Building a Better Business: Ask for Feedback

How do you know if you are doing a good job in your business?

Sure, there are the usual suspects – growth projections, sales, profitability, and so on. But let me suggest that metrics alone are a false prophet. Sure, they tell you whether or not you are making money, but how valuable is that, really? Do people actually like your business? Are they loyal to it? What is your reputation in the community?

Let’s see some Excel spreadsheet tell you that.

No, for that sort of critical information you need to get the actual feedback from real live customers. Of course, it’s not just the good news that you want (though we love that). No, you also need to know:

  • What they don’t like about your business
  • What you could be doing different, or better
  • Whether they would recommend you

Now, I am not saying that the customer is always right – we all know that’s not true. But I am saying that the customer has a perspective on your business that you do not, and cannot have. They see things from the outside and in that sense, their view is vital. After all, if for instance you think the brand you project is one of, say, casual comfort but your customers think you are a discount shop, that is incredibly valuable to know, no?

The best companies out there survey customers constantly and then use that information to better themselves. That is why, in a recent survey, customer-centric businesses like Nordstrom and Amazon top the list in customer satisfaction.

Here is how you get that valuable feedback that you need:

1. Ask for it in person: The old school method for learning what your customers really think about your business is the customer satisfaction survey. There are two important things here:

  • First, the more you can make their responses anonymous, the better. You will get more accurate and honest feedback that way.
  • Second, give people a reason to fill out the survey. It could be a 10% off coupon or an entry into a drawing, but whatever the case, by offering a financial incentive for filling out the survey, you will get more responses.

2. Ask for it online: Posting a poll on your website is another great way to get feedback. Similarly, LinkedIn and Facebook both offer users a chance to poll a huge online community. If you have a Twitter account, send out a tweet asking your followers to rate your business, or link to your online poll. A Twitter blast can offer some very quick, useful customer feedback.

3. Hire a mystery shopper: You can create your own customer experience by hiring an undercover shopper to visit your business. Their interactions with your staff, especially when you are not around, will tell you a lot.

4. Look online: What are people saying about you on Yelp, and CitySearch, and Twitter, and on their blog? If you don’t have a Google Alert that informs you of when people post about your business, create one.

And, there you have it. Easy and effective ways to get the feedback you need to truly understand what people are saying about your business.

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