You can learn a lot from your customers, but only if you make the effort to understand what they are saying to you. The first step is to determine whether you "have what it takes" to leverage the information you can gain from your customers.
- Does the company respect the views of its customers? The corporate culture should include treating customers with respect and showing an appreciation for their feedback.
- Do you really want to hear what your customers have to say, even if their comments are harsh, angry or critical? Too often, companies solicit feedback only from satisfied customers and sometimes discount any negative comments.
- Do you have the willingness and ability to respond to your customers' comments, questions and suggestions in a way that will make them feel respected and important? There is nothing worse you can do to encourage customers’ beliefs, you feel are not important, than to ignore their feedback.
If you are serious about receiving input from your customers and then using this information to constantly improve the customer experience, you will need to establish some key touchpoints and leverage strong automation technology to provide a complete picture of your customer. Only then can you offer true customer engagement.
The following tips can help you obtain the valuable feedback you need to keep improving your customer relations:
- Make it easy for customers to give you feedback. Do not make them search your website to find the right link. Consider including a link on your emails to them, whether they are order confirmations or post-sale messages.
- Use social media as a two-way street. You can establish two-way communications by allowing customers to post reviews or encouraging them to share their reasons for selecting your product or service over a competitor's.
- Once an initial interaction occurs, keep the communications flowing throughout the entire customer experience. Too often companies consider the experience complete once the sale has been closed, or the order has been received. In today's environment, marketing is a continuous cycle. Post-sale marketing can be a critical element if you want to nurture relationships, turn customers into advocates for your brand or win their loyalty.
- Involve all customer groups. You have probably established customer personas to help you with your targeted campaigns. You can use these personas to make sure that you are encouraging and receiving feedback from all of your customers rather than one or two groups.
- Your customers are going to be more likely to provide you with honest feedback if they feel their comments will not be censored or otherwise controlled. Many companies worry about the possibility of negative comments appearing on their sites. You should plan how you are going to address any negativity to prove your willingness to resolve any issue quickly.
- Communications between you and your customers should be in real time or as near to real time as possible. This means that you should have a strategy to monitor your various sites regularly so that you can react to questions or comments quickly. You will need to make sure that you have the resources to handle such monitoring. For example, if you cannot respond quickly to questions, posted on your Facebook's customer service page, you may be doing yourself more harm than good by allowing such postings.
Customers who feel valued can provide you with the type of marketing that you cannot purchase. Word-of-mouth, referrals and positive posts can do a great deal to make your marketing efforts easier and increase your conversion rates. Encouraging customers to give you the feedback you need is one of the best ways to prove to your customers that you respect and value them.