5 Methods for Soliciting Customer Feedback

Customer feedback is an important marketing tool for businesses. Business owners and management may use customer feedback to improve products, methods of operation and customer satisfaction. Feedback assists businesses to identify dissatisfied customers and perhaps turn a negative experience into a positive outcome. Companies looking for repeat business, a competitive advantage and positive word of mouth advertising will acquire customer feedback on a regular basis. Product and service satisfaction will create loyal customers, improve customer retention and generate referrals. Customer feedback assists management to make wise business and marketing decisions. Businesses should select several of the following methods of soliciting customer feedback for optimal outcome.

  1. Comment Cards: Service based organizations, such as restaurants, salons, spas and tanning facilities, will often place comment cards in a public area of the facility for customers/clients to complete. The customer/client will check boxes on the card beside each question rating the service/product experience. A few lines may be added at the bottom of the card for personal comments and recommendations. Customers/clients may identify themselves and enter contact information or prefer to remain anonymous. The business will place a box near the exit door for customers/clients to collect cards.
  2. Focus Groups: Focus groups are the most expensive method to gain feedback. This method is generally utilized at the start-up of a business to gain marketing information. Focus groups generate discussion led by a business owner or leader. Each person is paid to participate in the focus group at a designated site and time. Sometimes in lieu of payment customers or clients are rewarded with free training or consulting and a lunch is provided.
  3. Social Media: Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter allow businesses to monitor discussion or initiate discussion concerning particular products or practices. Businesses are able to gather feedback almost immediately with very little expense. Businesses may choose to set-up Google Alert accounts to send e-mail notifications to the owner or management when the company’s brand or name is mentioned on a social media site.
  4. Telephone Surveys: Telephone surveys add a personal touch and allow for a faster response time to a negative experience. A quick response may turn a negative experience into a positive outcome and increase retention. Response to telephone surveys may be tracked on-line to identify recurring problem areas and valuable employees. The person conducting the telephone survey may uncover an unsatisfied customer/client/patient by listening to the speaker’s tone rather than words.
  5. U.S. Mail, On-line or E-mail Surveys: Paper surveys may be randomly mailed to customers/clients/patients to complete with a self addressed stamp envelope included for ease of return. Many businesses prefer to post on-line surveys or send e-mail surveys. The on-line and e-mail surveys generate a faster turn around compared to snail mail and are less costly. Paper, on-line or e-mail surveys allow management to ask specific questions and obtain in-depth information compared to comment cards. Customers/clients/patients are encouraged to mention employee names, specific incidents or suggest ways to improve on service or products.

*Photo courtesy of Customer Satisfaction Surveys by Team Members at Flickr’s Creative Commons.

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