Learning from Your Customers: The Importance of Customer Feedback

Ask any entrepreneur and they will tell you that customer feedback is one of the most valuable tools in their business toolbox. Without feedback, how will you know what your customers want and need? Hearing directly from your customers regarding their overall satisfaction with your product or service allows you to not only measure your success, but also address any issues that may be holding your business back. Neglecting to collect or simply ignoring feedback will often result in wasted time and money, poor sales, and a negative reputation for your business.

Many areas of your business can be supported or improved by customer feedback:

  • Business planning: make better business decisions based on tangible data.
  • Customer service: measure customer satisfaction and improve customer experiences.
  • Employee management: monitor employee interactions with customers and offer training and development to fill gaps.
  • Competition analysis: compare product or service experiences with that of competitors.

Collecting customer feedback

There are several ways to collect customer feedback. One of the easiest is to have a “Reviews” section on your company website. In addition to providing you with valuable information and insight, it allows potential customers to see how others perceive either your business as a whole or a specific product or service in which they may have an interest.

You can also obtain feedback from your website’s “Contact Us” page, by offering the customer an opportunity to fill out customer satisfaction surveys, or simply through direct interaction between you or your employees and your customers.

Keeping a mailing list of your customers is also a great way to keep the lines of communication open. A customer satisfaction survey following a purchase with an incentive for completion is a common business practice. A mailing list can also help you to periodically solicit or gauge a response to new ideas from your customer base.

Dealing with negative feedback

Negative feedback is inevitable. While it may be tempting to hide or delete this feedback if it has been left in a publicly visible area, resist the urge! If customers, both existing and potential, discover that reviews and feedback have been “sanitized,” the consequences can be very damaging. In an era of social media, word of this practice spreads like wildfire, and swiftly results in reputation damage and lost customers. In fact, displaying feedback, both positive and negative, along with the business’s response, helps to instill customer confidence by demonstrating that the company has nothing to hide.

A carefully crafted response to negative feedback can actually help a business retain, and even gain, customers. Being responsive demonstrates that the company cares enough about their customers to try to fix any problems, ultimately building loyalty and showing your customers that their opinions matter.

If your business receives negative feedback, apologize promptly, promise to do better next time, and invite the customer back. Should the customer still choose not to return, you will have valuable feedback to help you take action to retain your remaining customers.
If you are not currently using customer feedback as one of your key performance indicators, take a minute to consider the possible benefits and repercussions. In an age where company information is available at the touch of a button, people very quickly form an opinion on whether or not they want to do business with you. Allowing customers to voice their comments and concerns, and responding appropriately, can have a profound impact on your company’s sales, its reputation, and ultimately your future success.

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