All businesses, no matter whether they are a startup or a well-established global corporation, need to collect and incorporate feedback from the people that matter most: their customers.
There are many ways to conduct market research to get the information you need. Choose a few options from this list, so you reach the widest cross-section of your customer base and connect with them in ways that they actually want and appreciate.
Whichever method you choose, making it easy for your customer to provide feedback, and making it easy for your team to share and incorporate the feedback is key. One other tip—say thank you and mean it. Even angry customers can sometimes provide some really valuable insights into what’s not working. There’s no better source of intel than the people who are already paying you for your product or service.
Not only will collecting feedback help ensure that your current customers remain happy, showing that you genuinely care about the customer experience will continually help you attract new customers.
10 ways to collect customer feedback
The automated aspect of email makes it perfect for collecting customer feedback in a variety of ways. You can schedule an email at any point during the customer’s journey.
For instance, you could send an email a week after they receive their product to check-in and be sure it is what they expected. A month after they received the product and have been using it a while, you could check in to ensure that it is working and they are happy with it. If you collect an email address as part of the checkout process, you have the opportunity to connect with them if they abandon their cart and don’t complete the transaction.
Email allows you to send specific messages to each step of their journey. You could ask at some point if they want to upgrade, or renew. If they choose not to, you could send an email asking why they chose not to. Email is versatile enough that it can be used in any way that your business needs it to.
How to organize email feedback
If you do choose to send emails, we don’t recommend using a “do not reply” email. A real email address that a real person reads show that you genuinely care about your customers’ ability to reach you in the way that is best for them. Start by organizing the feedback you’re already getting—perhaps in a spreadsheet that you share with your team.
Using a shared inbox like Outpost can make receiving and responding to feedback emails easier, because your team can see if someone has already responded or not (put a stop to the dreaded duplicate response issue!) and let your team talk with each other before anyone responds, so your customers get the best response the first time.
A note about the value of a personal email
Email is so easy to automate that it makes sense to send some (fairly impersonal) form emails. But if you’re looking for feedback, never underestimate the power of sending a personal email.
People are more likely to help you when you make a direct, personalized request. Keep it short, be clear about what you’re asking for feedback about, and be specific about what you’re hoping to learn.
2. Customer feedback surveys
You can send a long-form survey using a tool like Survey Monkey to ask any number of questions, or even employ skip logic to ask different subsequent questions based on answers to earlier questions. Or a tool like Qualaroo can me it easy to set up super short surveys or polls right on your website. Either way, think through your survey questions before you launch.
Think about all the different ways they might be interpreted, and don’t be afraid to ask some fill-in-the-blank questions. You might get some great insights that you couldn’t have predicted.
Keep the survey on the short side. Make the questions as neutral as possible—try not to lead respondents in a certain direction by the way they’re worded. Get specific about one or two things that you want deeper insights on, but don’t go overboard with too many questions, especially if they’re not able to skip questions they don’t want to answer. If the survey takes time to complete, reward the participants in some way—it can be as simple as a drawing for a gift card or complementary service of some kind.
3. Usability tests
If you want to know whether your website is providing a satisfying experience, usability testing can provide you with detailed insight. Many times, a negative customer experience starts with simply trying (and failing) to find the information on your website.
Usability testing can also be an opportunity to offer customers the chance to use your products or services free or at a reduced rate with the understanding that they will provide you with details of their experience after they are done using it for a set time.
4. In-person interviews
There’s nothing more revealing than inviting your customers to talk with you directly.
The interview could be a one-on-one lunch meeting with an important customer, or a casual breakfast round table discussion. This can be a time to get some really detailed information, such as how and when they use your products, how they feel when they use it, and what they really want from it.
5. Social media
Social media has its drawbacks, yes. But it does provide a direct conduit to customers.
Many social media users feel they can be candid on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. You can alter the format of how you collect feedback, such as by offering a Facebook poll or simply by inviting comments. Have someone monitor and respond to chat messages and posts on your wall.
It goes a long way if customers know that they can reach an actual person. There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to reach a company on social and getting radio silence in return, especially when a company is otherwise very active on social media.
6. Analytics activity
Similar to website usability tests, analytics can tell you how and why people interact with your website. For instance, if a high percentage of traffic goes straight to your FAQ page, you might conclude that the process your customers are undertaking is not clear and they need additional information.
If you have a blog, you might notice that there are certain topics that people seem to want to know about. Enhancing or promoting that content can make customers happier. If many people are bouncing to your support center, it could be a sign that they need more training on how to use your products.
If you don’t already have Google Analytics set up on your site, do that so you can get a clearer sense of how many visitors come through, how they get to your site, and what pages they enter from—like a blog post or one of your features pages. Heat map tools like HotJar can also provide really useful information about how your customers interact with your pages: how far they scroll and what they click on. HotJar also offers an on-page survey option as well.
7. Comment box
Comment box widgets are a less intrusive way to invite people to share their thoughts on blog or articles type pages on your sites. These can be implemented to offer a star rating at the bottom of each page on your website.
Again, the key is to make sure you’re monitoring responses so your readers don’t feel like they’re speaking into a black hole.
8. Submit a testimonial or comment form
Your website could have a field that allows customers to submit a testimonial or comment whenever they feel like it. Invite your customers to use this form to tell you how your products or services have impacted their organization. You might reward the people who participate by holding a drawing for a gift card each quarter.
Make it easy for your customers to reach you to offer unsolicited feedback. If you provide phone support, make it easy for them to find your phone number. Use a chatbot to ask for feedback. Just don’t set it and forget it. Make sure it’s possible for chatters to reach a real person. If you’re running a brick and mortar location, you might consider putting a physical comment box near the register or your front door.
9. Call your customers
Let your customers know you’d like to talk at a time that works for them, then get them on the phone. Give them a list of questions or topics you’d like to discuss ahead of time. Like in-person interviewing or round tables, this is a very direct and personal way to get detailed feedback from your important customers.
The in-person meetings mentioned above allow you to connect with some important customers one-on-one, but by calling, you can reach a greater volume of your customers. It might even work to contract with a call center to reach as many customers as possible. With a call from a call center, the interaction is slightly less personal, which can mean your customers might be more likely to tell the agent their true thoughts.
10. Suggestion boards
This is a unique way of collecting feedback that allows your customers to collaborate and share their feedback with other customers. Suggestion boards take collecting feedback up a notch—they allow users to collaborate on ideas with not just the company, but also with other users.
Try using a tool such as Aha.io to create a group of boards. The concept of boards is sort of a mashup between a forum, which allows users to create discussion threads, and Pinterest, which lets users group and curate boards. The top posts let you know the features that your customers want most.
Analytics and data alone can give you good insights, but they don’t tell you why people do what they do. Sometimes, the best way to get the feedback you need to help serve your customers better is to go right to the customers themselves.
This helps ensure you’re building your business on the foundation of the products and services your customers really want, and continuing to collect feedback along the way will ensure that you stay on track.