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Customer surveys: actions speak louder than words

How many times do you visit a restaurant or a supermarket and are presented with a question along the lines of “How was your visit today?”, quite often accompanied with a link to provide feedback and maybe even win a prize? Far from being excited at the thought of winning something, many of us simply ignore what we judge to be a pure marketing tactic, designed to capture our contact details and bombard us with communication focused on product or service promotion. Would we feel differently if we could see that our feedback was listened to?

This isn’t just limited to end-consumer or retail businesses, of course. The same fundamental issue exists in a wide range of industries where organisations embark on programmes to listen to customers but don’t truly commit to changes based on the feedback. Listening to customers is undoubtedly a strong first step, however, this is only the start of the process and the real value comes from how you use the information you collect.

When embarking on a journey with customers to listen and improve, there are considerations which you need to keep on your radar as you plan your approach, those being:

  • What method you use to capture customer feedback?
  • Will customers have the opportunity to explain the responses they provide?
  • Respect the time that your customers invest in this exercise.
  • How will you demonstrate to customers that their input makes a difference?

Methodologies

The method by which customer feedback is captured can be dependent upon the industry in which you operate. For many businesses (especially those that are very people-oriented), a discussion with the customer rather than a mailshot-issued survey will deliver more useful material as it provides the customer with the opportunity to explain context and background; in turn, this allows you the chance to evaluate more appropriate and measured responses and have greater clarity on the types of actions you may need to consider as an organisation.

Explaining the response

This leads nicely to the second of the four points in that explanation is pretty important. Without reasons or an understanding of why a customer feels a certain way, how can you ever hope to improve?

Respect the time

Of course, we should always be respectful of the time which customers invest in such an exercise; if this is seen to be a paper exercise to tick compliance boxes without a commitment to change or improve, then this will not motivate customers (even if there’s a chance to win a prize!).

Feedback

Fundamentally, demonstrating to customers that their feedback is valued and that you are willing and committed to make changes is the important principle of exercises such as these. You should think seriously about what you are being told, consider the actions you should take to improve, and commit to updating customers on the outcomes. This is the true value for both you and your clients and if you can build a relationship of trust and openness with your customers by listening and adapting, your reputation and market presence can only strengthen.

Simon Ball has recently joined Cooper Software to help the organisation focus on building strong customer relationships and placing customer business value as the heart of the company’s ethos. Simon’s experience in the ERP sector, a market in which he has operated for over twenty years, has been underpinned by his mantra which is centred around quality of delivery, learning from customers and supporting the achievement of their objectives. Simon will be driving a programme within Cooper Software to listen to customers, learn from their experiences and ensure that we continue to deliver valuable products and services which enhance customer businesses.

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