“What is the shortest word in the English language that contains the letters: abcdef? Answer: feedback. Don’t forget that feedback is one of the essential elements of good communication.” ~ Anonymous

Do you want to grow your business? Of course you do. That’s why you’re in business, isn’t it? So what’s the best way to do it quickly and at a minimal cost to you?

Listen to your customers. It’s that simple. But if it was that simple, why aren’t more companies doing it?

I remember when I was a young boy, and my parents would take me along with my brother and sister out to a fast food restaurant. It was such a treat, because it didn’t happen very often. This was in the early days of fast food, when only millions were served, not billions. I remember seeing a card on each table asking questions about the restaurant, and if we enjoyed our experience.  It was a postcard that we could mail to some Vice President at some corporate office. I asked my father if we should fill out, and he said no, because no one ever reads them.

Boy, have times changed. Today, millions of customers are leaving valuable feedback every day around the world at the click of a mouse. And business owners need to be paying attention.

I come from the Hospitality and Cruise industries, and when I first started, we would leave a paper comment card in each stateroom at the end of every cruise.  We would ask them to fill it out, and put it in the box before leaving. We would sometimes entice them to fill it out by offering a gift, cash, or sometimes even a free cruise. The surveys were boxed up and sent to our corporate office, and it would sometimes take a week before we would know the results. Each one was read, and sometimes, we would get great suggestions that were implemented.

Paper surveys are being phased out, so now surveys are emailed at the end of every cruise, and we can see results in real time as they are being filled out. No more waiting.

According to recent data, only 1 in 20 people will complain about a product or service.  The rest will just go to your competition. So isn’t it in your best interest to know from your customers what are your strengths and weaknesses? What you are doing great, and where you can improve?

There are many ways to get the information from your customers that will help grow your business, but before you begin, ask yourself a few key questions:

  • Why are you collecting this information?
  • How will you use the data once it comes in?

One of the key questions that any business can ask, and sometimes it is the only question you need to ask is:

  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how likely are you to recommend our product or service to your family or friends?

It’s called the Net Promoter Score (NPS) and is a valuable tool to see where you stand with your customers. The higher the NPS, the better you are doing as a company. You want your customers to be your best source of advertisement and referrals, but you need to know how they feel about you.

There are many avenues to dig deeper to get a better understanding of how your customers feel about your product or service, including:

  • Email surveys
  • Customer Contact Forms
  • Internet survey companies
  • Listening to what social media is saying about you
  • Monitoring message boards
  • Live chat
  • Surveys at the end of orders
  • Leaving buyer feedback (think Amazon)

When constructing a survey, according to Helpscout, it’s important to remember:

  • Ask questions that fulfill your end goal
  • Construct smart, open ended questions that are relevant
  • Ask one question at a time, and avoid unnecessary questions
  • Make rating scales consistent
  • Avoid leading or loaded questions
  • Make use of yes/no questions
  • If you want, offer a small incentive (free trial, small discount off next purchase, free shipping, free samples, gift cards), but do not solicit
  • Ask for positive feedback, as well as constructive comments

Gathering this ever important information is the first step to knowing what you do best, and what areas you need to focus on to improve.

If possible, try and display your positive comments (ask permission first), so potential customers can see what is being said about you. And make sure to follow up with customers who let you know if you did not live up to their expectations in any way. Let them know you appreciate the feedback, and you are working to address their concerns. You’d be surprised how many people will give you a second chance if you prove to them you value their feedback and are taking corrective action. Making that personal connection is the first step toward repeat business and customer loyalty. And it all starts with knowing what your customers think.

Paul Rutter is a customer loyalty, repeat business and customer service expert, a keynote speaker, corporate trainer and business author. He has had the unique opportunity to live with his customers and co-workers for months at a time traveling the world, and shares his experiences with land based businesses. For more information on More Than Perfect® Service, contact Paul at Paul@PaulRutterSpeaks.com, follow him on Twitter on @RealPaulRutter or visit him on Facebook/PaulRutterSpeaks.

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