The Complete Guide to Customer Feedback
Your company exists to provide products and services that fulfill your customers’ needs and provide things that they value. That may seem simple and intuitive, but how well do you really understand your customers? Are your products and services meeting their needs or are there areas for improvement? How do you compare to competitors in the marketplace? Are there issues that are frustrating customers and tarnishing their perception of you?
The first step to developing meaningful and actionable customer insights is collecting feedback to understand what your customers think and how they feel about you.
In this blog, we’ve documented everything you need to know about customer feedback – what it means, how you can collect, categorize, analyze, and act on it.
You can use the index below to jump to whichever section you’d like to read
- What are the types of customer feedback?
- What are the best ways of collecting feedback
- 3 effective ways to categorize customer feedback
- How to analyze the feedback gathered
- How to share insights and close the feedback loop
What is Customer Feedback?
Customer feedback is the information that customers give to you regarding their experiences with your company, product or service. Feedback can come to you through a variety of channels, giving you valuable information that reveals opportunities to improve. You can record and manage feedback using a customer feedback software.
What Are the Types of Customer Feedback?
Customer feedback comes in different forms. It can be collected through various mechanisms, each providing a unique point-of-view into customer perceptions.
Specific Experiences vs. General Trends
Feedback given as a response to individual interactions, events or experiences are generally very specific. For example, customers may have feedback on a recent purchase, the use of one of your products or their experience talking to one of your customer service agents. This feedback is very helpful because it is typically given shortly after the event. This makes it easy to trace back to the experience that generated the perception. So the feedback is more easily actionable and drives operational improvements.
On the other hand, certain types of feedback are more general – feedback on the overall satisfaction with your company and products or how you are perceived relative to competitors. General feedback is helpful for assessing overall business performance, the effectiveness of your strategies, and the relationships with your business environment.
Why is Customer Feedback Important?
Feedback helps your team understand exactly what your customers expect, as well as what they actually experience. When you know that, then you can offer more of what your customers like and less of what they don’t. Putting the feedback to good use can help you deliver better experiences that can help you build a more satisfied and loyal customer base.
Furthermore, 72% of customers will share a positive experience with 6 or more people. On the other hand, if a customer is not happy, 13% of them will share their experience with 15 or even more1. Listening to your customers and meeting their expectations can reduce the chances of your brand being portrayed in negative light on social channels. Proactively understanding your customer base, and taking the necessary steps to make decisions based on customer feedback, can also give you an edge over your competitors.
Plus, every business vertical can benefit from the insights contained in customer feedback — from product and engineering to marketing, and operations, understanding what customers think can help teams prioritize resources based on the highest potential impact.
What are the Best Ways to Collect Customer Feedback?
The feedback approach that you use should be determined by the type of information and insight you are trying to capture. If you are looking for specific actionable guidance to identify underpinning themes and causes, here are 10 fail-proof techniques you can use to gather customer feedback:
#1 Talk to Your Customers and Ask Them How They Feel
Every interaction with a customer is an opportunity to learn something about your customer needs, their expectations, what they value and how they view your company and products.
Most sales and customer service staff are trained to focus on completing the transaction (making the sale or solving the customer’s problem). While they might hear customer feedback, they aren’t often trained on what to listen for, or what to do with the information that they encounter.
A probing question or two, inserted into normal business conversation can signal to the customer you’re interested in hearing their perspective. In addition to collecting information, this technique also sends the message that you care about what your customers think and how they feel – a key driver of customer satisfaction.
#2 Social Media Reviews
Modern consumers, particularly those in the millennial generation, like talking about products, services and business interactions with others in their social circles. They also like posting feedback and reviews online that are typically raw and unfiltered. This gives you access to very detailed and candid ratings of their level of satisfaction (or dissatisfaction).
Pro tip: You can stay on top of keywords that you’d like to monitor by automatically converting comments, tweets or posts about your brand into tickets. This way, you can filter out all the noise, and manage social media interactions right from your helpdesk.
By doing this, you can also quickly notice and take charge of negative feedback or reviews that could damage your brand’s reputation with a thoughtful response, an apology if needed, or a promise to look deeper into the issue. Here’s an example of how JetBlue Airways assisted a disgruntled customer on Twitter –
#3 Satisfaction Surveys
This is one of the most common methods that companies employ to capture customer feedback. These surveys are inexpensive, easy to set up, and provide near-immediate feedback that is traceable to a specific event.
Satisfaction surveys are sent at the end of customer interaction following a sale or after a service has been performed. The customer is presented with a short survey soliciting feedback on their experience with the company and its employees, like this:
Post-sale / post-support satisfaction surveys provide some important benefits that companies should take advantage of. They offer a mechanism for customers to vent their frustrations, in turn, enabling your employees to respond and address the issue before it is broadcast via social media.
You can send a CSAT survey via email as a follow up after closing a conversation with a customer. You can also embed the survey in your email signature to give customers an evergreen way to rate how they feel about your support.
Here are a couple of best-practices you need to keep in mind while using satisfaction surveys to collect feedback:
– Keep your survey short to encourage high response rates. But be sure to include a comment field so you can understand the reason for the rating.
– It’s important that you get the timing right. You also need to be mindful about whether or not it makes sense to ask a particular customer about a certain experience. For example, if you’d like to survey your customer about the ease of the ordering process and speed of shipping, then wait until that customer has placed an order and received their merchandise before sending them a survey.
– Don’t survey the same set of customers too often. Otherwise, customers may get tired of filling them out and it may be difficult to collect data as your survey completion rates drop.
#4 In-app Surveys
Apart from email, you can also embed short surveys in your website or your app. These are particularly helpful for gauging how customers feel about the overall experience, the functionality, and the ease-of-use.
You can also drill into a particular feature by sending a survey while a customer is using that feature or right after they’ve finished using it. For instance, a food-delivery brand Swiggy gives you an option to rate your entire experience of ordering food and getting it delivered:
You can also use Freshdesk’s feedback widget to drive feedback responses where your customers already are. This results in great, in-the-moment insights, which can often be more honest than follow up surveys.
Pro tip: Keep these in-app surveys even shorter than the ones you’d send through email. Your customers are using your website to achieve a goal, perhaps even to buy your product, so it’s best not to take them too far away from what they set out to do on your site.
#5 The NPS Survey
The Net Promoter Score (NPS) survey is a popular method of surveying customers. NPS is meant to measure your customers’ experience with your brand based on their likelihood to recommend your brand to others. The survey makes use of a 10-point likert scale to classify customers into:
– Detractors (0-6): customers who aren’t too happy with your brand
– Passives (7-8): happy customers but aren’t loyalists
– Promoters (9-10): customers who are extremely happy with your brand and are loyal
NPS will help you discover how loyal your customer base is feeling, reveal opportunities to improve the customer experience, and allow you to compare yourself to other businesses in your industry.
You can also include questions such as “How likely are you to recommend our company based on the speed of our website?” to learn more about specific elements of the customer experience.
Be sure to include a comment field after each question to gather qualitative insight and help you understand the reason behind each rating. By grouping comments with their NPS score, you can understand what drives customers to become promoters, or what’s causing customers to identify as detractors.
#6 Sentiment Analysis of Emails and Phone Calls
There is a lot of information hidden in your case notes, sales records and support tickets. In most modern companies, every customer conversation, email interaction, and sales transaction is recorded in a helpdesk, CRM or sales system. This presents a treasure trove of feedback data that is waiting to be harvested.
There are tools that sort through and process both text interaction notes as well as voice recordings to pick out keywords, assess trends based on business process, agent or customer, and even rate levels of satisfaction/frustration based on vocal tone and the language being used. For example, Prodsight integrates with Freshdesk and automatically runs a sentiment analysis on all conversations, and categorizes them into different buckets.
Sentiment analysis of transaction and interaction data can help you identify gaps in training, product deficiencies, or customers who are at a risk of being lost to competitors. The type of feedback that is collected using this technique can be used for both real-time interventions (such as getting a supervisor involved in a support call) and for assessing longer-term strategic opportunities. Since the data that is being analyzed is coming from day-to-day interactions, it is less likely to include the bias or extreme positive/negative skewing that is common with surveys.
#7 Industry Analysts
Customer feedback doesn’t always have to come directly from customers. The use of third-party industry analysis can provide an objective assessment of your company’s market positioning, opportunities, and threats. The feedback provided by industry analysts can be helpful in refining your business strategy but may not add much value to optimizing day-to-day operations and processes.
Like any feedback mechanism, leveraging the work of industry analysts has some challenges and limitations. The feedback will tend to be high-level and coarse-grained – lacking the detail and specifics available through direct customer interaction. A free ticketing system will make it easier for you to handle all your customer interactions. Yet, you can receive a consensus opinion about what factors customers exactly care about and how you are doing relative to those things. While industry analysts can assess external opportunities and threats, they don’t typically have visibility to the internal workings of your company to assess your strategy, strengths, and weaknesses. As a result, industry analyst reports will need to be interpreted and re-framed within your company’s unique context to be actionable.
#8 Focus Groups and Discussion Forums
Focus groups and discussion or community forums where customers interact with each other should be your go-to place for feedback if your goal is to generate new ideas or explore the underlying issues driving customer sentiment.
Community forums can be an effective brainstorming technique to capture input on potential changes you are considering for the future. You can create separate buckets or discussion boards for different topics. Here’s how Freshdesk’s forum has been organized:
Gaining customer feedback through focus groups can enable you to predict how well something new would be received and identify potential issues so they can be mitigated.
#9 Voice of the Customer Surveys
Voice of the Customer (VOC) surveys are periodic questionnaires (typically conducted quarterly or annually) to collect feedback on your company’s products and services. Brands like Apple, Microsoft, as well as Zappos use the VOC methodology to understand how well they are able to meet their customers’ needs.
This survey explores various facets of customer sentiment in detail, and the questions often include a combination of ranking/rating questions as well as open-ended questions inviting customers to elaborate on their thoughts and feelings. This feedback mechanism provides companies with insights that go beyond immediate satisfaction including
– changes in customer needs/expectations
– changes in market conditions
– relative perception of the company vs competitors.
Since these surveys are slightly lengthy (takes close to thirty minutes to complete), your loyal customers are most likely to respond since they have a vested interest in your company’s success.
#10 Review Sites
Online review sites such as Yelp, Angie’s List (referral for household services) and G2Crowd, Capterra, GetApp (for software) provide a forum for customers to provide unsolicited reviews of the companies they interact with. Online review sites have an interesting dynamic that makes them unique from other social tools – the ability of companies to respond to customer feedback.
Actively monitoring online review sites and responding to customer feedback can be an effective means of capturing customer sentiment. You can also analyze the underlying cause of the feedback and identify improvement opportunities.
Pro tip: You are likely to encounter a negative online review at some point – you can’t make everyone happy all the time. Customers understand this and place more weight into how your company responds to the negative review than the original issue. Your response is seen as an indicator of how future customers will be treated if they encounter an issue with your company, so it’s important to respond and address the issue.
How to Categorize and Analyze Feedback
All the feedback in the world won’t matter unless you can process it and do something about it, so it’s important to categorize and measure feedback in a way that leads to action.
– Identify common themes using inbound feedback
In terms of the feedback you receive through your support channels, you first need to develop an understanding of common themes and root causes for customer outreach. There’s no substitute for carefully reviewing individual pieces of inbound feedback until you’re able to identify trends. Once you’ve spotted some trends, you can create a list of categories and start tagging all your inbound customer communications.
Most helpdesk ticketing systems will have a feature that will make this possible. For instance, Freshdesk automates the entire process of adding tags and makes it easy for you to categorize your tickets and feedback.
– Segment feedback gathered through surveys by sentiment
Similar to the feedback you receive through your support channels, the feedback that you get through surveys can also be placed into buckets based on common themes and segmented by sentiment.
Review each piece of commentary alongside it’s numeric rating. As you start to notice themes, come up with a list, and use it as a standard for assigning themes to each rating moving forward.
– Split feedback according to different variables
To dive deeper into the feedback gathered, you can also split up the data by other variables like:
– Customer type (e.g. free or paid)
– Customer value
This will help you understand the differences among unique groups of customers and allow you to further refine your strategy. For example, you might notice that NPS is much higher for free customers.
The general rule of thumb is that by looking at your data in a certain way, you should be trying to answer a question that will inform your future strategy. In the example above, knowing that NPS is higher for free customers would perhaps prompt you to focus more of your efforts on improving the experience of paid customers.
Analyzing Customer Feedback
Centralize all the data you generate and review it regularly to uncover the biggest drivers behind good and bad customer experiences. All the aggregated feedback becomes a way for your customers’ voices to be heard.
By creating reports on tags using a help desk software, you can see what comes up most frequently to inform your business about what is most important to customers and what they should be focusing on fixing.
Keep track of how the data fluctuates over time. Your product and business aren’t static, and your customers’ expectations aren’t set in stone – things could change. Be sure to stay tuned in to what your customers are sharing to ensure you’re regularly re-anchoring your approach and focusing on the right things.
By tracking fluctuations over time, you’ll also be able to see the results of changes you make in an effort to improve the customer experience and your ratings. As you make changes, you should see the data shift accordingly. For example, if you fixed a bug that was causing a lot of customer complaints, you should see the amount of volume related to bugs go down after the fix. If not, it’s time to drill in to see if that bug was truly fixed, or if there’s a new one to squash.
What is the Best Way to Share Customer Feedback?
Establishing a process for regularly sharing feedback with other teams such as Marketing, Product or Design, can keep them in the loop about the roles they can play in improving the customer experience.
Depending on the preferences of your team, you can do this asynchronously through a channel like email or as part of a cross-functional meeting. Whatever you decide, be sure to share feedback in a clear and consistent way. Sharing one-off stories of customer feedback with other teams is fine, but don’t expect that style of communication to drive much change.
Teams are busy and constantly bombarded with competing priorities. Present them with a well-structured overview of customer feedback that combines the quantitative data you’ve collected with qualitative stories around what that data means, and do it at regular intervals like weekly or monthly so your team learns to expect it and builds it into their routine.
When reviewing feedback with other teams, don’t just focus on the bad. Including examples of what customers enjoy will encourage other teams to keep focusing on those things, and it will help them look forward to receiving feedback because they’ll be eager to hear about the good things they’re doing.
How to Close the Feedback Loop?
Responding to customer feedback with a note of thanks, or a message that you’re working on getting better will make your customers feel like their feedback is being put to good use. Apart from just thanking them, you can also provide relevant information or updates to make them feel like a valued contributor. This will also encourage them to give future feedback. In some cases, responding to feedback will also give you a second chance to solve a customer issue if something went wrong the first time around.
Collecting feedback is valuable to your company only if you use the information and insights that you harvest to drive continuous improvement of your products, services, and business processes. General customer feedback can be used by management to guide your company’s strategy whereas specific feedback can be used to address specific customer pain-points in your products and services. On the whole, collecting customer feedback helps you assess how well your company is doing and helps you take the tactical steps to meet your customer needs all the time.
1 – https://www.superoffice.com/blog/customer-experience-statistics/