Small-business owners can learn so much about their company through customer feedback -- the opportunities, threats, the hottest products or services you should continue to keep available, what’s working well and what isn’t. Your best shot serves as a key to a secure position in an uncertain future within a shaky and newly emerging economy.
Businesses are starting to realize that if they don’t take customer service into account, negative feedback can turn into a public relations crisis and impacts the bottom line. While it may be easier said than done (and an ostensibly painful experience), be fearless and take the feedback head on.
A recent article by Michael Sanserino and Cari Tuna in the Wall Street Journal shares how even larger companies such as the Cheesecake Factory, Inc. and Sprint have tuned into customer service activity via social media and turned the feedback into an action plan and scorecard to track and improve their customers’ experiences.
You see surveys at the end of every receipt you get from a major retailer. When you purchase online from Amazon, they ask for your review of the product and, if applicable, of the independent seller.
Here are a few tips and tools to get you started:
Set up an account with a service that provides review capabilities to survey and connect with your customers post-transaction (disclosure: RatePoint is an Airfoil client).
If possible, collect contact information through online transactions and during brick-and-mortar checkouts; keep a database of your customers to keep them informed on the latest company news and discounts.
Consider a Twitter account. Twitter doesn’t have to be a mini-complaint board. You can use it to reach out to customers, gain new ones and establish a steady dialogue. Twitter recently released a <Twitter for business guide.
Allow customers to provide impromptu feedback via a comment form on your company Web site. Alongside transactional surveys, customers may have questions prior to purchase.
At this economic juncture, the goal of being in business is to stay in business. So make your business bullet-proof and ask your customers to “fire away” with feedback.
-- By Meg Soule