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Is Anyone Listening to Customer Feedback

customer feedback

How to handle customer feedback and avoid adverse reviews.

Are you listening to customer feedback? Last week someone posted on LinkedIn a cringe-worthy letter she’s been sent by the CEO of an airline following her complaint at having to wait 11 months for a refund, with no apology, no empathy and no acknowledgement. Although not quite in the same league as the “United Airlines breaks guitars” video (19 million views on YouTube!) it was still pretty damning feedback which simply got compounded by the crass response from the CEO.

It’s easy to get defensive or take things personally when hearing negative feedback from customers. But without it how do you identify what’s working and what’s not in your customer eyes? Customer feedback can give you actionable insights that help you make educated business decisions, rather than taking a shot in the dark. Value this honest feedback from customers.

The bad news is most customers won’t give you a second chance if their first experience is bad. That’s why it is paramount to gather customer feedback at the first available opportunity, so you have a chance to put things right before it’s too late.

Too many businesses rely on customers completing feedback forms or questionnaires. The trouble with these is that firstly, people have better things to do than fill out a survey, and if they’re going to say anything they’re far more likely to post a comment on social media, telling the whole world rather than just you.

Secondly, if someone has taken the trouble to give feedback it’s usually too late to rectify things if there was anything they didn’t like. And there are bound to be occasions when you don’t understand what they’re referring to, and by now it’s difficult to ask questions to unravel the issue.

First-hand feedback

Getting feedback directly from your customers gives you an opportunity to capitalise on positive feedback and minimise the impact of any negatives. It gives you the chance to ask questions to really understand the specifics.

When a customer has had a good experience, sharing this with you at the time helps reinforce those positives, whilst if it’s negative you have an opportunity to put things right.

Give your team the confidence to ask well-structured questions to get feedback on specifics; there’s a big difference between bland statements such as “I hope everything was OK” rather than asking about specifics such as “What did you think of the…..?

Talk to your customers

Being visible in your business, and making contact with your customers builds rapport and trust. Once you’ve gained this you’re in a far better position to gain valuable feedback first hand.

The same goes for your team too, so encourage them to talk to your customers. Give them the appropriate training to ask for feedback in the knowledge that they are confidence to deal with feedback – good or bad – in a positive way. Bear in mind, your customers will tell you things that they wouldn’t feedback to your team, and vice versa.

Welcome complaints

When there is something wrong, if you get to hear about this early on, it puts you in a position to empathise, apologise and do something about it whilst there’s still time to remedy the situation.

If you don’t agree with the feedback, rather than getting defensive, find out (tactfully) what has led to their perception, as this may lead to the root of the problem. If you don’t know what disappoints customers or has led to a negative a perception, you can’t improve on it, so make sure you are prepared to listen to, and take on board any thoughts on what lets you down, so you can learn from this and address it.

It’s easy for team members to shy away from listening to complaints. Instead, train them to be observant and look for clues that things are not as they should be – a customer’s body language, facial expressions, the tone of their voice or hesitation, or their behaviours, such as leaving half their meal untouched, cancelling their order, asking for the bill earlier than expected.

Empower your team and give them the confidence to do whatever is in the customer’s best interest, without having to get approval from a manager, so any issues can be resolved swiftly and professionally with minimum fuss.

Online reviews

Whether it’s TripAdvisor, Google, Booking.com or Facebook, there’s no getting away from the fact that online reviews – and the responses to them – are shared publicly and may be seen by hundreds or even thousands of prospective customers.

Encourage positive reviews: The most effective way to generate positive reviews is organically, by offering such a positive experience that customers feel compelled to tell others. People are more likely to write reviews when expectations are surpassed, and this is often found in the small details and the special care of customers.

When you know the customer has had a positive experience, don’t be pushy, but sometimes just giving them a little nudge to post a review can make all the difference “I’m happy to hear you enjoyed your stay. It would mean a lot to us if you helped spread the word by posting a review on TripAdvisor.” Or for your team members to have cards they can write their name on and hand to customers, making the review process a little more personal.

Accept that you will get (hopefully only occasional) negative reviews. Whatever you do, don’t get drawn into defensive mode; research indicates that when customers see a business respond positively and professionally to a negative review, they are more than twice as likely to buy from that business than if they had not responded. It shows your customers that you care, and are willing to learn and adapt if relevant to meet their needs.

If the review is asking for a response or needs more discussion before it can be resolved, take the discussion off line by asking reviewers to phone/email you directly.

If you get drawn into a debate or argument, just think how many of your potential (or existing) customers could see that response. By the same token, if you feel justified or compelled to make a refund, you’re in danger of setting a precedent if you make this public online.

 

Make it easy

Have systems in placed to make it easy to gather and review feedback. Take note of the language your customers use to describe what they like. Capitalise on this information and use it in your marketing.

Capture the good and the bad.

Every bit of feedback you get from your guests is valuable to you, whether it’s positive or negative and whether you agree with it or not. So treat it as such.

Action

If you only do one thing:

Have a process, system or forum for your team to share and review customer feedback so it can be acted upon quickly to learn from it and build on it to make continuous improvements.

p.s. if you need more ideas to get your team on board and give them the skills in  asking for feedback see 38 Training Exercise & Activities to Engage, Energise and Excite your Team in Customer Service for ways to hone these skills

 


Sorry seems to be the hardest word

SorryI’m one of those people that like to give others the benefit of doubt. So when something goes wrong I’ll usually go out of my way to give feedback giving them the chance to put things right – and retain my trust or custom.

Getting feedback from customers and being given a chance to turn things around is such a valuable opportunity for any business. So why is it some businesses make it such a painful process?

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve had two instances where I’ve got to the point where I’ve been so frustrated. In both instances I’ve heard all the excuses under the sun.

In one case I have to admit I was initially at fault.

But…

Did that make it okay for me to have to speak to 6 different people to get the situation resolved?

Having phoned the number I thought was for my business manager (for a service that is supposed to be available 24/7) to end up with somebody who wasn’t empowered to make a decision to resolve my issue, but told that nobody else was available.

Having agreed that somebody would phone me back the following day after 2 PM, why then did they phone me at 9:15 AM…? But that’s a different story altogether (later being told that it wasn’t possible to call the customer back when it was convenient to the customer, only when it was convenient to the business! Good grief; some businesses just don’t get it do they!)

When I did finally get to speak to somebody who could resolve the issue I must’ve heard a dozen times about their policy, but not once did I get an apology for all the aggravation that I’d been through to get to this point.

In the other situation I went to give feedback on something that is the recurring problem. But because I’ve already given feedback so many times and it’s fallen on deaf ears I decided on this occasion to be more direct. So I announced the dreaded words “I want to make a complaint!”

So far, so good. Because for the first time I’d feed back on this issue I actually got to speak to a manager. Did it actually do any good? Well, time will tell if the issue gets resolved.

But I must’ve heard every angle on this situation: whose fault it was, what the possible options were, why they haven’t resolved it yet, blah blah blah…

But in our 10 minutes conversation I didn’t hear the word sorry once.

So why is it so hard for people to say sorry?

This doesn’t mean taking personal responsibility (although at times that would be nice!), or admitting liability. It means as a very minimum showing some empathy towards the customer by saying sorry. …Sorry they’ve had a bad experience, or you’re sorry they feel let down, or you’re sorry they’ve had a frustrating time, or you’re sorry if there’s been a misunderstanding, or you’re sorry something wasn’t available today, or you’re sorry the weather wasn’t as nice as it could have been….

Just hearing those words “I’m sorry” can make such a difference from the customer’s perspective, and maybe all they need to hear.

 

So in the words of Elton John….

“…What have I got to do to make you care… ?

“….What have I got to do to be heard…?

 

For more articles and resources www.naturallyloyal.com