puffins talking to each other
PHOTO: Wynand van Poortvliet

All customers have stories to tell. Sometimes the stories have happy endings. Other times the stories are fraught with twists and turns and occasionally, they are horror stories not even Stephen King would want to write.

Regardless of the genre, the customer feedback story is a must-read for entrepreneurs who care about business success. In fact, an Economist Intelligence Unit global survey found, “64% of executives who prioritize customer experience (CX) investments believe their company is more profitable than their competitors.” But before executives can realize the benefits associated with prioritizing CX they must understand the types of customer feedback, business advantages for using customer data, and considerations for gathering and utilizing the information. 

Customer Feedback Comes in All Shapes and Sizes

A variety of data collecting tools and channels are used to gather customer feedback. The goal for applying data collected from customers will determine the methods deployed to assemble the information. Some of the most frequently used types of customer feedback include:

  • Survey responses.
  • Website contact forms.
  • Live chat.
  • Emails.
  • Product/service reviews.
  • Website activity via user analytics.
  • Staff observations through direct customer interactions.
  • Social media posts and direct messages.

Businesses should exercise particular care in how they operate customer feedback strategies via social media, according to Sprout Social. The company surveyed more than 1,000 social media users on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook about their expectations for brand engagements on social media. The results suggest that social media is both an over- and under-utilized platform for gathering customer feedback. While “brands send 23 messages for every 1 consumer response” and “73% of people have had a negative experience with a brand on social,” when a business’s social media focus prioritizes timely communication rather than promotion, then “70% of people are more likely to use a brand’s product or service” and “25% of people are less likely to go to a competitor.”

Related Article: How to Measure Customer Experience Beyond Net Promoter Score

7 Business Advantages of Using Customer Feedback

Prior to launching a customer feedback strategy or campaign, businesses need to determine an objective. Even a simple CX survey for visiting a website, which seems harmless, can quickly create a negative experience for customers if the goal isn't clear. Susan E. DeFranzo, marketing manager at Snap Surveys, writes about common customer feedback mistakes like these: “As surveys become cheaper to do, marketers embark on seeking feedback ranging from mission-critical research to surveys whose findings end up nowhere. And in the process, consumers are bombarded with a high volume of feedback requests, generating ‘survey fatigue.’”

Customer feedback objectives do not have to be singular. They can also be layered goals with effects that will reach throughout the business. Here are seven practical and adaptable business advantages for successfully using customer feedback that can be tailored to any business:

  1. To understand customers.
  2. To build and maintain customer relationships.
  3. To upsell additional products or services.
  4. To improve the customer experience.
  5. To diversify products and services.
  6. To understand and follow industry trends.
  7. To convert new business and build brand loyalty.

These business advantages will have a greater impact on businesses if leaders are involved in customer feedback strategies and execution. Moreover, it is not uncommon for CEOs to be involved in customer engagement and feedback. A 2018 Lumoa report on the “State of Customer Experience” revealed that more than 50% of CEOs are involved in CX actions. The Temkin Group’s report on “The State of CX Management, 2018” mirrored Lumoa’s data, finding that companies leading in CX are more likely to have direct involvement from CEOs and executives in charge of CX activities.

Related Article: You've Collected Customer Feedback. Now What?

Considerations for Gathering and Using Customer Feedback

Businesses owners can collect all the customer feedback they want, using every available method, but it is all for naught if the information collected goes unused. When gathering customer feedback and applying its findings to business strategies, keep the following considerations in mind:

  • Publish notices or disclaimers outlining how customer feedback is collected and for what purposes it will be used.
  • Give special attention to unprompted customer feedback (positive or negative) because the customer was inspired to communicate directly and felt their opinions were important enough to share. Unprompted feedback is a good source of authentic positive reviews as well as a read on issues which may not otherwise have been obvious to staff.
  • Act on customer feedback in a timely manner, especially as it relates to survey data and reviews or comments concerning products and services.
  • Close the feedback loop and maximize the benefits of user data by following up with customers. Customers want to know their opinions are valued so it is important to make follow-up part of the customer feedback strategy. Steps like periodically letting customers know how their feedback was acted on, how it will be acted on in the future, or why their feedback cannot be used will establish policies of transparency and build brand loyalty for the business.

Related Article: Drawing a Line Between VoC, Customer Experience and Customer Analytics

Customer Feedback: A Never-Ending Story

The customer feedback story is one that never ends. As long as there are customers willing to purchase your products and services, there will be stories to tell and feedback to collect, analyze and implement. The choice business owners must make is how they want their stories to progress, whether through rising action and character development or through a rehashed plot customers are tired of experiencing time and again. How will your business story unfold?