The role of social media in improving feedback
This blog was originally posted in Reaching New Heights earlier this year as – Things what I have learnt about sales in 2011, *with apologies to Ernie Wise – but lots of questions have come up lately indicating that people haven’t realised yet how great social media is as a feedback tool.
In their chapter Creating Legendary Service, in 1 minute Entrepreneur , Ken Blanchard and Don Hutson write …
“taking care of your customers is not optional – it’s imperative”.
In sales training, we’re advised to get testimonials and referrals for our publicity. This is effective because its shows that we have happy customers. But what about our unhappy customers? What about the customers who offer suggestions? These are crucial to our business, too, and yet the issue of feedback is rarely addressed.
In recent months, I was eager to give feedback to two companies, but have not been given the opportunity. On occasions when I have been proactive and called, I have experienced initial defensiveness and then surprise when I give positive feedback.
How do you ask for feedback?
Do you ask your customers for feedback? It really is a good way to improve your performance. But, if you do ask for feedback, how do you do that effectively?
Often in a restaurant we get asked, “is everything is okay?” I usually respond with a ‘yes’ because a ‘no’ is too confrontational, and most of don’t really like to make a fuss do we?
But you need to know if your customer’s reality matches your vision of your product or service. You’ll get a much more useful response if you ask open questions that will get more than a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. For example – “Is there anything we could have done differently to make your experience with us better?” This kind of question invites people to say what they really feel.
And if you ask, be prepared to listen.
Listening without being defensive
If people then tell you their honest opinion, don’t be defensive. Don’t argue or give excuses, Shut up and listen. As a customer, I don’t want to hear about your staff sickness or urgent meetings that made you fail to turn up to see me; that is your issue.
I just want good service. It is not my job as a customer to support your organisation (although, if you turn me into a loyal customer that may change).
Their comments are valid – acknowledge them and thank them and, if there is a negative experience, ask how it can be resolved. Mostly, just being heard is enough. When a customer is upset, they want to be heard. If you listen to a customer’s complaint in an attentive, non-defensive way, that is usually enough to keep them loyal.
It’s Your Business. Of course, it is your business and it’s for you to decide what experience you want your customers to have. But you’ll also benefit from finding out what ideas your customers have that can improve their experience of your organisation.
Customers may have brilliant ideas as to new directions and changes that you can make in the future. For example, products to stock and opening hours.
Customer feedback and comments are important, but you have to decide what to implement and what not to. Take some time to mull over feedback and see what fits for you and what doesn’t.
Make it easier. After coming on my November workshop, a printing company – who usually send out an after-service feedback email – made a decision to call every one of their customers to get feedback on their last purchase. I received one of those calls and was not only able to comment on the service, but shared an idea that they have now implemented.
To get repeat custom, create raving fans and they will become your advert by talking about you.
This is where social media really comes into it’s own.
Happy customers want to tell people what a great meal they’ve had, or about this great new website that they found. People want to tell their stories. If you are using social media – and have told your customers how to find you – your happy customers can post on your wall and they are your advert. Nothing sells your service as well as a happy customer. A testimonial shared with hundreds and maybe thousands of people are not to be missed. Of course you can re-tweet, and repost these comments too.
A great and simple example of this is Supper by Sanah. A small local trader set up a weekend take away in our village. We set up a face book page for her to let people know about it. What has actually happened is that people post the most fantastic testimonials about her and her food. Before the page Sanah had lots of customers but they had nowhere to say how delighted they were with her.
Of course the reverse is also true – When discussing social media for businesses, I often hear people being fearful of negative comments being posted on their profiles.
I have 2 responses to this..
1. Do you deserve the negative feedback? If you do it’s important to hear it and deal with it well. With social media, transparency is essential. People will observe how you deal with criticism of your product or service and it can win or lose you customers depending on how you handle it.
2. If it isn’t on your wall it may just be somewhere else and you simply don’t know about it! Avoiding social media won’t stop people being critical of what you do if you deserve it, it just means that the conversation is going on without you.
Every business everywhere makes mistakes, better to hear about it and have the opportunity to deal with it yourself than it being shared behind your back with no opportunity to manage your reputation.
People have choices and if you don’t listen, you can be sure that next time they won’t be choosing you.
Get creative about finding out what is on your customer’s mind. Remember – ask good questions then Shut up and listen..
I’d really like to hear how you get customer feedback, or your experiences of how your feedback has been handled.