Three ways to gather honest customer feedback

Ryan Phelan · October 24, 2017 · Short URL:

Tactics to gather customer feedback

No, I didn't get the question backwards. Your customers are supposed to call you, right? But you can learn a lot by turning the tables.

Back when the Internet was new and many of the big online companies were just start-ups themselves, only the big dogs in business did market research. I can remember when the likes of Yahoo and AOL and big consumer companies did any kind of user-experience testing with consumers.

Back in 1999-2000, it was considered to do what Yahoo and AOL did. It usually made as much sense as people thinking that just copying Amazon will make them successful.

Today, we have many more options, like research firms and testing groups for user experience and product. But money is still tight in the start-up world, and executives have be careful about where they spend their hard-won cash, and customer research can still be pricey.

Or, so you might think.

Pick up the phone

I have encouraged all the CEOs I've worked with over the years to just pick out some customers and call them. Not send a survey or run a focus group, but just talk, one on one.

Your customers can give you brutally honest insights into what you're doing right and wrong. They won't be affected by anything they might hear someone else saying, and their answers won't have to fit into narrow little survey categories.

It works, because everyone likes hearing from the chief decision-maker.

3 tactics to gather customer feedback

  1. Choose customers whose comments should be more valuable.

Don't just choose every 10th name or pick a few names off your customer list. Take time to research your buyers. Try to find out how they got to you, how long it took between lead acquisition and purchase and other qualifiers.

Do your due diligence to be informed before you start calling.

  1. Create a list of questions.

Don't just call and ask random questions or waste too much time on small talk. Otherwise, your customers will think you're just wasting your time. Think of everything that forms a pivotal point in your company's business plan, such as your website, delivery, customer service, email and ad campaigns as well as their own needs and how they use your products.

Prepare for your calls as if you were getting ready for an interview.

  1. Share your findings.

Write down what you learned, and share your findings with your department heads and others throughout your company. No CEO is immune from learning something. Your ability to say "Here's what I learned" tells your organization that customer feedback matters. N

Not all feedback matters, because customers can be wrong. But, you can learn from all of your customer interactions.

You're probably going to end up with action items from your conversations. Create a plan to check them off and follow up with your customers as necessary. If you get complaints, your customers will want you to call them back and say, "Here's how we dealt with your problem."

Yes, the big guys do this, too

Some of the most effective CEOs I know do this two, three or four times a month. They build this calling time into their schedules and daily plans. You might not have the bandwidth in your schedule to make these calls that often. The beauty of this customer blueprint is that you can adapt it to your customers, products and company structure.

You have a tremendous resource at your fingertips: the customers who use your products and services. It would be a shame and disservice, to your company and your customers, if you don’t take advantage of it.

Photo source: Customer360

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