Lessons Learned from Listening to Customer Feedback

Getting and utilizing customer feedback is an essential part of the success plan for any business. And because customers themselves aggregate and process large amounts of information themselves, they are not only an important resource about your own products and services, but about those of your competitor as well.

Any business, whether it is product-focused or service-focused, will have customers. And making sure that the business meets, and even better, exceeds, those needs is important both in terms of short-term profits and in terms of long-term viability. Thus, many businesses institute marketing surveys and customer-feedback forms to get an idea of how their customers feel regarding their experience with the company, and how the company can better serve their needs. The feedback is often illuminating when it is analyzed, and there are many benefits to listening to your customers, and in discussing their wants and needs with them:

Two-way communication leads to stronger relationships and greater loyalty. Many companies operate under the assumption that, with enough marketing, they can create a market for their product. Unfortunately, research has shown that this is simply not the case. Customers often want specific things and, more importantly, they want them at specific times. And a company with a diversified product or service portfolio sees even greater complexity in anticipating the market, and in breaking ahead. Thus, having conversations with your customers before, during, and after product launches can help you understand how well the product went over and, if necessary, what needs to be done better next time.

Multi-tiered services aren’t always the best way to monetize. Specifically with service-oriented businesses, but also with product-oriented businesses, it is common for customers to be separated into tiered groups, with higher-paying customers receiving more services and better support. However, the additional cost of servicing these customers is high, sometimes cannibalizing a large portion of the additional revenue which they generate. Similarly, lower-tier customers can feel like they are less important, and that makes them much easier to get picked up by a competing company or service. Avoiding tiered services, or making them easier to access for lower-tiered customers, is a great way to make all of your customers feel more important.

Understand “generation-c” and work with them. Marketers often divide populations up into “generations” which share common traits, such as gen-x and gen-y. Recently, marketers have begun to discuss the concept of “generation-c” where the “c” stands for “connected.” Many buyers today, both large- and small-scale, no longer exist in a small, atomized environment. Instead, they have the ability to look up reviews, find first-hand accounts of transactions, and see how businesses “look” to other people. They are connected to an ever-growing “cloud” of information which they tap into to make even small decisions. Understanding, then, that business is now almost never conducted with one person, but instead with thousands of people, means that not only do companies need to be proactive in searching out conversations regarding their products and services, but also that they must enter into these conversations and be willing participants in the new connected world of commerce. Ignoring generation-c is a grave mistake, and one that will almost certainly haunt anyone who makes it.

Enlist the advice of your employees. Many companies have a policy that essentially dictates that their employees are not to discuss their competitor’s products with their customers. This is a huge mistake, because modern customers tend to do a lot of research before even walking into a store, if they walk into a physical store at all, and thus they will have made assumptions and ideas about many products. Your employees are the front line of your company, and they have a special chance to talk to your customers as they are making their purchasing decisions, this means that they can find out what factors most influence their decisions, even more so than can “customer listening sessions.” Your employees can then help you figure out how best to market your products, and also how to set price points that will entice customers which are on the fence regarding your product vs. that of a competitor. Remember, your employees are one of your greatest resources, so don’t waste them.

All businesses can learn from their customers, and it’s a mistake to assume that they cannot because you can be sure that the competition always will. All great leaders analyze and study their successes as well as their failures, and in the case of a business, the attitudes, desires, and thoughts of your customers are among the most important pieces of data that you can have.

Paul is a freelance writer interested in call answer service and in call center service outsourcing. For the information about call centers in this article he used Anser as a resource.

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