How to get customer feedback that really helps you

To create a successful Kingdom Business, you need to be constantly refining everything you do. If you are not advancing your business, there is every chance the business is in decline. One of the best ways to enhance and grow your business is to seek feedback from your customers on a regular basis.  You can also request feedback from prospective customers, where it’s appropriate.

Customer Feedback

Generally speaking, most people won’t provide feedback unless they are asked or they have a very negative experience. I’m sure that you know the “rule of thumb”: if people have a negative experience with your business, they are far more likely to talk about it than if it was a positive one.

Asking for feedback can provide you with significant opportunities to improve your business and gain new clients. For Customers that are unhappy and contemplating leaving you it can be an opportunity to turn them from being antagonists to advocates.

What I did & what I learnt

My financial planning business was primarily focused on providing what is referred to as a ‘high touch’ (regular contact) service to affluent Australians.  Here are two broad strategies that were very effective:

Firstly, as an adviser, I met up with my clients on an average of twice per annum. At these review meetings, we would update ourselves on their circumstances, discuss their portfolio in detail and agree upon changes. I had a 10-point agenda and the last item on it was feedback. Not only was it an excellent opportunity to obtain feedback, but in a number of cases, it led to referral opportunities.

Secondly, I regularly used a customer survey. I did two versions:

➢ One was a quite detailed written questionnaire on the total experience that they had with my firm.

➢ The second version was smaller, focused on communication and on how they wished to interact with us. It covered the different forms of communication, how often they wanted to hear from me and the type of information they wanted to be updated on. As this process involved them having to give up time to help us, I sent them two movie tickets as a ‘thank you’. This was disclosed when they received the survey. It was an effective incentive as most surveys were returned along with invaluable feedback.

The financial planning process from the point when you first meet a prospect until the time when they become a client is about three months. During this time, you meet with the prospect at least twice and complete a financial plan for them. It is a very intense period of activity and extremely rigorous.
So, here is another idea:

A friend of mine, who also had a financial planning business, adopted a unique approach when taking on new clients.

At the end of this “journey”, he would send them a mug with his “brand” on it. Inside it was a coffee sachet, a chocolate bar and a survey rolled up like a scroll. It read “you’ve just been through an extensive and life-changing process, why don’t you have a coffee and chocolate on me and tell me what you thought?” It worked brilliantly and he received excellent feedback. Apart from that, he received a number of referrals, as the new clients had been through an arduous, but rewarding, experience. As a consequence, they were very willing to refer business to him at that early point.

Key Questions for Feedback

The success of the feedback process is dependent on the quality of questions which you ask your clients.
Below are some of my favourites as they can really “turbo-charge” your business:

How did you find us? If you want to get new business, an excellent place to start is to determine where your existing business comes from. When analyzing my financial planning business, I discovered that my largest source of leads was from the giving of seminars. Over 30% of my business came from this one source. I also discovered that the easiest source (least effort) of new business was referrals from accounting relationships. Many people have strong ties with accountants and trust them implicitly. So, when an accountant recommended me, they were almost ‘sold’ before walking through the door!

Why did you choose us? To build a “value proposition”, i.e. your promise or commitment to your customers, it is important to know why your customers chose you. This valuable information will give you an insight into your competitive advantage and the strengths of your business. It will help you shape your communications and core messages.

What do you like & what don’t you like? No business is perfect. It is important to identify the strengths and weaknesses in your product or service. Aside from being able to improve it, it will show your customers that you care and are serious about improving your business.

What can we do to improve? When asked this question, many people will say “nothing”. But, with appropriate questions regarding aspects of your product/service, you are certain to stumble upon some “gems”. Clearly, this is a fairly pointless exercise unless you are going to implement the changes that people suggest to you. Not every customer idea will be a good one, but you will be surprised what new ideas you get that can help your business, not to mention demonstrate to your customers that you are really listening.

Would you refer to people to us? This is a powerful question which needs to be asked at the right time. In a face-to-face situation, most people will say “yes” simply because they’d be embarrassed to say “no”. However, the real point of this question is to sow a seed in your customer’s mind that you want referrals and to build your business. If someone hesitates with their answer, it’s possible that they would not be comfortable giving a referral. In which case, this can be an opportunity to probe deeper.

How will you Benefit?

Feedback is a powerful tool for every business. The way by which you obtain feedback will differ from business to business. However, the insights it will provide cannot be underestimated.

Here are some of the key issues it will help you address:

What you can charge? Pricing is always a sensitive issue and feedback can help you determine what changes can be made to improve profitability.

Who will buy from you and Why? Not everyone will buy from you and getting feedback from potential customers will help you focus on your ideal customers.

How will they buy? Will they buy online? At a store? How can you make doing business with you as easy as possible.

Marketing & communication strategies – The feedback process can help you refine your communications and to use words and messages that really differentiate you from your competitors.

“Un-met” Needs / Opportunities / Niches – Often the feedback process can give you ideas for new products or services which will attract your customers.

How to position your product/service? Feedback can help you see how consumers perceive your product or service.

The Rules of Feedback

Here are some tips and guidelines to apply when seeking feedback from your customers:

Don’t ask too many questions –Time is precious!
It is likely that you will not be paying for your clients’ feedback. Therefore, it is important to keep the questions short and relevant.

Don’t interrupt/annoy them –This may be stating the obvious, but, please, actually ‘listen’ to what your clients say to you.

Give them a ‘thank you’ and/or a ‘reward’ for their time –The amount of time which they gave you and the personal nature of your business will guide you on this matter. But, it is important to be thankful and show appreciation wherever possible.

Be gracious – I suggest that you be gracious, even if you don’t like or agree with what you are hearing. Not all your customers will be ‘right’ but they are entitled to express their opinion.

Sample Size – Make sure you seek feedback from a group of customers which is large enough to make the feedback meaningful, relevant and accurate. This will be impacted by the size of your customer base and type of business.

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