What if you were able to turn customer feedback into living, breathing products that evolve and improve over time?
Instead of sitting around worrying about the possibility of getting a few negative comments, what if you were able to build brand equity and a committed customer base by proactively soliciting their input?
By proactively, I’m not talking about the drop box near the cash register that always seems to be out of comment cards or pens or both, I’m talking about creating a foundation where customer feedback is at the very core of your small business. Would you do it?
Somewhere along the line, a few irate people gave customer feedback a really bad name and that stigma has been hard, if not impossible, to shake. Now, like Pavlov’s dogs, many small business owners have been classically conditioned to cringe at the very thought of it.
Instead of looking at feedback as an opportunity to create a dialogue with their customers and control the direction of the conversation, by avoiding it they’re actually opening themselves up to the possibility of more negative comments (and even more cringing).
Customer feedback is unavoidable. Why not embrace it?
Think back on those times when you’ve shared unsolicited feedback about a business. How many of your comments were positive? How many were negative?
In most cases, customers only reach out when they are either very happy or very upset. And I’ll go out on a limb and guess you wouldn’t want a few very upset customers dictating the online conversation about your small business.
Here’s the thing—we’ve been trained by social media platforms and sites like Yelp, which boasted an average of 66 million monthly unique visitors in the fourth quarter of 2011, to share our thoughts and perspectives. We write reviews of our favorite (and not so favorite) restaurants and use comments and “likes” as yet another way to voice our opinions online.
By proactively asking customers for feedback, you’re better able to control the direction (and tone) of the conversation.
Putting your community of customers at the core of your business
What if you were able to find a way to mobilize a base of more than 500,000 active users to help you build better products?
Although that might seem rather overwhelming, the team at SlimWare Utilities, a U.S.-based software company that provides consumers with downloadable software and services that clean, repair, update and optimize their personal computers, did just that.
“From the beginning, community-based feedback has been at the core of what we do” said Chris Cope, SlimWare CEO. “We engage our users about product design and functionality at every turn. We receive a ton of feature requests and we use the feedback to tell us what’s most important,” Cope added.
Filtering, getting past the static to find those useful nuggets of information, is just as important when you have a community the size of SlimWare as it is when you’re trying to make sense of comments from your first 50 customers.
To be successful, you’ve got to be able to identify trends and embrace the criticism just as much as any constructive feedback.
Solving future problems
Of course, one of the biggest upsides of looking to your customers for their thoughts and perspectives is being able to get a glimpse at where things are headed—to be able to solve a future problem you might not otherwise know could exist.
That means there’s a much better chance that your products and services will not only solve a problem for your customers today, but will continue to evolve and adapt to solve their problems in the future—and that’s always good thing.
What are some of the other benefits of embracing customer feedback?
Share your thoughts in the comments below.
By: Shawn Graham
[Image: Flickr user Nan Palmero]