What do ‘your people’ really think about what you’re putting out into the world? What’s their honest opinion, perspective, desire for how you might change things up in the future? How would they describe your business to one of their friends? All those awesome (and…sometimes awful) insights are available to the small business owners willing to dig up and digest a little customer feedback.
But what do you do if you don’t have gobs of cash to hire a research firm?
Or oodles of time and technical skill to crawl the internet and compose a sophisticated sentiment analysis?
You do all the same things that helped you build your business from the ground up: sophisticated strategies applied with a scrappy mindset. Right?
Well that’s exactly what we’ll be tackling in this article: how small businesses can find, collect, analyze, and act upon their customers’ feedback.
Why? Because customer-centric, empathetic enterprises (even the 1-person teams) have the potential not just to build a sustainable business and revenue stream, but to have a massive impact on the world we all share.
Of course, your customers vote (thumbs up or down) every time they click (or not), buy (or not), opt-in or opt-out. That’s all true. That’s core the quantitative feedback. But there’s also all kinds of qualitative insights that are (literally) at your fingertips, just waiting to guide you (and your business) to greatness.
Editor’s Note: The following article was penned by Senko Duras, co-founder of Diversis Digital and Point Visible digital marketing agency, and Leadpages Guest Blogger. Interested in writing for the Leadpages blog? Hit us with your best shot!
Customer feedback offers one of the most valuable insights into how your business is performing and, perhaps more importantly, how your business will continue to perform in the future.
Fortunately, there are many different ways in which a business can gain feedback: through embedded website features and the creation of engaging customer surveys to events hosted by your brand. However, the costs and time involved in these methods often are out of reach for small businesses.
The benefits of customer feedback typically fall into one of two categories: your products/services or your relationship with your customers.
In terms of products and services, customer feedback is the natural next step following market research. While market research gives you information regarding demand for a potential product, customer feedback focuses on the actual experience of this product, highlighting any room for improvement from your target audience.
In terms of relationship building, asking for, considering, and indeed acting upon customer feedback is an excellent way to show your customers that you value their opinion. At a time when many customers are seeking a personalized experience, they don’t want to be just another number in your records; they want to be a valued part of your business, and getting them involved shows that you prioritize their needs.
So what are some simple, alternative ways for small businesses to find and analyze customer feedback?
Finding Customer Feedback: The “Obvious Sources”
Many customers will leave feedback digitally through a variety of ways. This could be writing a review or answering surveys for example. This is arguably the most visible and easiest type of feedback for small businesses to find quickly and can be separated into two distinct categories: feedback made via social media platforms, and feedback that is posted onto other sorts of websites, such as review websites or even personal blogs.
Social Network Platforms
Social media is usually a good place to start, especially Twitter. Why? Unlike other social media networks, Twitter is an open platform; anyone can access the information (regardless of whether they are a Twitter user or not), at any time, from anywhere with an internet connection. This makes it incredibly easy for small businesses to find customer feedback. A simple search for the business name or a hashtag search related to your business might reveal some interesting feedback you would miss otherwise.
Facebook is another platform that small businesses may find useful, especially as it is the most common network for customer feedback. It is understood that 66% of customers are most likely to use Facebook to share their views about a particular business. Facebook groups relevant to your industry or location are well worth checking out, but for more up-to-date, real-time information, a direct search may be more valuable. Searching for the business name, filtering by ‘posts by everyone’, will display all mentions of the business made by Facebook users, which may include reviews, check-ins, or images.
Another reason why Facebook—and other social media networks—are a good place to start is that the views expressed through these platforms are entirely organic. Unsolicited feedback shows what customers really think of a brand, while requested feedback may be influenced by the request itself.
Of course, social media isn’t a one-way street. Many platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, are designed to both spark and encourage discussion. Are other users responding to the feedback of their peers? How are they responding? It’s a way to find feedback not only from your customers, but also from potential prospects who may also be sharing their views on your brand, your products, or your services.
Social networks are not the only way to find out when someone is talking about your brand.
Basic tools such as setting up Google Alerts, which will notify you when the business, brand, product, service, or any other relevant data is mentioned online, through pretty much any resource.
If you’re using Google Alerts, think outside the box when it comes to search terms. You may find it useful to add terms relating to your direct competitors, especially if you are a start-up that doesn’t yet have a solid base of consumers/clients. In general, this can show you what is your competition doing right and wrong and you can use this data to your own advantage. Monitoring customer feedback in these ways is a technique that’s known as ‘social listening’.
Don’t stop at social media. Consider looking to other sources for feedback too:
- Online communities such as Baby Center (great for family-focused businesses) and Reddit
- Dedicated review websites like Fit Small Business and Capterra
- Local listings (again, Google Alerts can be useful here)
In some cases, an unrelated blog or business might make a review of your service/product (which you can easily find out through Google Alerts and watching out for new links as people usually link to the product they review).
If that happens, it is an awesome opportunity to hear an honest review of your business.
Sales and Support
If there are any people in your organization that should have an insight into how your clients feel about your business are none other than those that are in direct contact with them.
That naturally leads us to people that are trying to sell whatever you offer and those that essentially help you keep the clients/customers you already have by solving their post-purchase problems.
While for larger corporations this will usually be sales reps, marketers, and people working on the support, smaller businesses will often have one person covering all of these roles.
Because of that, a big part of the communication that small businesses will have with their prospects will be done through email automation.
You can use this opportunity to look closely at how your prospects breathe during and after the sales process. From time to time, you can even do a survey or directly ask them for some feedback via email.
The bottom line is that you will always have someone who is in a direct contact with a current or potential client (especially in the B2B setting) and they should be able to pick up some useful hints that will help you analyze what is essentially your target audience.
Finding Customer Feedback: The Not-So-Obvious Sources
Not all customer feedback is right there in front of you. Sometimes, it’s necessary to look for ‘hidden’ feedback. It’s important for small businesses to remember that not every customer will leave feedback that’s glaringly obvious. In fact, only 50% of those that are asked to leave a review will actually do so.
On top of that, feedback doesn’t have to be something that is written or voiced. Sometimes, actions speak louder than words.
This means that just looking at the online behavior of your customers can give you some interesting insights.
Online behaviors leave a different sort of feedback that can be beneficial. Google Analytics, for example, can get you insight into many useful SEO metrics for your website which can give you valuable indirect feedback. The best thing of all – it is completely free to use!
By looking at metrics like bounce rate and time spent on a particular page, you can extrapolate which of your products or features are more interesting to your potential customers. If you have access to advanced analytic tools, you can even check things like which frequently asked questions are your prospects looking at the most and use that information to alleviate their concerns through content or on-page optimization.
In a similar fashion, you can take some notes about your customers by looking at the conversion rate of your landing pages. While there are many elements that can impact your conversion rate, if you have an objectively solid landing page that isn’t gathering many conversions, this might be a sign that your customers just are just not interested in the pain point/problem you are targeting. While discrete, this is another type of feedback that can help you improve your business.
Analyzing and Learning From Your Customer Feedback
While a staggeringly large proportion of negative feedback isn’t exactly ideal, it’s important not to get too caught up in this until you’ve properly had the opportunity to analyze and monitor the situation.
Here are some helpful tips for customer feedback analysis:
- Consider the source of the feedback. Research shows that while Facebook tends to have the highest proportion of positive feedback, review websites have the most negative feedback. Therefore, a single source of the feedback isn’t always a good indicator of the situation as a whole.
- Try to identify trends. Is a particular product/service being discussed frequently? Is feedback mostly related to one particular area of the company? It’s worth highlighting these trends to gain an idea of which areas are strong, and in which areas there is definite room for improvement.
- Look for root causes. Sometimes, the surface data may not be enough to help you improve, and it’s necessary to analyze further. Can feedback be traced to a particular team or employee? To a specific time frame, to specific actions taken by the business, or too high or low sales figures?
- Consider both positive and negative feedback. Feedback isn’t intended to only identify problems; it’s also intended to highlight areas where things are going well, enabling you to understand more about what works and perhaps extend successful concepts to other parts of the business.
- Analyze customer lingo. What words or phrases are your customers using in your conversations? Not only can adapting to your audience’s style help you to create content (product descriptions, for example) that’s more engaging to that audience, but it can also help you be used for SEO, especially for keyword research and on-page optimization.
Overall, it’s important to remember that customers are far more likely to share negative experiences than they are positive ones, and that feedback can sometimes provide us with a skewed overview.
Remember that even if the analysis does show that there’s something not quite right, there’s no need to panic. Customer feedback analysis is pretty similar to a medical test, in a way. The focus isn’t on the results themselves; it’s on what these results tell us, and how we can work to rectify the problems.
How to Start Prioritizing Customer Feedback
Even though a small business may not have the same resources, costs, and time available as larger corporations for prioritizing customer feedback, it is essential to remember that collecting and analyzing feedback cannot be a one-time thing; customer feedback must become a habit for every business.
Here are two ways to ensure you stay on top of your customer feedback tasks:
Try to include requested feedback techniques are part of your overall customer nurturing process. ‘Requested’ feedback is just that; feedback that the business is requesting of the customer. This can be done in many ways, but perhaps the easiest and most cost effective for businesses is by incorporating requested feedback into email marketing campaigns. This can also be automated using email tools.
Here’s a good read on how to ask for feedback via email with some great examples.
‘Direct’ feedback is feedback that a customer decides to share, unprompted by the business. This is useful feedback because it is organic. A good way to keep track of direct feedback is to offer customers a single platform where they can share their views, and where you can easily find it. You can do this by creating a strong online presence, either through your own website or through a social media page.
Ready to Collect Customer Feedback that Fuels Your Small Business?
We all know that customer feedback is important, yet many small businesses fail to realize why it’s also essential to know where to look for this feedback, and what to do with it. Feedback isn’t just about individual experiences; it’s a vital tool that, collectively, can help your business to understand more about its real customer base (rather than target audience profiles).
To make your customers feel valued and involved in your brand, and to ensure that your brand is constantly improving, growing, and developing in the right direction, you need to meet the ever-changing needs of your customers which are often reflected right in their feedback.