Building a loyal, satisfied customer base is paramount to any Web site owner or company. Every business owner wants to know what his or her customers are thinking and why they make certain decisions. Most understand that the most effective way to listen to customers is to collect their feedback. But even so, challenges remain: How should they collect the feedback? Where does it all go? What should they do with all the information collected? And most importantly, how do you show your customers that you are acting on their feedback, and in real-time?
Customer satisfaction and loyalty start with listening. Listening and engaging directly with your customers is critical to service, support and brand loyalty. Chances are your customers want to engage with you, but on their own time. Companies can offer multiple forms of contact, live chat and public support forums, but often it can be difficult to respond directly to each customer in a personalized way. You can provide a deeper level of customer service by opening up the channels of communication online.
Eliciting feedback lets businesses tap directly into the minds of customers to improve their Web sites, products or offerings. There are feedback tools and Web analytics platforms that provide you with the “who, what, when and where,” but you are still left guessing about the “why.” Understanding the elusive “why” behind customer behavior is only the first step. The most important step is what you do once you learn why, and how you engage and respond with your customers in real-time.
Before you implement a customer feedback initiative, your first step should be to evaluate your own goals and understand what it is you want to do with your customers. How will you acquire and act on customer feedback? What feedback will you receive? What will you do with the feedback? Once you establish your feedback goals, you can determine how to integrate customer feedback into your daily processes.
Choosing the right tool to organize and manage your feedback is dependent on these goals. Customer feedback can help you increase satisfaction, loyalty, retention and conversion rates so Web site owners should not overlook or invest in improper feedback tools. What tools are available and for whom are they best suited? You may have shopped around, or even experimented with a feedback tool or survey.
With many companies’ longstanding reliance on traditional outreach tools, it’s tempting to gravitate towards those surveys and polls, or even refer to each of these unique approaches as “surveys.” Yet, each accomplishes a different end. Understanding these nuanced differences allows owners the flexibility to implement a tool that produces the feedback they need.
Surveys come in a variety of formats, including e-mail surveys, online pop-ups, survey landing pages and more. Surveys and polls provide a high-level understanding of what is happening on your site, and are based on pre-set questions with a statistical review of answers. You receive answers to the questions you create.
You can use surveys and polls to ask ‘site-level’ questions such as: “Where did you hear about our site?” “What are you looking for?” “Who are you?” The answers to these questions can help you to know your users better, but they will not provide quantitative information on why your customers behave they way they do on your Web site. In addition, your survey and polling data is ultimately reviewed from a statistical analysis view, which may cause the solution to be relevant mainly to large Web sites with a lot of traffic or to a specific group of your customers. This means that not all types of businesses can benefit equally from these tools.
What is important to remember is that you are trying to elicit honest, timely and unique user feedback. Providing an online customer feedback mechanism is one way to open up a managed channel of communications. A feedback button should be visible all the time on each of the site elements you would like to monitor. This will provide you with process-level and Web-site-level high-quality (i.e., specific comments) and actionable data, allowing you to read and manage feedback, as well as respond to users. When visitors or customers come across an issue, they simply click on the feedback icon. Customers then rate their overall impression of your site from a selection of emoticons; select their issue category from a graphical menu; and provide a brief synopsis, giving you insight into their behavior in that instance.
Providing the online feedback channel in critical areas of your site also helps offer a less intrusive user experience and greatly increases the chances a user will give you his or her opinion. When you place a customized feedback form in a certain process in your Web site, such as a shopping cart or checkout area, you can gain critical information about why your users are leaving these areas. Once users provide feedback, you can personally respond and let them know your company cares about their experiences and is available to help. As the feedback form is customized to the specific Web site process, users will be more open to talk with you as you are directly responding to the thoughts they had when they left feedback on your Web site.
Using an online feedback mechanism lets you prioritize your collection efforts so you can choose to actively ask your users to submit feedback in the locations in which you need it the most, using a pop-up mechanism (you might want to use this option in your site’s shopping carts process, for instance, or on your product information process). The ability to choose the location as well as the frequency of this pop-up makes this a non-intrusive approach.
You can manage and analyze your user feedback based on your site preferences, Web analytics or CRM data, to provide a more complete view of your customers. In addition, you can control the look and feel of the feedback form to match your brand and further encourage users to engage with you at this feedback level. After you receive the feedback, you can choose to respond directly to your customers and talk with them about their feedback. This helps to put a human face to your business, as often your customers are skeptical about customer service. Using this approach not only lets you personally respond to a large number of users, but you also can improve your operations and back-office processes based on the trending feedback responses.
Regardless of what you use, the most important aspect of customer engagement is to first listen – really listen –and second, to respond and interact with customers in a timely manner. Too often, companies implement a survey or provide opportunities for customers to offer praise, criticism and feedback, and then the engagement ends. Nothing can hurt your company more than asking your customers for their opinion and then going silent. It’s what you do with the feedback that will show your customers how serious you are about real engagement.
Ariel Finkelstein (firstname.lastname@example.org ) is the co-founder and CEO of Kampyle.