One benefit of owning a small business is your ability to foster individual customer relationships and respond directly to feedback after sales. Doing so not only creates a loyal customer base, but it also helps you provide better products and services.
But are you doing enough to get useful and honest feedback? There are many ways to gather customer opinions, and you may need more than one. Consider these six strategies:
1. Send preemptive emails
Start requesting feedback as soon as each new order is placed. For example, you could send customers a thank-you email asking if your product arrived intact. Then, follow up a week or two later, asking for additional feedback on their purchase. A preemptive approach will help nip any problems in the bud.
As president of Novi, Mich.-based Suttle Enterprises LLC, Marilyn Suttle believes a personal phone call is essential to building relationships. And don’t just ask yes/no questions. She suggests asking, "How could we do an even better job for you next time?" to make customers feel more comfortable about answering honestly.
3. Set up a feedback line
Set up a dedicated local number for recording customer feedback. Katherine Mulherin, owner of Mount Pleasant, S.C.-based Marketing Carolina, says her marketing company improved its service through a feedback line that automatically records messages as MP3s via RingCentral.
“One client requested status reports on a monthly basis,” Mulherin says. “We incorporated it into our business process, and it has worked out great and enabled us to charge higher fees.”
4. Monitor online review sites
Some websites enable you to respond directly to someone who has posted a negative review in order to rectify the situation. By responding to reviews good and bad on sites such as Yelp.com, you can enlist reviewers in solutions and establish a reputation as someone genuinely concerned about their customers’ opinions. (See more about online review sites for small business.)
5. Request videos
Ask customers to upload videos of themselves providing feedback while using your product. Michael Di Pippo, President & CEO of New York City-based Penfishingrods.com, offers discounts to clients who post videos of his fishing rods in use. “Ask them to be creative and honest,” he says. “This forges a relationship past the point of sale with your customers and creates buzz for your company.”
Videos can also be a good way to demonstrate products for customers, both giving them an idea of what they’re getting before they buy and acting as a supplement to instruction manuals. You can also let customers comment on your videos, adding another forum for advice and feedback.?
6. Woo key customers
Do you rely heavily on certain clients? “Take key customers to coffee or lunch, or bring them a latte if they can't leave the office,” advises Adrian Ott, author of The 24-Hour Customer. “Run new business ideas by them. You’ll be pleasantly surprised with their feedback.”