The season of giving is upon us. You're busy mailing holiday greetings to prospects
and sending thank you gift baskets to your best clients. The way you see it, it
is a time for you to do the giving.
may seem counter-intuitive, but it is your clients who may actually give you the
best gift this holiday. However, it will come effortlessly. You will have to do
a little work to receive that special gift.
is it?" you ask. It's the gift of feedback, and it can be the most valuable
gift you receive this year. Too often, we forget that clients can offer us a wealth
of knowledge about our business - perspective on products and services, insight
about what is important to your target audience and how they make decisions, as
well as viewpoints on how your business compares with competitors. The following
key questions will help you obtain feedback from clients to ensure that you are
meeting their needs and identify areas that might need a little improvement in
the coming year:
- Which of
our products/services do you use and why? Sometimes you can be too close to
see the big picture. What you may consider the premier product or service might
not be on par with what clients view as important.
have you gained from using our products/services? Again, your idea of value
might be entirely different from your customers. Additionally, your customer might
see value or disadvantage in a product or service that you might not previously
- How can we
improve our products/services? No one likes criticism but it is fundamental
to improvement. Furthermore, your clients' feedback might offer up areas where
you can expand business; offering products or services that you may not have considered.
- What do you love about our products/services?
The response here will underscore the strengths of your product or service. As
a result, they can be your potential differentiators and can help to better define
- What do
you dislike and how can we improve upon it? Everyone wants to be likeable.
However, in reality, we all have shortcomings. Acknowledging them is the first
step to correcting them.
there expectations that we didn't meet for you? If so, what were they and
how could we have rectified the situation? All too often, once the sale is made,
the customer becomes a non-entity. To secure the sale, we sometimes make promises
that we either forget or cannot keep. Though we may not remember, our customers
- Where did we exceed
your expectations? Sometimes the little things can make or break a customer's
experience. Finding out what they are can be a crucial step to building a better
brand, product and/or service.
what areas can we be more proactive? Complacency will only garner trouble.
By being proactive and anticipating your clients' needs and concerns, you will
save yourself a lot of grief and instill goodwill and trust in your customers.
- On a scale of one to ten (with ten being
the best and one being the worst), where would you rate our sales team? Customer
service? Billing department? Technical support? Were they attentive, responsive,
knowledgeable and courteous? These areas mean the difference between a customer
remaining loyal and one who defects; between a customer referring you to others
or writing a bad review; and between your business growing or remaining stagnant.
Why leave them to chance? They are as much a part of your brand as your logo and
tagline. Take as much care and attention to detail with them, focusing on areas
of improvement and enhancing training programs, as you would with your actual
product or service.
you feel you have received a return on your investment?
If so, how? If not, why? In today's economy, value is paramount. Not only must
you sell your product, but also its value as an investment.
- What attracted you to our product/service?
Although it may seem obvious, the answers could reveal an untapped market
or a new way of positioning the brand.
did you hear of us? The responses here can shed a lot of light on where you
need to focus your marketing efforts. If lead generation is coming from client
referrals, then you might want to offer a client appreciation incentive to keep
them coming. If new clients are acquired through specific mediums, such as the
internet, then you may want to consider allocating more funds to this area for
your marketing efforts.
affected your buying decision? Understanding your client's motivation for
buying is essential in converting prospects to new customers. Cull this knowledge
and then use it to gain an advantage.
there an area we have overlooked that you would like to see addressed? The
old saying, "No news is good news" isn't necessarily so. This question
can bring up previously overlooked issues or potential market opportunities.
The information uncovered by asking these questions can help improve business
immeasurably. However, you must ensure that gathering the feedback is done thoughtfully
and then used correctly.
There's no point
in spending clients' time and your money soliciting feedback if you go about it
haphazardly. What's more, once you have the information, do you know how to decipher
it and leverage it to improve operations? The following tips can help with the
- Determine and allocate
funding for the market research. The last thing you want to do is abandon
the project midway through the process. Make sure that you have adequate funding
to complete the project and then implement the solutions.
- Figure out how you will obtain feedback.
There are several effective methods for gathering information. Will your sales
reps call clients directly? Will you work with an outside third-party to maintain
confidentiality of the responses? Your methodology depends on your audience and
the required level of confidence for statistically projectable data. Today, quantitative
methodologies reach beyond the traditional mail-based or phone-based surveys.
The Internet has enabled organizations to gather market research easily and affordably
online. It is often best to consult with a trained research expert to determine
the most effective methodology for your specific needs.
a questionnaire that will elicit valuable information. Whether you're conducting
a formal or informal survey, it's important to give careful thought to the survey
or interviewer's guide. A good questionnaire cannot simply be thrown together.
Ensure that the survey incorporates both open, unaided questions as well as specific
closed-ended questions that use multiple choice, true or false, yes or no, or
a rating system. In addition, be sure to conduct a beta test with a small sample
before sending to your broader audience. You want to ensure the survey is clear,
easy to follow and appropriately captures the information you are interested in
gathering in a way that will be useful to you.
Sense of the Results
ideas can go a long way toward analyzing and then utilizing the data:
- Compare and contrast. Where are there
similarities in responses? Is there a common theme among them? Are there any striking
differences between responses? Were there any areas that were not answered adequately?
Do the narrative responses reveal commonalities or issues of which you were previously
realistic about your responses. Most respondents will be forthcoming, particularly
if the questionnaire or survey is conducted online or via a third party. However,
not all responses will accurately reflect the participant's perspective. Additionally,
the number of respondents will influence the results. The larger the sample size,
the more precise and statistically projectable the results.
- Enlist help if necessary. Information
can sometimes be overwhelming. If you are having a difficult time analyzing the
data, enlist the help of a professional market research firm. They likely will
be able to identify trends and anomalies that you may have missed.
- Stay neutral. The idea of feedback is
to understand what you are doing right and where you need improvement. Don't take
the respondents' feedback personally. The more objective you can be in this analysis,
the better it will be for your business; giving you the opportunity to increase
profitability and improve productivity as well as improve your products and services.
Truly listening to the feedback can also foster better relationships with your
One Final Piece of Advice
too often, organizations will conduct research or solicit feedback and then sit
on the information from respondents. Perhaps they are overwhelmed. Maybe they
are at a loss as to what they should do with the information.
avoidance isn't the answer. Don't let that time, effort and money go to waste.
Most of all, don't let your customers down. You've looked to them for input. They've
taken the time to give you feedback, believing that you are sincere in your attempt
to serve them better. Inaction sends a loud and clear signal to your customers
that you don't care (even if you really do). Believe it or not, your clients will
be watching and waiting to see what you do with their feedback.
said, do not solicit feedback until you are ready and full committed to implementing
improvements based on it. Then acknowledge your clients' efforts. Take steps to
integrate the improvements. Communicate those steps to your clients and thank
them once again. They will appreciate your interest in what they think and will
recognize your commitment to customer service.
feedback and ideas for improving your customer feedback - trial an Australian-built
customer satisfaction survey tool:
is an Australian-built online survey tool that is currently used by over 200 Australian
and New Zealand based organisations of all sizes to conduct online customer surveys.
The tool can be used to conduct cost effective satisfaction surveys, regular 'post-service'
feedback surveys, new product feedback, website feedback ... to name a few popular
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Laura Pasternak is President of MarketPoint, LLC, a brand management firm that
helps businesses improve results by identifying, integrating and managing customer-driven
brand equities and strategies. Visit www.yourmarketpoint.com