Satisfied customers are your most valuable customers, and your most loyal. However, many clients won’t even tell you if they are unhappy, instead they’ll simply stop using your services.
You may never find out that anything was wrong. Even if a particular client no longer needs your services, you want them to speak favorably about your business.
One way to keep your clients loyal is to keep them happy — but how do you find out whether your clients are happy? The only real way to find out what a customer is thinking is to ask.
CUSTOMER PERCEPTION IS CUSTOMER REALITY
It doesn’t matter whether customer feedback is based on fact or fiction. Buying choices are often driven by perception, and perception becomes the reality by which people will do business with your company or go to a competitor. Build information gathering into your sales and marketing programme on an ongoing basis, as this generates two way communication and makes your information current to the situation, allowing you to meet these expectations at the time they occur, rather than some future date.
Build trust and a reputation for responsiveness . . . this helps build loyalty
EXCEED CUSTOMER EXPECTATIONS
Understanding, exceeding and measuring customer EXPECTATIONS should be the most important part of your marketing and sales planning. The introduction of online media and social networks makes it very easy for your customers to spread the word, and make or break your reputation. Regardless of the truth!
Just providing good service or a product that works is no longer good enough. We call it the “chocolate on the pillow” factor. Once upon a time only 5 star hotels provided turned down sheets and a chocolate on the pillow. Now even some 3 star hotels do this, raising client expectations that every 3 star hotel should do it.
If you don’t meet this benchmark they will go to someone who does.
WHAT SURVEYS CAN ACHIEVE FOR YOUR BUSINESS
Surveys, polls and quizzes, if done properly, can be a “crystal ball” for developing good customer service. Not only can they help you identify those clients who are happy, they can also make you aware of problems and potential problems, as well as give you an idea of what new products or services would be well received.
It’s important to know the strengths and weaknesses of your business against your competitors, as no business can operate in a vacuum. While you may think that you have a pretty good idea of what your strengths and weaknesses are, do you have the client’s perspective?
Without it, you are only operating according to your own perceptions, which may not be the same as your customers. Many clients will appreciate the fact that you’ve gone to the extra trouble to ask for their opinions, and using surveys can often be used as part of the sales cycle to encourage client engagement.
Speak to your clients and get their feedback . . . no business can operate in a vacuum
IMPROVE YOUR CLIENT KNOWLEDGE
Don’t gather data for the sake of gathering data . . . identify which information is important to have about your specific target market for your specific product or service, and build information gathering into your sales and marketing programmes as part of your sales cycle, NOT as a stand alone activity.
Gather data through face to face, email, social media or your website in order to help you determine a trend. DON’T make it complex . . . rather focus on specific questions for a specific topic that is important to you AT THIS MOMENT IN TIME, and preferably ask yes/no questions.
Use online software tools that plug into your website, social media and communication methods, with backend analytics that do all the hard work on your behalf. Ideally, the software tools should be able to gather data, compile statistics, provide some immediate feedback to the participant, and possibly interface with a mailing list or auto-response sequence to allow further contact with the reader.
Keep it short, simple and fun . . . and clients will respond
CLIENT FEEDBACK AND THE IMPORTANCE OF A DATABASE
1. WHY do you want to gather client information?
People do business with people. Its that simple.
Identify, manage and record client interaction and key information to gain an understanding of how your customers think. Establishing a detailed client database will allow your business to keep track of personal information and individual client preferences, so that you can provide better service and added value towards building personal relationships. You can now keep track of a few, or thousands of through a customer database, and interact with them by name, as if you knew them personally.
With effective implementation of customer databases, you can re-establish contact with customers, and work successfully towards increasing customer retention, repeat sales, and customer referrals.
2. HOW are you going to approach the client?
There are many ways to gather information and when used appropriately can be invaluable in building a full picture about client buying behaviour and characteristics.
Orally — By telephone or face to face . . . an oral survey talking to clients and asking specific questions. An oral survey can be used to contact all clients (particularly if you have a small client base), or just a sampling. (Make sure that you have permission to call.) With this technique, you may get answers from clients who would never otherwise take the time to fill out a survey.
By Email — A survey can also be sent to your clients through email, as part of the email, as a separate document. (Make sure that you comply with laws pertaining to email spam.) An email survey may be one of the most convenient methods of conducting a survey. However, many clients will not take the time to return an email survey due to the clutter they already receive from Spam emails. So make it fun and short, or rather direct them to your website to do the survey.
Anonymously — You can also conduct a survey anonymously. An anonymous survey could be mailed out to your clients or accessed through a weblink. The beauty of an anonymous survey is that clients might be more honest in their answers.
Online — These surveys are the norm today, using digital tools to assess responses and automate feedback. A lot of fun elements can be built into this approach motivating clients to interact.
Think about . . .
Polls . . . best used online when you want quick yes / no answers to determine a trend, direction or identify elements for a more in-depth survey
Surveys . . . face to face, by telephone, online, by email – when you want to establish in-depth opinions, determine satisfaction and find out key buying behaviour characteristics.
Quizzes . . . when you need to establish the knowledge level of your target market in order to develop a marketing collateral and a sales approach.
3. Formulate WHAT questions to ask
It is important to get to the essence of why customers buy from you, so it is important to formulate questions in such a way as to get opinions as well as yes/no answers, or you will easily be misled to making assumptions.
Questions need ASK as well as DETERMINE value. It is too easy for a customer to answer yes to the “will you buy from me again?”, whether they mean it or not. You want to ask other questions to get closer to the expected behavior and to collect information about what to change and what to keep doing.
4. Interpret results into strategy
Once you’ve gathered your data, it’s important to make use of that information.The biggest mistake that some companies make is to conduct a client survey and then ignore the results. It is important to build the outcomes into future planning, and COMMUNICATE to your clients these outcomes so that they know you take their feedback seriously. And don’t panic if you receive some negative responses. This gives you an ideal opportunity to build trust by demonstrating that you are actually doing something to rectify the situation.