include Zapnito, which is targeted as being “built to showcase expertise,” Open Social, which is marketed as a “community management platform,” Higher Logic, which is said to be a “human-focused engagement platform,” and Vanilla Forums, the “cloud-based customer community software.”

Incentivize Customer Feedback

According to Miles Beckler, founder and entrepreneur at MilesBeckler, often customers prefer not to provide feedback because it doesn't benefit them in any way. “Instead, it takes time out of their day and acts as more of an inconvenience rather than anything else. This can lead to a survivorship bias in existing reviews whereby the majority of those who left a review did so because they had a negative experience. This is clearly not ideal for any business selling a product or service.” This is similar to brands that rely solely on customer service inquiries for obtaining feedback from customers, as most of the feedback that is received is based on negative experiences the customer has had with the brand. While such feedback can still be useful for correcting and removing the pain points in the customer journey, its usefulness is limited.

According to SurveyMonkey research, 85% of customers polled indicated that they are likely to provide feedback if they’ve had a good experience and 81% said that they would provide it when they have had a bad experience. This is over 1.7 times the rate (48%) that customers leave feedback after having had a “normal experience.” Regardless, it is a very valuable piece of information that can provide actionable insights. If the feedback is negative, find a solution that leaves the customer feeling satisfied and the situation resolved.

Beckler suggested that by incentivizing feedback, the customer is more willing to go out of their way to provide honest feedback. “If you give a prize away to a random customer who provides feedback, perhaps in the form of a give-away, this will give people the motivation they need to share their experience and provide customer feedback,” he said. It’s important to stress that brands are not interested in mere lip service, but by providing customers with something for their efforts, they are more likely to take time out of their busy schedule to leave honest feedback. Another positive effect of incentives is that they are likely to encourage sales. “This might encourage prospective customers to actually buy from your company and enter the giveaway with a chance at winning the prize. What's most important is that you give your customers a reason to take the time out of their day to share their thoughts,” said Beckler.

Request Feedback After Shopping Cart Abandonment

A report from the Baymard Institute revealed that shopping carts are abandoned a whopping 69.57% of the time. While this is a huge loss, it also opens up possibilities for brands to improve the shopping experience providing a unique opportunity for brands to obtain feedback from customers, says Chris Laan, founder of DesignerSheds. “You won't have the phone number for all of them, but if you do, give them a ring and let them know you're available to help if they need assistance on their order. Most of the time they're happy to talk, and will hand over their story of what stopped them from buying initially,” suggested Laan.

Laan made a valid point when he said that by making that phone call, a brand could reduce its shopping cart abandonment rate while gaining access to feedback from a very lucrative customer type: “the one you almost missed. They'll give you some guidance on what you need to improve so the next customer doesn't abandon the cart the way they did.”

If phone calls are not possible or convenient, email follow-ups are another method of requesting feedback from customers who have abandoned a shopping cart. By combining incentives such as a 10% discount or free shipping to those customers who complete a feedback request, a customer may be enticed to complete a purchase while the brand obtains actionable insights.

Final Thoughts

While it is often challenging to obtain genuine customer feedback, it can be a valuable way to obtain actionable insights. By actively listening to social media, investing in online communities, incentivizing customer feedback, requesting feedback as part of the ordering process and after shopping cart abandonment, brands can reliably receive feedback that can be used to improve both the bottom line and the customer experience.