How to get customer feedback

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Getting customer feedback must be the current rage. It seems I can’t do business anywhere without getting a follow-up email about my experience. Yesterday I made a simple deposit at Bank of America. This morning I have an email asking about my experience. A few days ago, I had routine service at my GMC dealer. The next day I had an email survey. My sales receipt at Subway, and many others, urge me to take an online survey.

Likely at no time has getting customer input been in greater demand than now. Several reasons come to mind: (1) the unparalleled state of retail competition; (2) realistically assessing how the customer sees the business; (3) looking for possible new ideas that can come from customers; (4) or, simply finding out if the customer is happy. All good reasons to be sure — but I’ll pick No. 4 as the most important. After all, happy customers return. Unhappy ones just disappear.

Ah, but we should love those unhappy ones, especially if you agree with Bill Gates, who said: “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” So, if we accept the premise that we should know what customers are thinking about us, it’s become obvious that marine dealers should have a program to do just that. How? Why not ask them?

If you don’t, yet, have an established customer feedback program, here are several suggestions to consider from the experts at Customer Guru:

The Suggestion Box: Perhaps the easiest but not necessarily the best. It’s probably the original feedback system. While it can be of some value, you can’t expect most customers to participate. Still, you can increase your odds of success by using a simple checklist form attached to the Suggestion Box that asks for inputs on overall experience and service. It could give you a sense of the overall customer feelings and the drivers of their satisfaction or unhappiness — knowing the latter could make the difference between retaining and losing a customer.

Sending an Email: This is a much stronger way to capture feedback. It gives customers an opportunity to be open about their experience. But it has obligations, too. Primarily, you must be ready to send back a speedy response, particularly if the feedback is negative. A fast personalized response is best but even an immediate automated acknowledgement should be sent so the customer knows the feedback has been received and it is being worked on. Obviously, there cannot be much lag time between the acknowledgement and someone on staff personally addressing the customer’s issue. Unquestionably it’s best to get on a call with the customer to assure that the feedback has been received and something is being done about it. Finally, there must be a genuine commitment to act on the feedback and close the loop.

An Online Survey: This type of survey is relatively simple to execute. The downside is they frequently get poor results — respondents send incomplete surveys that can make the results useless. One of the best ways to get the most from such surveys, however, is to keep them short, sweet and mobile friendly. In addition, having multiple choice-type questions/answers will help ensure that all get answered — it’s easier for the customer to just choose an appropriate rating or response. Use of free tools like Google Forms or SurveyMonkey could be a good place to start if you want to go the online survey route.

The Human Touch: Suggestion boxes and digital programs may work, but nothing can ever beat the good old fashioned phone call: “Hi, we really want to know how your experience was with us today?” The service manager, salesmen or other dealership representative asking customers about their feelings would likely take some by surprise. But, this would truly impact the customer in a positive way.

Think about it; the difference between a good and an amazing experience could well be the human touch follow-up. 


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