“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning” – Bill Gates

I have always been afraid of facing an unsatisfied customer. Probably because it always requires a great deal of mental effort to keep calm, not get defensive or begin to make excuses for obvious service lapses which may or may not be my fault.

Are you always afraid of a critique?

In this part of the world, customer feedback for us, most of the time, means a lot of tongue lashing and harsh comments. For businesses that have an automated customer feedback system, the red smileys are always swimming all over the place.

Getting referrals from such customers is almost impossible.

The few times I have asked for a customer’s feedback, the response I got was “Will you people use it? Isn’t it the same thing we have been saying for so many years and yet you people will not improve your services?”

This got me thinking: do businesses in Nigeria have a feedback system just for the sake of ticking it off on a checklist of must-haves or do they actually use it to improve their products and services?

How does Customer Feedback Benefit Your Business?

If we didn’t do class tests, assessments and examinations, it would have been very difficult for our teachers to evaluate our learning capabilities. Now replace the image of the teacher with that of your customer: your customer’s feedback is an assessment of your business’s capability in delivering on your product or service promise.

Having a feedback system can help your business in the following ways:

1. It facilitates customer engagement and if handled properly, fosters customer retention. Valuable insight about what you’re doing well or not and areas of your business which require improvement can also be gleaned from such feedback.

2. It helps to identify your loyal and supportive customers and helps you build your brand affinity. Customers who are displeased with a particular product or service can be converted to loyal customers if their complaints are handled promptly and professionally.

3.  It is a cheap but super effective way of improving your product or service delivery. When you engage your customers on how they feel about using your product and procuring your services, you are showing them their opinions matter and that they are an important part of your business.

4.  Customer feedback is an easy grapevine to keep up with trends and developments within your industry. It is a veritable source for social listening especially as most businesses have taken to social media. Dissemination of information as regards competitor’s activities and what the market demands are, are easily within your reach.

What are the Simple Ways to Collect Customer Feedback?

1. Social Media and Social listening: This is a cheap source of collecting customer feedback and at no extra cost to your business. Social media has made it so easy for customers to reach out to businesses they patronize. In fact with the virality of social media usage, no brand would like to be called out by an angry customer. It is very likely to spur other dissatisfied customers to make their comments. If and when this happens, don’t be dismayed. Consider it as them doing you a favor and giving you another opportunity to improve. With social listening, you’re keeping your ears to the ground about what’s happening in your industry, what people are saying about your business, what customers want and expect from businesses.

2. Collect Emails: This is a direct way of engaging with your customers. You can easily send out a survey to your customers seeking their opinion about your services and business generally. The downside of this is that not all customers will respond and the responses will not come within the time frame you need it.

3. Website Analytics: If you have a website for your business, you can use the website analytics to track visitors to your website; how long they stay on your pages, which pages record the highest visits and so on.

4. Talk with your customer: This is the oldest and surest way of getting your customers to talk about how they feel about either your product or the services you render. Build relationships, let them be able to place a face and voice to your brand name and consolidate on what you work so hard to build.

Let them validate you!

You can’t mark your own script and not be biased or want to give yourself a pass mark. Remember that the customer is always right and that means you have to keep your customers happy. When they love what you do, they will tell you without you having to ask.